My veggie pantry

One of the best things I’ve done for my kitchen in the past year is slowly build up my pantry so that routine grocery shopping and menu planning is way more of a breeze. I’m so much more prone to choose any given recipe when I look at the ingredients list and go, “Oh look, I have three-quarters of those things already.” Even as I’ve been without my own kitchen the past five months, I’ve been able to carry my pantry with me in a box and still make awesome meals.

It takes time. You’re not going to go out tomorrow and get everything on this list. Every time one of these ingredients shows up on your grocery list, maybe grab some extra. Or grab one new pantry item each trip to the store. Shop sales. You’ll get there! And as you do, you’ll see how cooking is so much easier when you’re well-stocked. Take it from someone who has spent her adult life living paycheck to paycheck: Having depth in your pantry makes home cooking cheaper. If nothing else, you can scrape up a meal from what you have on hand.

This isn’t even everything I have! I have maybe 70 percent of this stuff all the time and the rest is stuff that I either buy constantly and/or wish I had on hand more often. So call this my aspirational pantry list. Use it as a starting point to make your own.

pantry

My temporary spice rack in my boyfriend’s kitchen drawer.

This doesn’t even count all the fresh produce I love to have. As you might notice, I have few fresh veggies here – because I live on my own, I just have to buy new veggies all the time or they’ll go bad.

Canned goods: black beans, refried beans, white beans, kidney beans, chickpeas, diced tomatoes, tomato paste (also the kind in a tube is rad), tomato sauce, diced green chiles, light coconut milk

Jars: roasted red peppers, minced ginger, minced garlic, curry paste

Dry goods and grains: brown rice, quinoa, rolled oats, red and green/brown lentils, dry black beans, whole wheat pasta (spaghetti, fusilli, orzo), rice noodles, coffee beans, raw cashews, unsalted peanuts, dried cranberries (or dried fruits of your choice – think baking and oatmeal toppers)

Condiments & Sauces: balsamic vinegar, white vinegar, raw apple cider vinegar, rice vinegar, Asian sweet chili sauce, marinara sauce, ketchup, dijon mustard, yellow mustard, salsa, peanut butter, barbecue sauce, hot sauce, soy sauce (or tamari), tahini

Herbs and spices: salt and pepper, nutritional yeast, onion powder, garlic powder, cinnamon, turmeric, ground cumin, ground ginger, chili powder, ground coriander, oregano, thyme, garam masala, nutmeg, curry powder, paprika, red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, rubbed sage, bay leaves, taco seasoning

Baking Needs: baking soda, baking powder, brown and raw sugar, agave nectar and/or pure maple syrup, corn starch, flour, unsweetened applesauce, unsweetened cocoa, vanilla extract, Earth Balance

Produce: garlic, onion, ginger, potatoes, sweet potatoes, lemons, limes, apples and out-of-season frozen fruits and vegetables (spinach, edamame, corn, berries)

Other: vegetable broth, non-dairy milk (almond is my fave), tofu (extra firm and silken), miso, coconut oil, tortillas, whole wheat bread

In the freezer: extra vegetable broth, marinara, serving-size portions of brown rice, herbs

**Budget hack: BULK BINS, BULK BINS, BULK BINS. I will never, ever buy dry herbs and spices pre-packaged in a jar again, if I can help it.

So put down that $7 jar of ground cardamom that’s breaking your weekly grocery budget and take a field trip to the bulk bins.

Herbs, spices, oats, nuts, nutritional yeast, flour, baking agents, pasta, dry fruits — depending on the store, you can get all the dry goods you need in the bulk bins and only pay for what you need (Fred Meyer, co-ops and gourmet grocery/health food stores often have great bulk sections). Spices lose flavor over time and if you picked up an overpriced jar of something you use only in small quantities or for certain dishes, you’re doing it wrong. If you only pick up some tablespoons (or cups as it may be) of what you need and then a little extra for next time, you’ll only pay between pennies and a couple dollars. If you’re a stranger to your local bulk bins, introduce yourself.

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