A well stocked pantry is important.  Really important.  In fact, it is a HUGE key to successful meal planning.  So, pull up a chair and grab a cup of coffee while we chat all about an organized pantry and 10 essential must have pantry items.

When was the last time you took inventory in your pantry?

Do you know what’s hiding behind the cereal boxes? 

Have you gone shopping, only to come home and find you already have (fill in the blank)?

I have. 

Usually when I’m in a rush, trying to mentally remember what’s on the list and swearing I don’t already have something, only to come home and find not only do I have something I have 4 somethings hanging out in my pantry. 

Since  I have SO been there, I've come up with some helpful tips you can use today to get your pantry organized and well stocked with some essentials.  

  1. First up: find some time to completely empty out your pantry.  Yep, completely.  I highly recommend putting your favorite playlist on to help keep you motivated.  My favorite one right now is Blind Pilot Radio.  Toss anything with expiration dates so faded you can’t make them out anymore, and all things with expired dates get thrown out, too. 
  2. Organize by category.  My pantry isn’t very big, so I like to organize things by shelf according to category.  On the bottom shelf I keep all of my cans.  Next shelf up is nuts/snacks.  Next shelf is baking goods (baking powder, sugar, brown sugar, flower, baking soda, etc.) I find it’s so much easier to find things when I know exactly what shelf they should be on.  SIDE NOTE: If your family is anything like mine, you will most likely need to give them a tour of the newly organized pantry, so they can put things back where they actually go.
  3. Consolidate: I use mason jars to consolidate items that take up too much space in their original packaging.  I've even used tupperware when I've run out of jars.  Don't forget to label the jars!  You want to make sure you actually know what's in them.  You can find really inexpensive jars at Cost Plus, Target, and I’ve also had great luck at HomeGoods and Goodwill.  (Not an ad at all for these stores, just my two cents where I find the best prices on jars).  If you love jars, feel free to reorganize and consolidate using only jars.  It definitely looks pretty and be sure to take a picture, tag it #amenuforyoupantry and show it off to us!

Here's my "before" picture -- what you don't see is the expired Valentine's Day candy (from 2016!), a long forgotten bag of self-rising flour, and 3 bags of light brown sugar.

              I usually try to clean out my pantry at least 3-4 times a year.  Let's just say, it's been awhile.


Now that you have a gorgeous organized pantry, here are 10 pantry essentials:

Olive Oil — this is pretty much the single most important item in your entire pantry.  Besides using it to make salad dressings, sauté veggies and your favorite protein, you can drizzle it over grilled veggies, add herbs and use it as a dip for bread, toss potatoes with it before roasting and so much more.  It's seriously the work horse of the kitchen.

This is my absolute favorite oil. Nice and light with a little spice.


Salt and Pepper — I’m combining these 2 into 1 because you often use them together.  They add flavor to every dish regardless of what the dish is.  Salt amplifies the flavor while pepper adds a little background depth of heat.  What's also great about salt is it comes in a huge variety of flavors. So don't just stick with one salt.  Branch out and see how different salts effect the flavor of a dish.  I am a huge salt collector.  I have everything from Himalayan (fabulous sprinkled over tomatoes and fish), smoked (great for grilled meat), Maldon (these large flakes are the perfect finishing salt) and truffle salt (over pasta or popcorn this is the best!).

Pink:Himalayan, Dark: Smoked, Maldon: large flakes, Sea Salt: tiny bits


Beans — canned and raw.  I always have a variety of black, lentils (red and green), garbanzo (for making hummus).   They are extremely versatile and add protein to soups, stews, and chicken dishes.  My kiddos love black beans in quesadillas, or this simple recipe with cilantro and garlic and roasted garbanzo beans make a quick, easy and healthy snack.


Chicken stock — With this you are literally able to make everything but the kitchen sink.  Soups, stews, curries, gravy, and sauces. Of course, if you’re vegetarian be sure to always have Veggie stock.  Homemade is the best and you can find a recipe here.  If you must use store bought this is a great brand with deep rich flavor.


Pasta — There’s nothing that makes for a quicker (and easier) dinner than pasta.  Boil some water, cook the pasta and toss with your favorite sauce or just a glob of butter, sprinkle of salt and pepper and some Parmesan cheese.  This pasta with asparagus, lemon and cream takes advantage of the bright colors and flavors of Spring.



Canned tomatoes —— crushed, diced and whole.  These are the base for homemade marinara sauce, tomato soup, you can add them to stews,  use them as a base for numerous sauces and a short cut for making salsa.


These are two of my favorite brands.



Mayonnaise —- Another great base item to always have on hand.  Use it to make creamy salad dressings, add garlic to make aioli (the perfect dipping sauce for veggies and sauce for fish), use it to make dips (like this artichoke dip), whip up some tuna or chicken salad, and, of course, it wouldn’t be a sandwich (at least in my house!) without a bit of mayo.

You don't really need to see a photo of a mayo bottle, right? I thought it would be MUCH better to show what you can make with a bit of mayo.


Something spicy — I’m a big fan of harissa.  But there’s also sriracha,  sambal oelek (an Asian chili paste) which adds a deeper heat with a bit of sweet.  Don't forget about thai chili oil (just a little drizzle will do unless you like things EXTRA spicy). And, for pure heat, there’s always tabasco sauce.  Heat brings out a complexity to a dish and I highly recommend you try several different types of condiments to discover what type of heat you like.  For me it depends on the dish — I love a spoonful of harissa on eggs or my avocado toast.  I often stir Sambal oelek into curries, and I love to drizzle Thai chili oil over the finished curry for a little added punch.



Grains — Whether it’s rice (from basmati to white), quinoa, buckwheat, farro or all of the above, these are the perfect side dish to everything from fish to chicken to steak.  You can also toss any grain with a bunch of different veggies and fresh herbs for a veggie side (or main) dish.



Nuts — There isn’t one dish that doesn’t benefit by some added crunch.  From salads, to sprinkling over grilled veggies, homemade granola bars, pesto and sauces, and, of course, cookies and treats.  I always keep almonds, pecans, walnuts and pine nuts on hand and find that buying from the bulk section saves money.



Now that you have an organized and stocked pantry, dinner will be SO easy to make.   You won’t be searching for ingredients hoping you have them. And you now have the staple ingredients that form the base of most recipes.  

Don't forget to tag your organized and well stocked pantry #amenuforyoupantry so we can admire it!

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Watch the (super short) video below to see how my pantry reorganization went: 

Happy Cooking!


****All products listed are products  I use and are not paid ads or promotions.  I want you to know what's in my pantry, so it helps you when you stock yours.

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