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Stocking Series: The Pantry

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When it comes to stocking the pantry, it can be hard to know what food items to always have on hand. Please allow me to help you.  This post is a comprehensive pantry list, regardless of your skill level.

I prefer frozen fruits and vegetables when it comes to frozen or canned.  Most canned products are slightly cooked.   If your tastes run different from mine, feel free to add your favorite canned meat, veggies, and fruit

It is frustrating to run out of things, especially when I am in the middle of cooking! (Hint: Use these tips to help the cooking process go smoothly.)  Having a well-stocked pantry can save the day when creating a quick meal.

Click on the links throughout the tiers to find out more about specific products.

Remember These Factors

As you go through this post, keep in mind the following: your eating style (low-carb, gluten-free, vegan, and so on), number of eaters in the household, consider how often someone cooks in the home, personal taste, and ethnic foods.

Eating Style

This factor is a reminder to stock your pantry according to the type of diet(s) eaten in the household.  A vegan living solo will not require evaporated milk or chicken stock.  Someone on Keto does not need wheat flour or sugar.  Gluten-free eaters will need to find appropriate substitutes for certain baking staples

Number of Eaters

Juggling different schedules can make meal planning and mealtimes challenging.   If you know a member of your household tends to eat out all week, that can alter how much you want to keep on hand. 

Amount of Cooking

If you have a lot of mouths to feed, cook in bulk & freeze meals or cooking solo, it is important to evaluate the quantities you’ll need to keep on hand, then shop accordingly. During certain times of the year, a five-pound bag of flour can cost as much as a one-pound bag. Long-lasting ingredients such as flour tend to last quite a while if they are stored correctly. Just keep in mind the likelihood of using the product before it expires.

Personal Taste

Remember, this list is a guide.  Feel free to make changes to add and remove things according to your taste buds. 

Ethnic Foods

Different cultures use various herbs, spices, and other ingredients in their cooking that the average Americans may not know.  Be sure to keep those flavors in mind when creating your perfect pantry.

Which Tier Are You?

Stocking the pantry at your level will help perfect your cooking skills. Now that we have the “guidelines” down, let’s talk about how the list is structured. There are four sections: casual or new cook, confident and expanding, well-seasoned culinary adventurer, finishing with vegan additions & substitutions. 

Tier 1

Casual or New Cook.

This grouping will list the items needed for a well-stocked pantry.  Upon following this list, you should be able to whip up simple recipes for soups, quick breads (muffins, pancakes, etc.), sauces (marinara or gravy), and more.

Tier 2

Confident Cook Expanding Food Horizons.

I’m expanding upon Tier 1 to include commonly found staples to make more in-depth and complex meals and from-scratch-cooking.  This beefed up tier begins laying the foundation for recreating ethnic cuisines by adding “basic” flavors and ingredients for cuisines such as Thai, Mexican, or Indian.

Tier 3

Well-seasoned Culinary Adventurer

For the person cooks almost every day and mostly creates their own recipes, Tier 3 brings out some flavor heavy hitters.  At this point, they are no stranger to world-wide cuisine with a flare for authenticity.  Most items in this section are also commonly found in large grocery stores or easily ordered online, depending on where you live.

Tier 4

Vegan Additions & Substitutions 

The majority of this list is already vegan, but there are a few additions and substitutions listed in Tier 4. In this final section, we explore the substitutes for items are denoted with “see Tier 4”.   

Remember,  you are free to alter the list according to your tastes and scale the tiers as you see fit. This post is just a guide, add your flare!

Let’s get starting on stocking the pantry

Tier 1: Casual or New Cook

First up on the Stocking the Pantry list is Tier 1. In this list, I provide almost all your needs to make it through mealtimes and even holidays. From herbs and seasonings to the foundation of many different types of dishes, this pantry list is exceptionally well rounded.  Paired with fresh ingredients, you can easily create meals more often, and even to branch out into new territory. 


  • All-Purpose flour
  • Baking powder
  • Baking soda
  • Chocolate bar (milk, bittersweet, white and/or unsweetened)
  • Chocolate chips, semi-sweet
  • Confectioner’s sugar (powdered sugar)
  • Cornstarch
  • Evaporated and/or condensed milk (see Tier 4)
  • Granulated sugar
  • Honey (see Tier 4)
  • Light and dark brown sugar
  • Maple Syrup
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder

Canned, Boxed, and “Other”


Oils and Vinegars

  • Apple Cider vinegar
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Non-stick cooking spray (baking, olive oil, canola/vegetable and/or grill)
  • Vegetable or canola oil


  • Dijon mustard
  • Fruit jam or spread (strawberry, orange marmalade and/or apricot)
  • Hot sauce
  • Jarred salsa
  • Ketchup
  • Mayo
  • Peanut butter (smooth and chunky)
  • Pickles
  • Relish (sweet and/or dill)
  • Soy sauce
  • Worcestershire sauce (see Tier 4)
  • Yellow mustard

Herbs, Flavoring, and Spices

  • Black peppercorns
  • Chili powder
  • Cinnamon
  • Cream of tartar
  • Cumin
  • Curry powder
  • Dried basil
  • Dried bay leaf
  • Dried oregano
  • Dried rosemary
  • Dried sage
  • Dried thyme
  • Garlic powder or granulated
  • Ground cayenne pepper
  • Kosher salt
  • Onion powder or granulated
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Sweet paprika
  • Table salt
  • Vanilla extract

Grains and Legumes

  • Canned beans (black, pinto, red kidney, garbanzo, cannellini, and/or great northern. Unsalted varieties are the best.)
  • Cornmeal
  • Long-grain rice
  • Old fashion rolled oats

Nuts and Seeds

  • Almonds (sliced, whole and/or silvered)
  • Roasted peanuts
  • Shelled sunflower seeds
  • Walnuts

Tier 2: Confident Cook Expanding Food Horizons

Tier two covers items for those who cook pretty often and a nice set of cooking skills. With these additional items, you can branch out into ethnic cuisine (Thai, Indian, Spanish, Mexican, Caribbean, and so many more)! Also, you can create a twist on a classic recipe, such as Southwest Meatloaf or White Chicken Chili.


  • Almond extract
  • Cake flour
  • Molasses
  • Powdered buttermilk (see Tier 4)
  • Unflavored gelatin (see Tier 4)
  • Vanilla beans
  • Whole-wheat flour
  • Yeast (active or instant)

Canned, Boxed, and “Other”

  • Beef stock
  • Coconut milk
  • Diced green chile
  • Dried fruit (cranberries, apricots, raisins, etc.…)
  • Jarred pesto
  • Panko breadcrumbs
  • Roasted red bell peppers
  • Sardines
  • Steel-cut oats
  • Unsweetened coconut flakes
  • Whole tomatoes, canned


Oils and Vinegars

  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Coconut oil
  • Olive oil or light olive oil
  • Peanut oil (for deep frying)
  • Sesame seed oil


Herbs, Flavorings, and Spices

  • Caraway seed
  • Cardamom
  • Celery seed
  • Chile powders (single chile variety, such as ancho or chipotle)
  • Dried chives
  • Dried fennel
  • Dried Mediterranean oregano
  • Dried parsley
  • Dried tarragon
  • Dry mustard
  • Five-spice powder
  • Flaky sea salt
  • Garam masala
  • Ground coriander
  • Ground ginger
  • Poppy seeds
  • Sesame seed (toasted or untoasted)
  • Smoked paprika
  • Sumac
  • Turmeric
  • White pepper
  • Whole allspice
  • Whole cloves
  • Za’atar

Grains and Legumes

Nuts and Seeds

  • Cashews
  • Pecans

Tier 3: Well-seasoned & Venturing Cook

As a cook, you are at a point where it is all about flavors, especially new ones.  Having this arsenal at your disposal, you are ready to tackle recipe ideas whenever the mood hits.


Canned, Boxed and “Other”


  • Buckwheat noodles
  • Rigatoni, cavatappi, ziti and/or orzo

Oils and Vinegars

  • Avocado oil or grapeseed oil
  • Flavored or herb vinegar or champagne vinegar
  • Mirin
  • Toasted sesame seed oil
  • Truffle oil
  • Walnut oil or almond oil


Herbs, Flavorings, and Spices

  • Allspice berries
  • Black sesame seed
  • Cocoa nibs
  • Coriander seeds
  • Crystalized ginger
  • Cumin seeds
  • Dill weed
  • Ethnic spice mixes (such as dukkah/duqqa – Middle East, shichimi togarashi– Japanese)
  • Fenugreek
  • Furikake
  • Gochugaru
  • Hot paprika
  • Lavender
  • Lemongrass
  • Marjoram
  • Rosewater
  • Saffron
  • Savory
  • Wasabi powder
  • White pepper seeds
  • Whole dried chiles
  • Whole nutmeg
  • Whole star anise
  • Whole vanilla beans

Grains and Legumes

Nuts and Seeds

  • Chia seed
  • Flaxseed
  • Hazelnuts
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Pine nuts
  • Pistachios
  • Pumpkin seeds

Tier 4: Vegan Substitutes and Additions

Most of the stocking pantry list is vegan.  For items that are not vegan, there are some excellent substitutes for the above-referenced items (“See Tier 4). I also added some items I feel a vegan kitchen would use more often than others.

Vegan Substitutes

Tier 1

  • Coconut aminos. Used to replace soy sauce if necessary.
  • Coconut sugar. If you can’t find organic brown sugar, this is similar but not as sweet.
  • Evaporated and/or condensed coconut milk – Tier 1.
  • Organic sugar – Tier 1. Bone char is not on the approved list to qualify for organic; therefore, all organic sugar is vegan.

Tier 2

  • Agar-agar. A replacement for gelatin.
  • Fish sauce. This item can be bought or made at home.
  • Nutritional yeast. Used to give a cheesy flavor.
  • Oyster sauce. This can be made at home or bought from Amazon.
  • Worcestershire sauce. Read labels carefully, some brands are made with anchovies.

Tier 3

  • Kelp powder. Used with Umeboshi, it can be a substitute for sardines.
  • Umeboshi Paste. A pickled plum paste which can be substituted for anchovy paste.

Vegan Additions

Tier 1

  • Shelf-stable almond or coconut milk (unsweetened, plain and vanilla)
  • Shelf-stable tofu

Tier 2

  • Black salt. This salt has a sulfur flavor that can mimic eggs in vegan egg salad and many other applications.
  • Dried mushrooms
  • Liquid smoke. A great way to add a smoky flavor.

Tier 3

  • Medjool Dates. If you are going to make your own substitutes, a lot of them are made with dates. Also, dates are used to make vegan caramel.  

Armed with a full pantry, you can tackle recipes with ease.  It doesn’t matter which level you land; it is all about having fun and enjoying a great meal made with your hands. The sense of accomplishment  I feel when I cook is a boost to my self-esteem.  I challenge you to try cooking to alleviate stress and provide self-care.

If you like this series, let me know!  Would you like to see gluten-free, paleo, and low-carb versions? Reach out to me on social media using the hashtag #StockingSeries! Show me pictures of your stocked pantry on Instagram and Twitter!

Coming soon to the stocking series is bakeware.  In the meanwhile, check out cookware and kitchen utensils guides.

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Tay M.

I’m the Tay behind Tay’s Bi-Polar Kitchen. I started this blog to share my kitchen and mental health wellness journey. I want to show people they are not alone in their struggles, combat the stigma associated with mental disorders, and be open and honest about their mental health. In my opinion, these three issues stand as barriers to seeking treatment. If this website inspires someone to move closer to mental health wellness for themselves or another, my work has been done.

Welcome to my table; I hope you say a while.

"Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars." - Kahlil Gibran

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