If there’s one lesson from our mom and Grandma that we really, truly appreciate every single day, it’s knowing the importance of a well-stocked pantry. Thanks to their lessons, our pantry ensures that there’s always something for dinner, even on those days when we don’t have five minutes to think and certainly don’t have enough time to run to the store. We can buy things when they’re on sale, saving money. And we can have variety, knowing that no matter what, there are always plenty of options to choose from, depending on our mood, our craving and how much time we have.

Setting-up a well-stocked pantry takes a little bit of initial effort, sure, but after the initial purchases are made, it’s just a matter of restocking items as they are used.

There are several online resources with detailed lists of items to include in a well-stocked pantry. Click here, or here or here. But for the most part, all of them cover a few basic rules:

  • Yes, you can can. Stock-up on canned goods, of course, but don’t purchase exotic items that you don’t normally enjoy. This isn’t the time to try something new. Focus on tried-and-true favorites, especially tomatoes (whole and diced), beans, soups, fruits and olives. A couple jars of decent spaghetti sauce will come in handy. And don’t forget a couple of different vinegars.
  • Get the (dry) goods. Avoid the impulse to buy in super-bulk, because things like flour, sugar, rice, grains, oatmeal, baking powder, etc., don’t last forever. Make sure you have them all on hand, and buy refills just before they run out, just don’t buy huge quantities. Make sure you include oils, shortening, and cooking spray on this list, too. (Pastas are an exception… dried pasta lasts quite a long time.)
  • Have fun! One of the best things about having a well-stocked pantry is keeping a variety of ingredients like chocolate chips, coconut, pudding mix, marshmallows, nutella, brownie mix and more on hand. There’s nothing like having the ability to whip up a last minute dessert to bring a smile to your family’s faces and make you feel like a combination superhero-slash-magician.

What must-haves would you include in your well-stocked pantry?