When it comes to being prepared in a from scratch kitchen you definitely want to have some pantry staples on hand to be able to quickly put meals together. When you harvest something from your garden or when your CSA box is filled with goodies, you will feel confident knowing that you can make a delicious meal with staples you have to add to the garden or CSA goods. There are somethings that can work with just about any meal, those are covered here.
- Dried Herbs and Spices – Pretty much anything you make can be enhanced by herbs and spices, dry or fresh. Having a stock of dried herbs and spices means you don’t have to worry about if the herb/spice is in season or available at the store. Having an assortment of dried herbs and spices also allows you to hone in on specific culinary profiles. If you want an Italian flavor profile, choose herbs like basil, garlic, oregano, parsley, leek, rosemary, thyme. If you are looking to create a Mexican or Spanish flavor profile think about using cilantro, coriander, chili, cumin, garlic, cinnamon, paprika and onion. For a flavor profile inspired by India you can use cardamom, curry, ginger, garlic, mint, turmeric, clove and so many more. If you have a base set of herbs and spices in your pantry, you will be ready to create flavor profiles inspired by your favorite cuisines whenever the mood strikes. Don’t forget about salt, pepper and nutritional yeast.
- Quality Fats – Every meal should consist of quality protein, fat and fiber, having quality fats at the ready is a must for any cook. Here are just a few of my suggestions. Unrefined extra virgin coconut oil can be used for so many things like sautéing, roasting, grilling, etc. Extra virgin olive oil, make sure this is pure and not mixed with other oils. Toasted sesame oil adds so much flavor with just a small amount, I like to use it beyond stir-fries. I have been known to add it to salad dressings, soups or noodle dishes. Ghee is another good option if you consume animal products, the way ghee is made makes it a much better option than butter.
- Nuts and Seeds – I absolutely love nuts and seeds. They add a nice crunch to many dishes and can be used in various ways. You can make your own nut/seed butters and milks quite easily from scratch. I love to use cashews for creamy sauces like a béchamel or a cheesy sauce I make paired with spaghetti squash. You want to have on hand any nuts you will readily use so they do not get old or rancid. It is terrible to have rancid tasting nuts, especially when they are more costly than most other ingredients. Some options include: almonds, cashews, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, pistachios, walnuts, chia, flax, hemp and pumpkin seeds. All of these can be used in baking too.
- Beans and Lentils – There are so many options for beans and lentils, choose ones that you especially like. You can grow these in your garden and dry them if you have enough space or you can buy them from the store. I suggest purchasing dried versions versus canned/jarred versions because they are usually cheaper and the taste of homemade beans and lentils is so far superior. In fact I think once you have had home cooked beans made from dried beans it will be hard to eat canned beans afterwards. The taste is so much better. It’s also good to have a few cans around though for those days or times when you are short on time or just don’t feel like making everything from scratch. You can choose black beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, red or green lentils, etc. Keep on hand varieties you like to eat and you can’t go wrong.
- Whole Grains and Pasta – As I have said before, keep on hand those you and your family like to eat, but don’t be afraid to try new options. You never know when something will become a new favorite in your house. Everything I make is gluten free, so you will only see those options listed here. Having a nice selection of gf pasta is great for quick meals. You will have to try a variety of pastas to see which ones you like the most. There are quite a bit of options out there. As for grains I suggest having on hand: variations of quinoa, wild rice, brown rice and millet.
- Miscellaneous items – Things that fall into this category include vinegars, condiments, sauces, dried fruits, fermented foods, etc. Vinegars to include: a high quality balsamic vinegar, rice wine vinegar and apple cider vinegar. There are more vinegars than these, but these staples can take you cooking further. Condiments can be either homemade or quality versions of family favorites. These are beneficial to have ready for any meal, especially for selective eaters. Fermented foods can fall into the condiment category or they can even be considered a side dish. Either way adding in fermented foods into you diet and having enough around that they are a staple is so very beneficial to your microbiome. Plus the flavor punch they add is fantastic.
I always suggest buying as local and organic as possible. Having a selection of pantry staples will help ensure that you can quickly and easily create from scratch meals. You don’t have to go out and buy everything all at once. Start small, add those things that you know you will use most often. Over time you will see what works best for your family. Don’t be afraid to try new ingredients to add to your pantry. You may even feel more confident about getting a healthy from scratch meal on the table because you know you have the right supplies to complete the meal. Add fresh veggies and a protein of your choosing to these staples for a variety of meals.