Kitchen Basics: Stocking the Cupboard

July 2, 2008 at 1:28 am 9 comments

If you’re anything like the typical American in the 21st century, your kitchen could use some help. I know mine could: It’s small, there’s not enough counter space, and certainly not enough storage in my cupboards. And yet, there are ways to make even the worst kitchen work well enough to cook decent meals consistenty.

A first step is having on hand the basic ingredients you need. These will vary depending on your preferences and how often you cook, as well as whether you decide to bake cookies or cake for dessert once in a while. But with a few basics in your cupboard, you’ll be surprised at the variety of meals you can make quickly and easily.

For starters, some dry staples:

  • Pasta (choose the shapes you prefer) and rice
  • Salt, pepper, and other herbs and spices you like (I recommend basil, oregano, thyme, chili powder, garlic powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and parsley for starters)
  • All-purpose flour
  • Granulated sugar

Now, add some liquid seasonings:

  • Olive oil (buy the highest quality you can afford of the type you prefer. If extra virgin is too strong for your taste, don’t worry!)
  • Canola or vegetable oil
  • Balsamic vinegar (start with a small bottle. You’ll find many uses for this!)
  • Soy sauce

Some vegetables that store well for long periods come in handy:

  • Russet potatoes (Idaho baking potatoes)
  • Yellow or white onions
  • Fresh garlic (if you buy fresh, you can skip the garlic powder listed with the spices, above)

Perishables for the refrigerator that you will use often include:

  • Butter or margarine
  • Eggs
  • Lemon (or lemon juice)
  • Cheese
  • Salsa, curry blends, fish sauce, chutneys, and other seasonings specific to any ethnic cuisine you enjoy
  • Ketchup
  • Mayonnaise
  • Milk (if you’re not a milk drinker, try non-fat dried milk so you don’t have to worry about spoilage)

Finally, a few cans in your cupboard:

  • Tomato sauce
  • Chicken stock
  • Black olives
  • White and/or black beans
  • Soups you enjoy

With these staples, a few fresh items from the store each week — meat, produce, and dairy — are pretty much all you need to make dozens of easy meals. If you have these basics already on hand when you find a recipe that strikes your interest, you only need to add a few extra items to your grocery list to fix a good meal.

This list may seem daunting, but remember two things. First, you don’t have to buy everything at once. Buy what you need as you need it, but try to keep track of what you have so you don’t re-buy items. Second, this entire list can be bought for less than $100. If you can spare that amount to stock your kitchen all at once, go for it! Think of how quickly you would spend the same amount of money eating out. The return on your $100 investment in terms of your time, your health, and your calorie count is well worth it.


Entry filed under: Uncategorized. Tags: .

Basic Kitchen Equipment: Getting Started Kitchen Glossary for Beginners: Techniques

9 Comments Add your own

  • 1. lisa holdren  |  July 2, 2008 at 5:12 am

    Great info. I’ll have to think about this one. Don’t know what is in my kitchen. Bet others don’t either.

  • 2. Dorothy Massey  |  July 2, 2008 at 11:38 am

    Your articles are fab, Lisa. You have a definite focus and audience in mind, yet they are relevant to such a wide spectrum of people. Look forward to reading more. I may be wrong, but I don’t think your name appears on your blog. I guess you’ve just set it up. If so, you’ll get ideas from visiting other blogs. I know I did. Dorothy

  • 3. Judy Ferril  |  July 2, 2008 at 6:55 pm

    I love this list. It makes the possibilities endless and also easy to assemble something quickly.

    This is an excellent resource for the budding chef.

    Can’t wait to read more.

    Take care,

  • 4. Suzanne  |  July 2, 2008 at 11:33 pm

    Hey, Mary,

    Great blog with some super articles!

    Put a photo up with each article and you’ll really attract more people to stay and read once they get here.

    We need to find someone to design a header/logo for the top of your page, too. That would really jazz it up!

    Keep up the good work. You’ve got the hang of this already!

    Suzanne Lieurance
    The Working Writer’s Coach
    “When Your Pen Won’t Budge, Read The Morning Nudge”

  • 5. Dorit  |  July 3, 2008 at 12:03 am

    This is a great list. My husband would probably agree since he’s the chef. I just follow in his footsteps and help around. Your blog is very informative. I’ll be back.

  • 6. Lisa Kirby  |  July 3, 2008 at 1:15 am

    Hi, Mary,

    Great list for the new cooks! I’m going to have to look into the balsamic vinegar, though. I’ve had a bottle and I don’t use it for much. I bought it for a recipe awhile back and haven’t used it since. I’ll have to watch for ideas.

    Have a great day, Mary.

    Lisa Kirby

  • 7. Suse Berg  |  July 3, 2008 at 7:19 am


    Excellent list for anyone setting up a “new” kitchen! Hopefully you’ll toss some recipes at us real soon using just these items? Like maybe a Hamburger Helper knock-off at half the sodium using the canned soup (or a white sauce), the pasta or rice and some of those seasonings. Hmmm … now I think I need to go search out my “pantry” (old vertical file converted to holding all kinds of stuff) for some of those staples so that I am all ready to cook when the recipes arrive. 🙂

    Sue Berg

  • 8. Theresa  |  July 3, 2008 at 9:27 pm

    Hi Mary,

    Great post. Your ideas are presented in such a clear, simple, informative manner. Just what your readers are looking for.


  • 9. Carma Dutra  |  July 4, 2008 at 6:11 am

    Hi Mary,
    If every woman who has a kitchen followed your basic rules, their pantry would never be out of order.


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