Pantry Basics

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Dear Home Ec 101:

My son will be moving into an apartment and setting up a kitchen for the first time. I’m pretty confident about what kind of hardware (pots, pans, plates, etc) to buy, but what would be a good basic list of staples (salt, pepper, sugar, cannola oil) to set him up with.

Thanks so much!
~Not Mother Hubbard

Heather says:

Setting up a pantry while not rocket science is very dependent upon personal tastes and habits. The lists below are by no means all inclusive. If your son’s diet leans toward one ethnic cuisine or another (ie curry powder, garam marsala for Indian foods) be sure to include the common seasonings or ingredients.

Basic Pantry Staples:

  • cooking spray, vegetable oil, olive oil
  • brown and white sugar
  • flour
  • baking powder & soda
  • pasta
  • rice
  • canned tomatoes: diced, pureed, sauce, and paste
  • canned beans
  • rolled oats
  • vinegar
  • peanut butter
  • corn starch
  • cocoa powder

Make sure the flour and sugar are stored in air tight containers. Young adults are not always the best about observing “use by dates.” On the lid of the baking powder clearly write the expiration date, so he’s not left feeling flat.

Basic Spice Rack:

  • black pepper
  • basil
  • garlic powder
  • onion powder
  • oregano
  • thyme
  • chili powder
  • cumin
  • cinnamon
  • Italian seasoning

If he likes to broil or grill meats, consider adding some premixed rubs for variety.

Stocking the fridge:

  • ketchup
  • mustard
  • mayonnaise or miracle whip
  • salad dressing
  • jams or jellies
  • butter
  • shortening for baking (alternately processed -flavorless- coconut oil is shelf stable and a great substitute)
  • cheese
  • Better than Bouillon

A three ring binder with recipes for his favorite meals would be a nice touch. You certainly don’t have to be fancy, but page protectors are always helpful. Don’t worry that he won’t come home for those meals if he can make them himself. No matter how well you transcribe the recipe, it’ll never be just the way “mom used to make.”

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5 thoughts on “Pantry Basics”

  1. I would include some cans of soup,crackers, pasta and sauces. The soup for those occasion when he isn’t feeling well and mom isn’t there to provide some TLC….Pam from South Bend

  2. Of course, just because he has a kitchen, doesn’t mean he intends to cook….

    Most of heather’s list probably wouldn’t have worked for my teen-aged son and might not be too good for this one, either.

    He’s just not going to make things from scratch, unless he’s a budding gourmet, in which case he wouldn’t need the advice.

    Some time ago (we won’t detail just how long) my youngest child was going on a summer internship on a site without either a kitchen or food service.

    I figured he’d starve to death, since his entire repertoire of cooking skills — apart from using his college food commens card — entailed microwave pizza and fudge, Ramen noodles, and chocolate chip cookies.

    So, I wrote him a little cookbook based upon what he had to work with, instead of the way most cookbooks are laid out by kind of recipe.

    He didn’t know if he’d be in a hotel room, a dorm with a refrigerator but no cooking equipment — or an apartment shared with others who might know more about using a kitchen than he did.

    I laid out tools, menus, recipes and stash suggestions for each possibility. Plus added Mom’s advice on things like cleaning and a glossary of skills.

    Unlike his sisters, he had no kitchen experience beyond washing dishes, and had never learned what chop or saute or puree or ‘season to taste’ might mean. Let alone, how to crack an egg!

    It worked. He is now 6’8″ and 250 pounds — and a stay at home daddy cooking for his wife and three kids!

    Love this site!

  3. Cheryll, thank you for your suggestions on building a pantry for a reluctant or novice cook. As I mentioned in the post pantries are very subjective. For full disclosure, I did contact the submitter for further information on the young adult’s habits before making suggestions.

  4. I’d like to suggest garlic or garlic powder at the least. Also, as someone who is *still* getting the hang of this cooking thing, I’d suggest a few survival staples like box mac & cheese, or even, heaven forbid, ramen noodles. 🙂

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