Pantry and Freezer Staples

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I got an email from a reader named Missy, asking what are the must-have pantry and freezer items that I keep on hand.  The answer to that will be a bit different for everyone, but there are some basics that round out any pantry or freezer.

Produce Items

Garlic – I love having fresh garlic cloves to cook with.

Onions – essential

Potatoes – These can be stored for a while without going bad, so they are nice to keep on hand.  They’re also very versatile.

Carrots – These also will hold up for a while in the crisper drawer.

Canned/Dry Items

  • Diced tomatoes
  • Tomato sauce and paste
  • Crushed tomatoes
  • Black beans
  • Kidney beans
  • Chicken broth
  • Beef broth
  • Cream of chicken soup
  • Rice, white and brown
  • Spaghetti and other pasta shapes
  • Salsa

All of these items are commonly used in recipes.  If you have these on hand, you can throw together a simple Mexican or Italian meal or a quick casserole.

Baking/Cooking Items

  • Oils – vegetable and olive
  • Cooking spray
  • Vinegar – at least white, but cider, and wine vinegars are also nice
  • Flour
  • Cornmeal
  • Sugar
  • Brown sugar
  • Powdered sugar
  • Baking powder
  • Baking soda
  • Cocoa
  • Quick cooking oatmeal
  • Peanut butter

You can bake a lot of things with these basics.


  • Garlic powder
  • Cumin
  • Chili powder
  • Oregano
  • Basil
  • Thyme
  • Cinnamon
  • Vanilla extract
  • Salt
  • Black pepper
  • Taco seasoning

These are the most basic spices and seasonings that I use.  Here are a few more that I use regularly, but not as often:

  • Crushed red pepper flakes
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Paprika
  • Cajun seasoning
  • Seasoned salt
  • Lemon pepper
  • Nutmeg

There are lots of other spices and seasonings that are nice to have, but if you’re building your spice collection from scratch these are a great place to start.


  • Ketchup
  • Mustard – brown, yellow and Dijon
  • Mayonnaise
  • Soy Sauce
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Lemon and Lime juice – not really condiments, but they’re handy to have


  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Sour cream – nice for Mexican food, some baking and casseroles
  • Cheddar cheese

There are many other dairy products and types of cheese that are nice to keep on hand, but for me these are the basics.


  • Boneless chicken breasts and/or tenders
  • Hamburger
  • Broccoli
  • Corn
  • Peas
  • Fish – Tilapia, salmon, shrimp

I’ve got lots of other things in my freezer, but I always try to keep these on hand.  They are versatile and can be used in many meals.  I also like to cook some hamburger and chicken and freeze it.  That really makes meal prep quick.

Did I miss anything that you find to be a basic for the pantry or freezer?

photo credit: jules:stonesoup

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  1. This sounds like a pretty good list. I’ve been trying to make myself a printable grocery list and this helped a lot. Thanks!

  2. I must also keep Stone Ground Crackers, garlic pub cheese, butter, bottled grapefruit juice, Mr T’s Bold and Spicy bloody mary mix, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, Pinot Grigio, shredded wheat cereal, enchilada sauce, light cream cheese, frozen green beans, and in the winter months, butternut squash.
    I like to see what others have in their pantries to give me more ideas 🙂

  3. I’d love to know where you got all those cute little spice jars!

  4. Oh, wait, on second look…maybe they aren’t as small as I first thought?

  5. Your pic cracks me up! Did you see my recent post about my cupboards? 🙂

    I think your list is awesome, but I’ll share my variations.

    1. Italian sausage. I stock up when it’s a bargain and we always have some in the freezer.

    2. Beans – I opt to buy dried beans, cook them, then freeze in quart-sized bags. Most recipes call for two cans of beans, so having four cups already frozen is convenient. Plus it’s cheaper and less salty than canned beans. I usually use the following recipe for Taco Tuesdays and anything calling for pinto or black beans, but I usually have a couple bags of kidney and navy beans in the freezer too.

    3. Taco seasoning & ground beef – While I always have a jar of seasoning made up in the cupboard and ground turkey (we use that in place of beef) in the freezer, I also have the two items cooked up together and frozen for Taco Tuesdays.

  6. It’s *not* your pantry? So sad. I thought we were twins. 🙂

    • Bethany, your pantry looks a lot like the picture I found! I love all the glass jars. Mine is an organized mess right now. I even found (and cleaned) a puddle of molasses off the floor of it this morning. I think I need to give it a make over.

  7. That is a pretty comprehensive list! The only thing I would add is shredded Parmesan, mozzarella, and cheddar cheese.

  8. Wonderful list! I love how you covered all the basics. I would only add one more-fresh limes or lemons…mmmm.

  9. frozen ‘hashbrowns’ (plain or western). Good to find on sale and keep for easy no-chops. Frozen chopped spinach in a bag. (much easier than the boxes that need thawing.)

  10. I would add a couple of things to your list. One is cornstach which I use to thicken gravy and stir fry dishes. The other is bacon– most everything is better with bacon.

  11. Hello, glad to have found you. Very helpful post.

  12. What a great post!

  13. I realize I am about 1 year late to this party. Great list. The only thing I would add is celery, dried beans (I also boil my own and freeze some), craisins, quinoa, canned green chiles, canned mushrooms. I keep bullion base in my cupboard rather than broth/stock. It takes up less space for much more servings.

    I am loving your site! just barely found it tonite.

  14. great list! I would also add black beans, coconut oil, greek yogurt (I use instead of sour cream .. calorie saver and tastes great .. fage is my favorite), and quinoa 🙂

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