04 August 2011

she went to her cupboard

Old Mother Hubbard, she went to her cupboard
To give her poor dog a bone
When she came there the cupboard was bare,
And so the old dog had none.


I've been thinking about what I consider "essential" in my kitchen. If I had to move and restock my kitchen from scratch, what would I get first? If I were taking food on a trip, what is most important? If I have a limited amount of grocery money left this month, what takes priority?

These, I think, are what I'd consider my pantry essentials. That is, if we happen to run low they immediately appear on the grocery list. :)


Tea and coffee. It's a sad day when we run out of either. (That doesn't happen often, believe you me.)

Eggs. We blow through an insane amount of eggs. I usually buy three dozen at a time-- I've never had one go bad. :)

Whole milk. From cereal to white sauce to yogurt to kefir, I think we average 1.5 gallons a week. Sometimes it's more like 2.

Cheese and sour cream. The two dairy products I don't make from scratch. Yet. ;) For cheese, I like to have Parmesan, cheddar, and mozzarella.

Meat. I would say that if I have a whole chicken, some ground beef, and a few links of sausage in the freezer, we're good to go for a while. Canned tuna and salmon are also staples.

Flours. White whole wheat and unbleached white, ever and only from King Arthur Flour.

Rice. Long grain for some things, shorter and stickier basmati for others. Always brown.

Nuts. We eat a lot of almonds and walnuts-- nut butters, candied, granola, trail mix, coffee cake. Whoop for portable protein.

Beans. Whether dried or canned, I like to have chickpeas and black beans in the cupboard for quick lunches or bulking up tacos and soup.

Apples (usually) and bananas. We love a variety of fruit but heaven forbid that bananas should not be on hand. During the fall and winter there are always apples, though not as much in summertime, when melon and peaches take their place. :)

Broccoli, lettuce, carrots. Though I try to keep a rainbow of seasonal vegetables in the fridge, with these three basics I can do plenty.

Onions and garlic. Life ain't worth livin' without 'em.

Potatoes. Especially now that I am avoiding grains, I cook with potatoes even more. Reds and russets are great.

Butter. Biscuits, sauteed onions and mushrooms, brushed over a roasting chicken, melted on hot toast, et cetera. We looove butter.

Olive oil. Anything from salad dressings to pizza dough to carrot cake. (I try to stick with butter and coconut oil for high-heat uses, as they have higher smoke points and less chance of oxidation.) Extra virgin for most uses and "light" for mayonnaise.

Coconut oil. I don't use much of this at a time, as it's pricey, but it is great for Asian dishes and for seasoning my cast iron.

Chicken and beef stock. Whisked into omelets, cooking liquid for rice, and of course soup. The freezer almost always has a quart or two tucked away.

Spices. Here's what is in my spice cabinet: salt, black peppercorns, red pepper flakes, basil, oregano, thyme, marjoram, cayenne, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, dill, tarragon, chives, cardamom, coriander, cumin, parsley, paprika, turmeric, garlic powder, bay leaves, five spice powder, garam masala, curry powder, sesame seeds, vanilla extract, peppermint extract. It took me a while to build up that collection! Salt, pepper, garlic, basil, thyme, cumin, cayenne, cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla extract would be my basics. (SAF instant yeast probably fits in this category too. I keep it in the freezer. Baking powder and soda get put in the spice cabinet.)

Sweeteners. Wet: local raw honey for "uncooked" uses, pasteurized (cheaper) honey for baking, molasses for the holidays and for chili, maple syrup on occasion. Dry: raw turbinado sugar for most things and refined sugar for the times when nothing else will do. 

Chocolate. We must have chocolate on hand at all times, or we are doomed. Truth.

Cereal, Caesar dressing, tortilla chips. Because I do like to keep the husband happy. :)

Nonstick spray and parchment paper. Aluminum foil and plastic wrap also, in moderation. What would I do without these brilliant inventions?


A few other things are also very useful, but don't quite make it onto the Must Have List for one reason or another. To wit: pasta, rolled oats, canned tomatoes, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, vinegars (apple cider, red and white wine, balsamic), heavy cream.

What do you think? Have I left something off the list?

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  1. I'd love to see a post, including photos, on how you make kefir. I've been drinking store-bought kefir for about a year now, but I'd love to learn to make it.

  2. You may have left something off, but, since tea, coffee and chocolate are on there, I think you are in excellent shape for now!

  3. This is really interesting Rebekah. Pasta is always on our essential list, and so are oats (quick & rolled).

  4. Yep. They're good things. :) Honestly, I almost always have them around, but I could theoretically do without them (we don't eat nearly as much pasta as we used to-- more rice and potatoes-- so that changes things).