Building a well-stocked kitchen pantry will make cooking more enjoyable, easier, and less expensive. Plus, over time, it will make your weekly grocery shopping list grow smaller and smaller. Save your self the time and hassle of running to the grocery store every day and stock up.
At the end of this post, download our FREE printable Kitchen Staples Shopping List. This can be your new essential grocery shopping list to ensure you have a kitchen ready to go!
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Creating a Grocery Shopping List just got a little easier...
You don't have to buy all of these items for your kitchen at once, especially if you are on a budget.
As you try new recipes and work with new ingredients, your pantry will grow. And so will your grocery shopping list. If you are a fan of Mexican food, for example, you will soon have a stock of special spices and sauces. Same goes for Chinese lovers. The more foods you try, the better stocked you will be.
Below is our family's list of pantry of kitchen staples that we use. Buy these first, and use them in dozens and dozens (hundreds?) of recipes.
Bacon Grease-Ok don't freak out, people. It isn't like we use this in everything, but sometimes, nothing adds flavor better than bacon grease. And...you don't buy this. Just keep a small glass jar from your bacon cooking. I store mine tightly sealed next to my oil.
Baking Powder-I only use Clabber Girl. No reason other than I love the packaging.
Baking Soda-Generic is fine, baking soda is baking soda.
Bay Leaves-Just a small container, any brand will do.
Bread-We don't eat a lot of bread in our home, so I don't keep a lot on hand. I find that it goes bad before we eat it all. However we do use it in some recipes, and the kids like it for toast.
Butter-Real butter. Salted or Unsalted Sweet Cream 100% Eat Like You Mean It BUTTER. I buy whatever is on sale, but only real sticks of butter. Nothing in a tub, nothing that is margarine, nothing that is light, nothing that is whipped. Just BUTTER.
Cabbage-Cheap, yummy, and versatile. (More on the virtues of cabbage can be found in this post.)
Canned Vegetables-I usually buy the store brand, unless I have a coupon for name brand. Good items to add to your grocery shopping list are green beans, kernel corn, other beans, and a couple other varieties of family favorites. We try to get no-salt added varieties.
Carrots-Get a big bag of regular unpeeled, unprepared carrots. Don't fall for the pretty little clean bags of baby carrots, shredded carrots and sliced carrots. Carrots, when bought as is, are cost effective and healthy and versatile.
Cheese -Cheese is one of the special things in life. I know it is expensive, but save money and shred your own. We keep sharp cheddar on hand at all times, and usually some Monterrey jack and mozzarella.
Chicken Broth-We make our own in our kitchen. It is ok to buy it, just go with a low sodium option.
Chili Powder-We seem to use a lot of chili powder. Even when I buy the big bottle, we always run out.
Cinnamon-Ground is best, generic is good.
Cocoa Powder-Splurge on a good quality unsweetened variety.
Cornmeal-I prefer white cornmeal, self-rising or regular is fine. It is probably already on your grocery shopping list. We make quite a few varieties of cornbread with our meals, check out one of our favorite recipes here, Cornbread #23. Or if you don't like that, how about Cornbread #9, Cornbread #18 or our Southern Style Hushpuppies.
Cream of Whatever Soup-Keep a couple cans of creamed soup around; they are great for casseroles, gravies, and more. We prefer cream of mushroom, but feel free to explore. Generics can be icky, so I opt for a brand name. One of our most popular posts (ever), Better Than Your Mom's Green Bean Casserole, uses this key pantry ingredient.
Crushed Red Pepper-Crushed red peppers are a great way to add a little spice and if used in moderation, it isn't too hot. Generic is fine, or make your own from your summer garden.
Cumin-I only like brand name cumin powder. For some reason the generic on this tends to taste bitter. Splurge and get a little bottle of a good quality brand. Keep in mind, cumin has a strong flavor and you will usually use it sparingly, so you don't need much.
Dried Beans -Bags of beans are a pretty thing. Seriously, get home and put them in pretty glass mason jars or canisters and leave them out on your counter. Dried beans are one of the most economical, healthy, and versatile ingredients ever. I stick with black beans, red beans, pintos, and white beans, and I always keep two types on hand.
Eggs-We use a lot of eggs. Eggs are an excellent source of protein, they are extremely versatile, and they store for a long time in the fridge. We buy large Grade A, whatever is on sale.
Flour-What type of flour is up to you and your dietary preferences, but my stand-by is all purpose white flour. I prefer Martha White, although that is totally up to you. Some items I go generic with, and flour is NOT one of them. King Arthur is also excellent. If you aren't a fan of processed flours, you can try alternatives. Most of my recipes call for regular ol' AP flour.
Garlic-I like the little jars of minced. Don't buy the squeeze-y kind. It encourages excess use.
Garlic Powder-Generic is fine. Do not buy garlic salt. It leads to over salting.
Hot Sauce-I keep two kinds on hand at all times. Frank's and Siracha. No generic.
Italian Seasoning-You can either buy this in the pre-mixed “Italian seasoning” bottle, or you can buy these separately: basil, oregano, parsley, thyme. For starters, just buy it in the pre-mix. Add the others later.
Ketchup-This is preference decision. I am ok with generic, some people aren't. Wars have been fought over ketchup, so do what you need to do.
Lemons & Limes-We use citrus fruit a lot. The zest, the juice...such a flavorful addition to all types of dishes. From sauces to sweets, you must have these around.
Lemon Pepper-Excellent all purpose seasoning for veggies, fish, and chicken. Generic is pretty good, but don't be afraid to splurge on this one.
Mayo-I like Duke's.
Milk-We prefer 2%. Unless you are big milk-drinkers, only buy it half a gallon at a time.
Mustard-Any kind is fine, whatever your preference. We like plain yellow mustard or spicy brown.
Oatmeal-I prefer old fashioned or steel cut, nothing quick cook usually.
Oils-We keep two types: canola / vegetable oil in a generic variety, and a good quality extra virgin olive oil. EVOO can be spendy, so we usually go mid-range on prices.
Onions-We buy them in a bag, the small white or yellow onions. Onions are a regular on our grocery shopping list. (You never know when you will want some Steakhouse Mushrooms and Onions.)
Paprika-Starting out, generic is fine. Later, you may want to experiment with other brands and varieties.
Pasta-Keep some type of boxed pasta around at all times and should be on your grocery shopping list. This is totally a preference based decision. I keep a package of spaghetti, a box of rotini or penne, and some basic macaroni around. We buy whatever is on sale. I have been known to splurge on pasta, however, if there is a specific recipe I am making.
Pepper -Black is fine.
Potatoes-White potatoes are our choice. They store for quite a while in a cool, dark place in your kitchen. Yes, there's carbs in them there taters, but they are nutritious, filling and economical.
Protein-Keep a whole chicken, chicken thighs, pork, beef, fish, whatever you like. Buy when it is on sale, throw it in the freezer. You don't have to break the bank, but in the event you haven't meal-planned, always good to have some meat in your kitchen.
Rice-Grab a bulk bag of plain BROWN rice. I usually go with the best price per ounce. Sometimes this is brand name, sometimes is the store brand. I do not use quick cook varieties, they have a tendency to get gummy. Also, I rarely use white rice. I like brown and I like wild. Try our Pineapple Pepper Rice.
Rosemary-I usually have this fresh, but in the winter, I keep a small container on hand.
Salsa-It isn't a condiment, it is a food group. I am an equal opportunity salsa eater. I will buy generic, I will splurge, I buy in bulk, I buy it all the time. My kids eat it on everything, I use it in recipes. This is a must-have staple. Plus, it is usually healthy! Also super easy to make your own.
Salt-Generic is fine, even if you like sea salt.
Seasoning Blend-Pick your favorite. If you don't have a favorite, I recommend Chupacabra Original Rub blend (can buy it online). Or Lawry's is good, but it is a little salty for my preference. Ms. Dash has excellent options in this department.
Soy Sauce-Low sodium preferred, and I buy generic.
Sugar-We keep three kinds on hand at all times: plain white granulated, confectioners powdered, and light brown. You never know when the crap's gonna hit the fan and you want to make something sweet. In my opinion, unless you are baking a very specific recipe, sugar is sugar is sugar. Buy the cheapest in the store. There are some chefs and bakers out there right now screaming at me. I just know what works for me.
Tomatoes-When my supply of home-canned tomatoes from my garden is gone, I really want to cry. But, you can get great meals out of store-bought, canned tomato products. I am a big fan of cooking with tomato-based recipes, so we keep no-salt added crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, stewed tomatoes, and tomato paste. Always on our grocery shopping list.
Tortillas-Flour or corn, my family prefers flour. I buy whatever is on sale. They freeze well, too. We usually do not buy hard shells, we can make them out of soft shells.
Vanilla Extract-I splurge. I try to only use pure vanilla, not the imitation.
Veggies & Fruit (Fresh)-Don't buy more than what you will eat or freeze during a few days, or it will spoil. That is like throwing money down the food disposal. Buy what is on sale and in season, and be prepared to eat it.
Veggies & Fruit (Frozen)-Veggie mixes, peas and carrots, broccoli, and spinach are my go-to's. Berries are great frozen. Buy when they are on sale, toss them in the freezer.
Vinegar-Buy generic. I keep white vinegar in my kitchen at all times, and I also keep a small bottle of apple cider or red wine vinegar. (Add balsamic later, although it is certainly a staple in my kitchen. Yum.)
Worcestershire-Buy generic. Yummy stuff. Great all purpose seasoning and flavoring that should be on your grocery shopping list.
Yummy Stuff-On your grocery shopping list, always add items like Rotel tomatoes, enchilada sauce (although I will share a home made version that is amazing), green chiles, olives, mushrooms, artichokes, etc. are great additions to your grocery shopping list that I consider a staple. They are great to have on hand to add yumminess to your meals. This is a pretty broad category, but keep these additions on hand so your food isn't blah.
Did we leave any off of the list? Feel free to keep the list going in comments. Click here for a FREE printable Grocery Shopping List.