My grandmother is the kind of woman that could make something delicious out of anything. Give her a handful of ingredients and she’d give you a dish that would make you forget the last 20 restaurants you visited. If you only ate her food, you would think she shopped at the most high-end of grocery stores where leaving with a bar of chocolate would cost you half of your month’s salary. But she doesn’t. She’s a creature of habit that goes to the same run-of-the-mill supermarket every month and buys the same batch of groceries.
For a long time, I wondered how she didn’t get tired of purchasing the same items over and over again. I began feeling bad for her, chalking it up to being at that comfortable elderly why-should-I try stage in her life. And then it hit me. Like an M. Knight Shyamalan film, facts that were right in my face all along suddenly blossomed into what should have been (but of course never is) the most obvious conclusion — pantry essentials.
In every kitchen, there are essentials that one should have in their pantry. These are items that work in tandem with, act as the backbone of or complement a never-ending assortment of proteins and vegetables that one might buy closer to use. My grandmother bought the same items every month because she knew that was all she needed to perform the magical culinary acts that left every person that has eaten her food in complete awe.
Without realizing it, every trip I take to my “run-of-the-mill” grocery store has yielded the same result for years. The list I share with you today is what I put in my shopping cart — items I find my pantry cannot live without. As someone who loves to cook every day, these items not only help keep my day-to-day spending at more specialized grocers in check; they also inspire a level of culinary creativity I could never have reached otherwise.
If you are looking to stock your pantry with foundation items for future meals, take this list of groceries with you the next time you go food shopping. And think of my granny. I swear my food tastes better whenever I do!
Pantry Essentials for the Home Chef
(a concentration on items with lengthy shelf lives)
1 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
1 28 oz can of whole tomatoes
1 28 oz can of diced tomatoes
2 8 oz cans of tomato paste
1 box of penne pasta
1 box of fettuccine pasta
1 bag of rice (2-3 lbs)
1 can of red kidney beans
1 can of pink beans
1 can of garbanzo beans
1 can of black beans
1 bottle of extra virgin olive oil
1 bottle of balsamic vinegar
1 can or jar of artichoke hearts
Panko bread crumbs
1 jar of peppers (roasted red or piquillo or spicy)
4 cans of tuna
1 box of chicken stock
1 box of beef stock
1 box of vegetable stock
5 lb bag of all-purpose flour
1 box of light brown sugar