Does anyone else feel as though their entire life revolves around food at the moment?
If I’m not planning out meals, I’m shopping for groceries. Then everything needs to be disinfected and put away. Oh wait, my pantry is looking a little messy – better spend an hour reorganising it. Now, time to cook dinner!
After eating and cleaning up, it seems that most of my day has been spent in the kitchen. And honestly, I’m secretly enjoying it.
I’m aware that it’s a luxury to be able to focus so much on food right now, and I’m also very grateful to my past self who has been slowly stocking up my pantry for the last three months. The uncertainty around Brexit played a huge part in that decision, and I’m so relieved that I took those steps.
Even before lockdown, I prided myself on making the majority of our meals from scratch. It’s a great way to save money and ensure that you’re consuming healthy, fresh ingredients with no hidden nasties!
As a result, having to rely on my cooking skills over the past month hasn’t been too much of a hardship. We’ve completely cut out any takeaway meals and obviously haven’t been visiting restaurants, so even with a slightly higher grocery bill we’ve managed to save a good chunk of money.
When I first got wind of a potential lockdown, I headed straight to Sainsbury’s in order to ensure we had everything we needed. As I cook so often I knew exactly which items to pick up, but I’m aware that not everyone has this experience in the kitchen.
In an effort to help even just one person, I decided to list my kitchen pantry essentials to serve as inspiration for anyone who wants to feel a little more prepared during this uncertain time.
If you’re struggling to know exactly what to purchase at the grocery store, read on!
These are shelf-stable essentials that can form the base of almost any meal. They will vary depending on your personal taste and cooking skills, but I’ve done my best to list the absolute basics that should be found in any kitchen cupboard.
Due to my newfound love of Japanese cooking we have massively increased our rice consumption, so I recently purchased a large sack which should last us a couple of months at least. We also eat a lot of pasta – our pantry is currently dominated by two huge bags of dried macaroni! Flour is great for baking and any type of homemade pastry, and you can’t go wrong with a warm bowl of oatmeal in the morning.
It’s always helpful to have a collection of spices – my go-tos include smoked paprika, turmeric, cumin and chilli powder. They add a depth of flavour to any meal and can really spice up (sorry!) a plain dish. I also had to include Celtic salt, which is packed full of minerals and tastes far better than regular table salt.
A high-quality olive oil is an absolute must – you won’t believe the difference it can make! I also love a good low-salt vegetable stock to use in homemade soups, and yeast will allow you to make your own bread if you happen to run out.
See below for my essential basic pantry ingredients:
- Plain and/or self-raising flour
- Bread flour
- Baking powder
- Baking soda
- UHT oat milk
- Tinned tomatoes
- Tinned soups
- Coconut milk
- Nutritional yeast
- Olive oil
- Sesame oil
- Rice vinegar
- Celtic salt
- Vegetable stock
- Bottled mineral water
In our household we rely heavily on healthy protein sauces such as beans, pulses and tinned fish.
I love making my own hummus from scratch, which is why I made sure to stock up on chickpeas. Black beans are another essential – they can be used to make plant-based burger patties, a hearty chilli and even a spicy Mexican soup.
Of course, I can’t forget about lentils. Possibly my absolute favourite pantry essential of all time, they make up the bulk of our daily diet. I throw them into curries, bolognese sauce and even homemade sausage rolls!
Tinned salmon and tuna can be used in a variety of meals – I make a great tuna and avocado pasta salad, for example. Of course I prefer fresh, but now is not the time to be fussy!
See below for my essential pantry protein sources:
- Black beans
- Kidney beans
- Tinned tuna and salmon
- Gram flour
Fruit and Vegetables
I’m currently planning a post focused entirely on my fridge essentials, which is where most of my fruit and vegetables are hiding. But some are entirely shelf-stable and last for a surprisingly long time in the pantry!
There’s always a large stash of red and white onions in my kitchen – I use at least two a day, as onion and garlic form the base of most of our meals. Butternut squash and sweet potatoes store well on our countertop, along with white potatoes (kept in a cardboard box in a cool, dark place!)
I’m not a fan of tinned fruit, but I can definitely get behind tinned vegetables. Sweetcorn, mushrooms, carrots… they’re all incredibly useful to keep in the pantry. I tend to stick to dried fruits such as apricots, figs and dates – they make the perfect healthy snack and add a little flavour to my regular smoothies.
See below for my essential fruit and vegetable pantry ingredients:
- White potatoes
- Sweet potatoes
- Red and white onions
- Butternut squash
- Dried fruits
- Tinned vegetables
Sauces and Spreads
I’m aware of the ongoing debate around where to store your sauces – cupboard or fridge?
I think I’m somewhere in the middle. I keep my ketchup and vegan mayonnaise in the fridge, but most other sauces are carefully arranged in my pantry.
Local honey has done wonders at keeping my hay fever under control – I usually purchase mine from Hewitt’s Farm in Orpington, but obviously this will depend on where you live. I’m starting to run low, so I’m praying that they deliver!
Peanut butter with homemade jam is the ultimate combination. I always opt for Meridian peanut butter, made with pure organic peanuts and nothing else. It’s packed with natural protein and makes the perfect topping for oatmeal or as an addition to a banana smoothie.
I’ve been getting through litres of soy sauce lately, due to my newfound love of Japanese cooking. I like to make sure I have an extra bottle on hand at all times. Pesto is another essential – I prefer homemade, but I think Elliott would eat jarred pesto with every meal if I let him!
See below for my essential sauces and spreads:
- Peanut butter
- Homemade jam
- Local honey
- Pasta sauce
- Red curry paste
- Tomato puree
- Soy sauce
I’m lucky enough to own a breadmaker, allowing us to enjoy fresh bread at any time of the day. However, it’s always good to keep a few alternative options on hand!
Flour tortillas are perfect for tofu scramble breakfast burritos or regular Mexican burritos. We can easily go through an entire package in just a couple of days! Elliott is also addicted to pitta bread with hummus, so those are a staple on our shopping list.
And for those days when you just can’t be bothered, ready-to-bake rolls with olive oil and balsamic vinegar really hits the spot. They’re also great with soups, or for a less healthy option you can make the cutest little vegan chicken sliders!
See below for my essential pantry-safe bread choices:
- Pitta bread
- Ready-to-bake rolls
- Shelf-stable bread, such as rye and sunflower seed bread
Nuts and Seeds
The humble seed is often overlooked when grocery shopping, when really they should be as essential as bread and oat milk.
I went into detail on the benefits of seeds in my post on homemade bircher muesli, so I highly recommend giving that a read if you’re unconvinced!
A sprinkle of pumpkin seeds over my oatmeal, a spoonful of flax seeds on my toast, a bowl of sweet chia seed pudding… I just can’t get enough of these tiny nutritional powerhouses.
Cashews can be soaked and blended as a base for the creamiest vegan pasta sauce, and pine nuts are crucial when making homemade pesto. I’ve also been aiming to eat one Brazil nut a day in order to reach my daily selenium levels!
See below for my essential nuts and seeds:
- Chia seeds
- Flax seeds
- Pumpkin seeds
- Brazil nuts
- Pine nuts
As you can imagine, my kitchen is fairly well-stocked right now. I’ve been slowly adding to my collection every week, picking up a few extra tins and cartons here and there, and I think I’ll make this a habit even when the current health crisis is over. It’s always good to be prepared!
How do your pantry essentials differ from mine? I’d love to know!