According to Mr. Chi City, keeping your refrigerator stocked will get you many women. Well according to me, keeping your pantry stocked will keep you from starving on nights when you are lazy, tired, or too darn cheap to go buy something.
If you constantly travel for work, pleasure, or are just busy, keeping your pantry stocked might just save you from eating whatever that chicken looking thing covered in mold in your fridge might be, even if you are pretty sure that it has only been there for five-ish days. Here are the recommended items you can always have available for sustenance in a flash. Many of the things listed last weeks, even months and are pretty darn easy to work with.
Olive oil, coconut oil, ghee (clarified butter)
Unless you are cooking meat, which can cook in its own fat, you should always put at least a tablespoon of oil into the pan before cooking anything (unless a recipe or technique specifically says otherwise). Ghee is my favorite because unlike butter, it never burns.
A rue is a typical base for most sauces and is equal parts water, flour, and butter. Flour is also required for almost every baking recipe and is also integral to frying. Fun fact: flour can also be thrown on a popcorn fire (when a bag of popcorn lights up in your microwave) to extinguish it quickly without having to unplug any appliances. Keep sealed in an air tight ziplock bag.
What is easier than heating up a can of soup? Soup is delicious, easy, and cheap. A meal by itself, soup can also be used to add flavor to rice, grains, and meat. In an emergency scenario, also a lifesaver.
Chock full of protein, canned beans can be used to make chili, are a great addition to salads, can be served as a side dish, and can be stored in the pantry for years.
Chickpeas aka Garbanzo Beans
Garbanzo beans can be used in salads or to make amazing hummus! Just add olive oil, tahini, lemon, paprika, and blend until smooth.
Or you can make “leblebi” a Turkish delicacy by roasting the chickpeas and covering them with seasoning. Corum, the city I lived in in Turkey is famous for leblebi and have hundreds of different flavors.
Seasonings and Sauce Ingredients
One of the most basic recipes or what I like to call an easy weeknight dinner is the stir-fry. You can literally take any vegetables and protein that you have, chop it up, and throw it all into a pan with some soy sauce for 15-20 minutes and BAM! You are done. Throw it on some rice, noodles, or just in a bowl by itself and you’ve got yourself a meal. Fun fact: soy sauce does not have to be refrigerated.
Who doesn’t love spaghetti? Especially on a weeknight when you invite your friends over for dinner and realize you have nothing in the house to make. Boil the water, cook the pasta, add the sauce, PRESTO! Spaghetti alla Pantry for the whole group. Add some chopped onion and ground beef to the sauce and you’ve made Pasta Bolognese.
Onion and garlic
These two pantry staples are the key to every one of your meals being a success. They just make everything taste better. One of my favorite things to whip up is an omelet. I chop up an onion and throw it in a pan with some olive oil. I cook it until it is soft and translucent and I add in some sliced mushrooms, tomatoes, bacon, basically whatever I have available, throw in some eggs, and boom, I’ve got myself an omelet. You know what goes well with omelets?
Everything tastes better with hot sauce. My favorite is the chili garlic sauce that they sell in Asian markets. Sriracha, Tapatillo, and Chalula are some of my other favorites. Put hot sauce on your stir-fry and omelets to make them an unforgettable experience for guests. Just make sure you have water on hand in case they can’t take the heat.
But you know what they say: “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen”.
Fillers and Fibers
Whether you eat carbs or not, it is always a good idea to have some emergency grains and legumes in your house. Your options are limitless: white rice, brown rice, farrow, white potatoes, sweet potatoes, quinoa, bread, noodles, etc. These pantry staples are great for nights when you don’t have a plan, but don’t want to spend $12 on gross “cheap” Mexican food. Grains and legumes fill you up and soak up the yummy sauce from your stir-fry, win-win. If your bored with Italian style pasta, hit up your local Asian market and grab some authentic Asian noodles for a changeup.
Canned meat or fish
A can of tuna has come to my rescue more than once. I’m sure you’ve been there. You get home after a long day of work and you are starving. You don’t want to cook, you want as little cleanup as possible and you want to eat something more than a piece of toast. Tuna is great because all you have to do is open the can, pour it into a bowl, add some mayonnaise and some onion if you are feeling fancy, and throw it in between two pieces of bread. Hell, I’ve been known to eat it with a fork, straight out of the bowl.
The ingredient that can be added to anything! While some people elect to keep their nut butters in the fridge, there are a few brands that have no added sugar that you can leave in the pantry after opening. Nut butters can be cooked into sauce (peanut sauce), added to smoothies, or even eaten by the spoonful. Personally, I enjoy crunchy peanut butter mixed into my plain greek yogurt.