Pantry staples to make meal making easy.

We are currently living in challenging times. Global issues like the pandemic that is happening right now leads people to act in fear and panic. Our grocery stores are being bombarded and people are stockpiling food and other necessities in case something happens and we no longer have access. I personally feel we are all going to be OK in terms of access to food. Supply chains are not affected and even in the worst case scenario of a lockdown we will still be a able to get to the supermarket and buy food.

Unfortunately, the panic buying is causing others who were not panicked to panic because they worry the food will be sold out. I did my grocery shopping the other weekend and was tempted to follow suit but stopped myself and thought about the usually well stocked pantry I have with a good range of staples and I relaxed and realised I have the skills to make meals out of what I have. My family will be OK. I worried about those less fortunate than me – the elderly, disabled, people on low incomes and those without cooking skills and knowledge. We need to ensure they have access to the regular food they buy to reduce their stress and improve their wellbeing.

This post is about what staples to keep in your pantry at all times (not just during a pandemic) so you can easily make meals whenever you need to. I live 20 minutes drive to the nearest supermarket so I feel content knowing if I keep these staples in good supply (not oversupply though) I don’t need to make a 40 minute round trip to buy things to make a meal or snack.

Here are the pantry staples I keep on hand at all times and regularly replenish when they are getting low.

Pantry pasta

Three types of pasta I always have on hand is spaghetti, which is perfect for spaghetti Bolognese or carbonara and penne (or sometimes spirals) for pasta bakes, pasta salad or any other pasta with a chunky sauce. I also keep some egg noodles for soup. They are perfect for adding to chicken or vegetable soup to make it a bit heartier.

Rice

Basmati rice is very versatile. I can use it for fried rice as well as for steaming to have with stir fry, curry or casseroles. I buy it in a large 5kg bag and decant smaller quantities into a container for easy use. It’s cheaper to buy this way and stores really well. Arborio rice is also a must have. Perfect for risotto. If you have a basic risotto recipe you can adapt it to add whatever vegetables you have on hand. My favourites are roast pumpkin, leek and pea and a tomato based one (add a tin of tomatoes in place of some of the water) where I add capsicum, bacon and peas.

Canned goods

I like to top up my supply of canned goods whenever we use the last one or are getting low. These are the ones I buy most frequently:

Tinned legumes – easy to add to soups, salads, casseroles and to make vegetarian pasta sauces and taco fillings.

Tinned tomatoes – I make a simple tomato pasta sauce using tinned tomatoes, some herbs and salt and pepper. I also like tinned tomatoes for minestrone soup, casseroles, taco and burrito fillings and risotto.

Tuna – a versatile protein source that can be added to pasta, salads, sandwiches and as a snack on wholegrain crackers.

Baking supplies

Baking supplies such as flour, sugar, yeast, cornflour and coconut are essential for baking cakes, biscuits, slices and pizza. I also keep a range of dried fruit and nuts which can be used in baking but also make a quick, healthy snack. I use nuts in vegetarian meals to increase protein, improve taste and add creaminess and texture. Dried legumes (although generally not used for baking) are handy to have for adding to soups and casseroles, making your own felafel and other vegetarian dishes.

Herbs and spices

A good range of herbs and spices is essential for cooking meals and for baking. Dried herbs such as oregano, basil, parsley and rosemary go well in Italian and Greek meals. Cumin, coriander and turmeric for middle eastern dishes. And nutmeg, cinnamon, mixed spice, ground cloves and ginger are often used in baking.

Pantry basics for adding flavour

Basic ingredients such as vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper are a must in the pantry. Stock cubes, Asian sauces and mustard are also handy for adding flavour.

Although many of you may keep your eggs in the fridge (I don’t as ours are fresh from our chickens) I still call them a staple. If you are going to bake, eggs are a must and they are also a great protein source in quick and easy meals such as quiche, zucchini slice and omelettes. They are also perfect for a lazy Friday night meal which we call “Breakfast for dinner” !

I hope this has given you some ideas about how to have a well stocked pantry no matter what’s going on in the world. Feeling secure in knowing you have staples to put together quick, easy meals is very comforting and reduces the desire to buy take away or go out for dinner. Don’t get me wrong, I love going out for a nice meal but sometimes I just like to get into comfy clothes at the end of the day and stay at home with a tasty meal whipped up from my pantry and fridge. And since eating out is not happening at the moment, there is more reason to get into your pantry and be inspired by what you can make yourself.

Stay safe everyone and use this time to improve your cooking skills and recipe repertoire which will help you not only now but in the future when things back to normal.

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