Pantry Basics

Keeping a well-stocked pantry filled with whole foods is key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle and incorporating wholesome ingredients into every meal. Having a variety of basic ingredients including herbs and spices, condiments, grains, and legumes, makes it so much easier to prepare easy, delicious meals without too much trouble. 

I’ve put together a list of some basic tips for stocking a healthy pantry, as well as some of the basic ingredients that I try to have on hand at all times. Take note that it’s not crucial to have every grain and every legume in your pantry at all times, it’s just handy to have at least one of each to prepare basic, wholesome meals. I’ve included more comprehensive lists so that you can pick and choose according to your tastes and budget 🙂

Tips for Stocking Your Pantry

1. Buy in bulk

Save money by purchasing non-perishable items like legumes, seeds, nuts, and carbohydrates (e.g. rice, oats, quinoa) in bulk. Although you’ll spend more money once-off, you’ll save in the long run.

2. Invest in airtight storage containers

Being smart about storage is a great way of keeping items that you’ve purchased in bulk, such as seeds, nuts, and grains, fresh. Glass jars with airtight lids are a great to use for storing seeds, grains, legumes, herbs, and spices in the pantry. They are also really affordable if you buy them from a supplier like Consol (here in South Africa). 

3. Look out for specials at the supermarket

Here in South Africa shops like Pick-n-Pay and Woolworths often have specials on things like tinned tomato, tinned tuna, and bulk rice. Take advantage of these specials and buy them whilst you can.

4. Keep track of what you have, and what you need

If you aren’t 100% sure about what you have in your pantry it can be easy to buy things at the shops that you don’t really need. Every once in a while, take a good look at what you have inside your pantry before grocery shopping. Use up items that have been sitting there for a while, and start from scratch. A pantry clean-up is a great thing to do every once in a while.

What I keep in my pantry…

So let’s get down to business. What kind of ingredients do I try to keep in my pantry? Below you will find lists of basic ingredients in various different categories that I generally have on hand in the pantry that can be used, along with fridge and/or freezer basics, to prepare most breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks. I have also included a list with other healthy pantry resources and videos with posts that have been done on this topic by some of my favorite bloggers. At the end of the list, you will find a free Healthy Pantry Basics Printable that you can download to print out and stick up on the door of your pantry or to have on hand when you go grocery shopping.

Condiments & Oils

Some of the best healthy oils that I use regularly in cooking include extra virgin olive oil (roasting, baking, salad dressings) and coconut oil (for sautéing and shallow-frying). Apple cider vinegar, Dijon mustard, and balsamic vinegar are pantry staples that are packed with flavour. They can be used in combination with olive oil to make the most delicious dressings and vinaigrettes and can be used to make flavourful marinades for meat or veggie-based dishes.

  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Coconut oil (virgin, cold-pressed)
  • Dijon mustard
  • Extra virgin olive oil

Dried Fruits

  • Apricots
  • Cranberries
  • Dates
  • Raisins

Dried Herbs & Spices

Herbs

  • Coriander
  • Dill
  • Mint
  • Mixed herbs
  • Parsley
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Thyme

Spices

  • Bay leaves
  • Black pepper
  • Caraway
  • Cardamom
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Chili powder
  • Cinnamon
  • Cumin
  • Curry powder
  • Fennel
  • Garam masala
  • Garlic powder
  • Ginger (dried, ground)
  • Black pepper
  • Sea salt
  • Sumac
  • Turmeric

Flours

  • Almond flour
  • Brown rice flour
  • Buckwheat flour
  • Chickpea flour
  • Coconut flour
  • Spelt flour
  • Stone-ground rye flour
  • Stone-ground whole wheat flour
  • Teff flour

Gluten-free Grains

  • Amaranth
  • Buckwheat
  • Millet
  • Oats
  • Pasta (buckwheat, gluten-free, mung-bean, rice, soba)
  • Quinoa
  • Rice (basmati, brown, wild)

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Legumes

Beans, chickpeas, lentils, and other legumes can be easily used to bulk up meals in terms of both volume and nutritional value. They’re incredibly versatile and can be used in many different types of dishes (even in baked treats). As an added bonus, most of these legumes are really affordable when purchased dry and cooked at home. Buy dried legumes in bulk and store them in airtight containers or jars in your pantry. Some of my favourite legumes to have in stock include:

  • Beans (black-eyed, butter, cannellini, red kidney, red speckled)
  • Chickpeas
  • Lentils (yellow, red, green, or brown)
  • Split peas

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Nuts & Seeds

Nuts can be quite pricey, so you don’t need to stock your pantry with all of these nuts all of the time. Figure out which nuts you like best, and keep a medium-sized jar of them in your pantry to add to breakfast smoothies, yoghurt bowls, salads, and other foods. Nuts and seeds are nutrient dense for their small size, so they’re a brilliant addition to meals. As already mentioned, buying good quality nuts in bulk can save you some money. Seeds are another basic that you can buy in bulk and store in airtight containers. Store smaller jars of nuts and seeds in the pantry for quick and easy use, and keep the rest in the freezer so that they don’t go rancid. Take them out of the freezer to ‘defrost’ a bit before using them.

Nuts:

  • Almonds
  • Cashews
  • Hazelnuts
  • Pecans
  • Pistachios
  • Macadamias
  • Walnuts

Seeds:

  • Chia seeds
  • Hemp seeds
  • Flaxseeds // Linseeds
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Sesame seeds
  • Sunflower seeds 

Nut & Seed Butters (No added salt or sugar):

  • Almond butter
  • Cashew nut butter
  • Coconut butter
  • Peanut butter
  • Sunflower seed butter
  • Tahini (sesame seed butter)

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Tinned Items

  • Beans, chickpeas, lentils (no added salt)
  • Coconut milk (with no added sugar, and as few preservatives and emulsifiers as possible)
  • Pilchards/sardines in brine/water
  • Tomatoes, tomato & onion mix
  • Tuna in brine

Vegetables

  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Baby potatoes
  • Sweet potatoes

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Extras

  • Baking powder
  • Bicarbonate of soda
  • Cacao / cocoa powder
  • Dark chocolate
  • Desiccated coconut
  • Honey (locally sourced)
  • Nutritional yeast
  • Stevia liquid
  • Stock powder – try to choose a good organic beef/vegetable/chicken stock powder for those times when you don’t have homemade broth in the fridge or freezer

Some more healthy pantry resources

Free Printable – Healthy Pantry Basics