How to stock your pantry

Posted by on 16th Apr, 2015 in Basics, Blog | Comments Off on How to stock your pantry

How to stock your pantry

So. Here’s how most people’s good eating resolutions fall on their face quicker than that weird uncle who brings a hip flask to Christmas Day. You come home from work, you’ve had a shocker, your boss was being a dickhead again, you’re tired, and you didn’t plan what to eat for dinner. You open the fridge, and there aren’t any leftovers there. And when you go to your pantry and can practically see the weevils breeding in the sad packets of who-knows-what sitting behind three jars of Dick’s ‘Ring of Fire’ Hot Sauce, your phone practically sends the pizza delivery order by itself…

Happens to the best of us.

The good news is, if you just do a little bit of thinking about once a month, you’ll have a pantry, freezer and fridge full of stuff you can turn into good, quick, cheap food quicker than the delivery guy can play the centrifugal force game with your Hawaiian meatlovers as he desperately tries to make that 30 minute cutoff.

So get this checklist together, and you’ll never need to scour retailmenot for KFC discount coupons again!

Here’s what you should have in your pantry:

Salt and pepper. Obviously.

Salad/dressing oils. Extra virgin olive oil is great, of course. In Australia, I try to buy Australian EVOO – it’s more expensive that most European oil, but produced to much stricter standards. Another good one to have in the pantry is sesame oil – you’ll never use much of this, it’s primarily a flavour shot for Asian dressings and sometimes stir fries

Cooking oil. Coconut oil is my go to oil here. I don’t like all my food tasting like a Bounty bar, though, so I buy an organically refined oil – it’s passed through sediments and heated to remove the coconut flavour. Coconut oil has a high smoke point, and doesn’t change much when heat is applied to it, while most olive oils will oxidate badly.

You can also use butter for lower-temperature cooking, of course. Eggs should pretty much always be fried, scrambled or omeletted in butter, if you ask me

Most other cooking oils, such as canola, sunflower or peanut oil, are processed in a more or less industrial way, which means they are evil and will kill you in your sleep. Or should be used in moderation. Or something.

Herbs and spices.
If you’re like me, and have a pretty eclectic palette, you’ll want a bunch of herbs and spices available to you. These are the ones I use on a regular basis:

Garam Masala
Coriander (ground seeds)

Star anise


Grains, dried legumes
Oats of some kind – I prefer steel cut because they still have the groat and they have a beautiful nutty flavour. But regular rolled oats are fine too, and much quicker to cook.
Flour – wholemeal usually, although if you make bread, you’ll have some strong white bread flour around
Chickpeas – dried
White beans (cannellini, navy etc) – dried
Black turtle beans – dried
“Soup mix” – usually dried green peas and lentils
Blue, puy or “French” lentils (these are all the same thing). Great for cooking with, as they don’t go mushy like green or brown lentils

Seeds, nuts, dried fruit
Almond meal
Mixed raw nuts for snacks
Walnuts or pecans for cooking
Raw almonds
Sultanas or raisins for snacks

Tins and jars
Tomatoes – I try to always have four or five tins handy, some whole, some chopped, come crushed. I always get just plain tomatoes, not the ones with other stuff added.
Chickpeas, cannellini beans, red kidney beans, any other legumes you like. 3 or 4 bean mix is a handy salad base. With any of these things, it pays to both drain and rinse the contents of the tin – it can help reduce the gaseous after-effects, for a start.
I’m not really a fan of tinned vegetables, although I sometimes get weird cravings for tinned corn. I’m almost always disappointed when I actually eat it, though. For quick veggies, frozen is better.
Some tinned fruit if you like tinned fruit. When you eat it, though, pour off that syrup or fruit juice. That stuff is just liquid diabetes. I also like to keep a tin of pie apple around in case I want to make a crumble or healthy apple pie
Tuna – I get tuna in olive oil where possible, or brine where not. Tuna in springwater has another name, and that name is “cat food”.
Pitted kalamata olives
Green olives
Roasted red peppers – whole if possible, or strips.

Stock cubes. Home made stock is awesome, but not always possible. Supermarket  or deli liquid stock is OK, but expensive. If I’m going to cheat anyway, I’m not going to spend 5 bucks on a box of salty water. I’d be very surprised if I could actually tell the difference between a casserole made with Campbells real stock and one made with OXO chicken stock cubes.
Pasta – I love wholemeal spaghetti and fettuccine, but I’m not so mad on other shapes. Don’t know why – something to do with the way the sauce holds on them, I guess. I would love to find a relatively easy source of wholemeal lasagne sheets for lasagne and cannelloni… Otherwise, a packet of macaroni and a packet of wackily shaped pasta like bowtie or orecchiette is a good mix.

Have a few vinegars around. A decent balsamic vinegar. Apple cider. Red wine. Rice wine vinegar. Maybe black vinegar, if you love dumplings. And white vinegar, for your cleaning, of course!
Soy or tamari sauce. You might need to look for tamari in the wanker section of the supermarket. Tamar is a lower-salt version of soy, great for tamari almonds
Worcestershire sauce
Chinese cooking wine.
Oyster sauce.
Some people like flavoured oils. I don’t mind a well made chilli olive oil – it’s easy to do at home – but other than that, I’m not really a fan: “Here’s a tiny bottle of crappy quality olive oil with some mouldy rosemary in it, that’ll be twenty bucks, thanks”.

Frozen veggies. Peas, corn kernels, maybe a bag of frozen “stir fry” mix – for when the supermarket veggie bins are just too dispiriting. Frozen vegetables have been shown to retain more vitamin content than “fresh” ones sitting in display shelves for a week.
If you do like to make your own stock, get yourself some extra ice cube trays and fill them with stock concentrate.
Individual serve freezer bags of chicken, beef, pork etc – nothing worse than having to defrost a kilo of chicken to get one breast fillet out, and then having to think up ways to use chicken breast for the rest of the week. Plus smaller portions defrost more quickly and safely. Here are some safe ways to defrost food, by the way.
Frozen berries for cooking. Try to make sure they’re not el cheapo ones from China, as recent food poisoning stories should make clear!

Related posts:

Why I am not Paleo, among other things
Ways with salmon
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