Months of experimentation, and years of kitchen experience later, I have finally conjured up a list of my ideal kitchen pantry: packed full of spices, grains, seeds and peanut butter. This is not a definitive list of what I use, but a mere overview of what I stock regularly to satiate the foodie in me; seasonal variation is also apparent.
For starches and grains (and any dried or canned produce for that matter), bulk-buying is usually the thriftiest way. Dried goods are a (wo)man’s best friend, second to dogs; their decade-long expiration dates and egg-free existence make them plant-based friendly. I regard a few as essential (pasta, brown rice, oats), while some have become cupboard regulars due to personal preferences. For fragrant Thai Jasmine rice, check your local Asian stores, and as for everything else, shop wisely and smartly, whether that translates to online shopping or a 30-minute drive.
I often buy beans and legumes canned, but their dried alternatives are some of the cheapest products in a supermarket; these may be more laborious, but a packet or so in the cupboard has been useful. A great source of protein and dietary fibre, utilising these in meals is recommended – as is getting creative with how you incorporate them. Nuts and seeds are excellent too, but these can be more expensive; great for baking and garnishing, find your local wholesalers to bag a bargain or two!
Frozen fruit and vegetables often retain their freshness and nutrients longer than their fresh counterparts. A worthwhile investment for produce, such as berries, that may not be in season long enough for you to enjoy their prime time. Other preserved goods are also great staples, ensuring these are preservative and additive-free. Sugar- and palm oil-free are also recent concerns of mine, so checking food labels is necessary and if in doubt, hold it off.
As for storage, ideally I’d use BPA-free glass jars; these can easily be re-filled when required, and allows for facile stock management. Personally, I prefer re-using empty antipasti jars and nut butters. You can also source them online cheaply (if buying a batch), or nearby charity shops (for topping up your stock). Vary your sizes accordingly, for spaghetti and rice, for example. Small clip-top jars are ideal for dried nuts, fruit and seeds. Stainless steel containers are amazing lunchboxes and storage for leftovers.
Varieties are in bold.
- STARCHES + GRAINS
- Pasta (egg-free; fusili, linguine, tagliatelle, spaghetti, penne)
- Rice (brown, thai Jasmine, arborio risotto, basmati)
- Pearl barley
- oats (wholewheat rolled)
- noodles (flat rice, vermicelli)
- potatoes (seasonal; white potatoes, sweet potatoes)
- BEANS + LEGUMES
- black turtle beans, kidney beans (perfect if you love Latin American/Tex-Mex cuisine like myself)
- cannellini beans, butter beans (interchangeable in many dishes)
- chickpeas (canned – those late night hummus cravings are real)
- lentils (red for curries/stews, green for salads)
- FRUITS, NUTS + SEEDS
- sultanas, raisins, dates (perfect as a sugar substitute in baking), dried figs
- dried cranberries
- sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds
- seasame seeds, poppy seeds (savoury garnish)
- raw almonds, cashew nuts (baking, snacking, milk-making)
- milled flaxseeds (a great egg and oil replacement in dishes)
- peanut butter (oil-, salt- and sugar-free; Meridian is my number 1 choice)
- nut butters (cashew, almond; these can easily be home-made)
- sweetcorn, peas (canned or frozen usually; versatile ingredients to add to hot meals and salads)
- tomatoes (canned, sun-dried; for those quick-fix pasta dishes)
- HERBS, SPICES + SEASONING
- dried herbs: basil, thyme, rosemary, mixed herbs
- fresh herbs: coriander, mint, basil, parsley, thyme, rosemary
- spices: ground cinnamon, whole nutmeg, ground nutmeg, smoked paprika, dried chilli flakes, cayenne pepper, turmeric, ground coriander, ground cardamom, ground cumin, medium curry powder
- seasoning: pink Himalayan salt, sea salt, pepper
- OTHER COOKING AIDS + CONDIMENTS
- olive oil (extra virgin and cold-pressed is the best; the greener it is, the better its quality)
- coconut oil (raw and organic; this is usually an import from my homeland, The Philippines, so I look for Fairtrade products)
- sesame oil, chilli oil
- dark soy sauce
- tahini (Middle Eastern shops are your go-to)
- vinegar (balsamic, apple cider)
- Tabasco sauce, Sriracha sauce
- capers, olives
- vegetable stock cubes/bouillon
- nutritional yeast
- vanilla extract
- maple syrup
- flour (plain, self-raising, organic spelt)
- baking powder, baking soda