Pantry Essentials

pantry essentials

Having lived through both hurricanes and blizzards in my lifetime, I’ve learned that my home should always have a good supply of food, home cleaning products, medicines and personal hygiene products. While my pantry usually has a good assortment of items for preparing several unplanned meals, COVID-19 has suddenly changed how I stock my pantry, refrigerator and freezer for the foreseeable future.

When I started writing this article, there were no cases of the coronavirus in our area of Florida (we now have 8) and yet shoppers reacted in a way that I was not prepared for when I visited our local supermarket. Areas of empty shelves in the store and very little meat and fresh seafood has become the new norm. Instead of buying mostly fresh foods for our meals, I’ve had to alter the way I shop. My pantry is now well stocked with long lasting, shelf stable products I can use to prepare meals for the weeks ahead and I thought I would share what my pantry includes.

I have a good supply of canned and packaged foods to use as a base for meals as they have a long shelf life and are usually easy to prepare. A big portion is made up of dried items like pasta of many shapes and sizes, rice (different varieties like basmati, brown, and arborio), couscous, farro, a variety of beans, split peas and lentils, grits and polenta, different kinds of crackers, and a variety of nuts and seeds. Items like flour, salt, sugar and breadcrumbs are essentials for the meals I will be creating.

The shelves of my pantry hold a variety of soups, canned tuna, chicken and minced clams, shelf stable milk and cheese that can be used as fresh meat alternatives for nutritious meals. Canned vegetables like tomatoes, beets, potatoes, beans, chickpeas  and corn will add to the variety of meals I can prepare.

Stocks and broths can be used as the base for homemade soups and will also add flavor to almost any savory dish I prepare. I’ve also got a good supply of olive oil that can be used for sautéing and also for creating sauces with the addition of herbs (either dried or fresh) that will top pasta. I also have several different types of vinegars for salads, vegetables and to bring out flavors in stews and other dishes.

Different mustards, barbecue and hot sauces, salsas, olives, pickles and capers as well as spices from various countries can be added to meats, pasta, grains and beans. Jarred peanut butter, jams, jellies and honey as well as canned and dried fruits will add sweetness to some of our meals. And of course, there are multiple boxes of tea and coffee for us to enjoy at the beginning of each day.

I’ve bought fresh vegetables that have a long storage life like potatoes, carrots, cabbage, hard squash and broccoli. Unpeeled onions, shallots and garlic cloves will last for several weeks sitting out on my counter. I have several tubes of herb pastes such a ginger, lemongrass and cilantro to replace hard to find items in the produce section at our market. Herbs I normally buy such as oregano, thyme and rosemary, are now growing in pots located in the garden just outside our front door.

Instead of buying sliced cheese from our deli, I’ve bought hard cheeses that are vacuum sealed and will last several months in my refrigerator as well as some processed cheeses that have a long shelf life and don’t need refrigeration. I also have a couple cartons of eggs that can last several months stored in my refrigerator.

I am using my freezer to extend the shelf life of fresh items like butter, bacon, meat, poultry, vegetables and a few bakery items. Chicken breasts, lean pork chops, ground beef, sausage, pasta sauces, homemade stock and nuts fills the majority of the freezer. I’ve repackaged some items so that they don’t take up too much room in my limited freezer space.

Since restaurants and bars are closed, our drinks cabinet has been topped off with wine and ingredients for our favorite cocktail. While maybe not considered an essential, sharing a cocktail before dinner helps ease the stress when listening to the news of the day.

As far as keeping ourselves and our home sanitary, I have common household disinfectants and bleach as well as alcohol wipes and solutions with at least 70 percent alcohol in my laundry room cabinet.

I’ve made sure to have necessary toiletries such as toothpaste and brushes, soap, hair products, skin care and personal hygiene products and a small amount of the all important hand sanitizer in my linen closet. By the way, if you don’t have any hand sanitizer but are able to buy aloe vera gel and 70% alcohol, you can make your own using 2 parts gel to 1 part alcohol.

I hope you have made preparations to have enough food to sustain yourselves for the weeks ahead. Pantry items that we would normally have in our kitchens can run out quickly when we have to rely on them for more than a few days. If you have room, I believe a two to four week supply of nonperishables as well as fresh produce that can be successfully frozen is what you and I need to keep in our kitchens for the foreseeable future.

To my friends and readers around the world, you are all in my thoughts during these unprecedented and worrisome times. Please do everything to stay safe and healthy.

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I travel the back roads of the world, sharing great food and interesting places and enjoyable pastimes.

88 thoughts on “Pantry Essentials

  1. That’s a great organized and well stocked pantry. My husband an I are self quarantined when I returned from France. Our neighbor is doing most of our shopping. It’s been a challenge but we eat mostly soups these days. Take good care of yourself and stay well.

    1. Hi Gerlinde, I’ve thought so much about you since I knew you were in Europe. It is so nice of your neighbor to help with your shopping. I hope you both continue to stay well.

  2. Karen, we go into lockdown at midnight tomorrow and for the past 2 weeks, we have been unable to get rubbing alcohol, aloe vera, and hand sanitisers – thankfully I had in stock and have been able to share with my mom and dad. There is also no facemasks available for love nor money – thankfully we will still be able to get groceries and go to the pharmacy during the upcoming 21-day lockdown and it seems at this stage I will still be able to go for my daily jog.
    Stay healthy and virus free.
    Hugs from South Africa.
    🙂 Mandy xo

    1. Hi Mandy, It is so good to hear from you. Your part of Africa has not been in the news very much. Hopefully your lockdown will help keep you all virus free. Thank goodness you could share with your parents and I know it will give them some comfort.

  3. I like keeping a store cupboard of tins and jars and right now I’m very glad that I have it. All the supermarkets were empty here last week, but food and toilet paper has started to reappear. I think that once people have bought in emergency supplies and they see the shops have restocked, the shopping panic with get better. Most of the outdoor markets have been open and they have no shortage of fruit and vegetables. The fish shop, round the corner from me, has a good supply of fish and they are delivering to locals who can’t get out.
    Stay safe Karen 🙂

    1. Hi Mad Dog, I hope you are right about the restocking of our markets. I’m glad you are well stocked. Are you back in England or in Spain? Please stay safe wherever you are my friend.

      1. Thanks Karen! Yes, the shops here (London) have bounced back this week – most things are back on the shelves – it has improved daily since Sunday.

  4. Really good post I will order my pantry and look what you say. I was bought some things but always I have to see what is needed. Fortunately still we have some pears and apples so I make some desserts.
    Take care you and yours. Sending you love and hugs.

  5. I have most of the things in my pantry as well. I have also lived in hurricane and snow country. Stay well!

  6. We always have an overstocked pantry — just so we don’t run out of an ingredient when we decide to make a dish on the spur of the moment. But now our pantry is totally full! Haven’t been grocery shopping for about a week, but I’m hearing stores are getting back more to normal. Except for TP and bleach-based cleaners. Be safe and well.

    1. Hi John, Yes I know about those spur of the moment meals. We call them pantry meals as I can always open my pantry and make a good dinner. Its nice that your markets are catching up, hope ours will be soon. You two stay safe as well.

  7. This is a terrific piece, Karen. My pantry and freezer are pretty well stocked, though I think not for the month or six weeks I will be in. Rick will shop for me. I put together a list of some of the things I could make before he shopped and came up with your wonderful risotto, shrimp and grits, and a few other fun things along with the typical pasta sauces, meatloaf and chicken (which is a rare commodity these days). The only thing that might set me back will be fresh produce but we’ll do our best. I have to say our market is doing a four star job of alerting people to what is in and when it’s expected. I can’t say enough good about them. Stay in and stay well.

  8. I’m glad to see y’all are stocked and I hope the fresh options open up again in a contact-free way that’s safe for y’all.
    I know here there is grocery delivery and the local grocers and smaller shops seem to have a stronger supply chain. There are also a lot of local vegetable farmers who have adapted to “no contact “ options for pickup and a CSA share is another good option for local food.

    I recently heard (am looking for the source article) that covid-19 isn’t contractable via ingestion, so if you order delivery, transfer the food to your own container, recycle/dispose

  9. Well done Karen, you look all set. My pantry has always been prepared for emergencies since I live in earthquake country. It’s time to be creative in the kitchen. Stay well, I personally think this will last far longer than Easter. We don’t want to go the way of Italy.

    1. Thank you for your lovely compliment Liz. Yes any of us who have to be prepared for a natural disaster usually have a well stocked kitchen. Stay safe.

    1. I have Mary, I have eggs in the fridge now that I bought on the first of March and their best if used by date is April 26th. From what I understand they are good for a week or two after that. When in doubt, crack open the egg and smell or for peace of mind, just dispose of after that printed date.

  10. Certainly sounds like and looks like you are well prepared. I’ve heard stories of the empty shelves in groceries and such, but my husband (who is doing all of the shopping) hasn’t really witnessed it yet. But then he only shops at a small market down the street that doesn’t get much traffic. For a man that never did the grocery shopping until a year ago, he has done quite well in getting us stocked up and prepared for a long lazy stay at home. Take care of yourselves and stay well!

    1. Hi MJ, you are lucky that your area of New Mexico isn’t experiencing shortages at your markets. Sounds like you have a good shopper, congrats to your husband.

    1. From what I’ve heard, stores are starting to fill their shelves but I’ve not been to a store in 10 days. I am expecting a Publix delivery tomorrow…there are going to be some substitutions and one item is out of stock but it will be nice to have some fresh veggies delivered to my front door.

  11. Super ideas and tips, Karen. I learned a good bit about shelf and fridge life here. My problem is having the fresh foods I need: Breads, dairy, fruit, crackers, and items that become dated once opened. I’m good about well stocked grains and pasta. I buy broth by the boatload when on sale, and the only canned goods I buy are pretty much beans, and tomatoes for sauces and pasta. I’m a worry wart so I stocked up well over a month ago. And we have curbside and delivery service from various stores (including a beverage depot for a nice stock of the wines we love!), and I wasn’t aware of that when all of this began. We take it all day by day.

    Stay well, entertained, and safe.

    Jane x

  12. You could certainly sell that pasta here because those shelves are totally empty. 🙂 Besides TP and paper towels, eggs are now being rationed. Your pantry looks great, and I know you’re eating good because of your exceptional skills. 🙂

    1. I appreciate your kind words about my cooking skills Judy, thank you. My Italian husband would be very unhappy if my pantry wasn’t full of pasta…it is his favorite food. 😊

  13. I wasn’t really panicky until I went to the grocery store and saw the binge buying. Your pantry looks marvelous.

    1. Hi Debra, I haven’t been to a grocery store in three weeks so I don’t know how the shelves are now but the last time I went, I was shocked too. Thank goodness, I’ve always kept our pantry full.

  14. You sound incredibly prepared Karen! I tend to have too much in my pantry and often find expired cans etc. This is the perfect time to use up things while they are still good, and I have a pot of fresh rosemary for seasoning. Happy cooking!
    Jenna

    1. Hi Jenna, I always try to have my pantry prepared for any event. To make sure that I don’t have any expired cans, I always put the newest items in the back or on the bottom of a stack…just like the grocery stores do. I hope you are enjoying your cooking as well.

    1. Hi Dorothy, I’m glad your pantry is stocked up. With all the time we have at home now, it lets us get organized…at least to some degree. 😊

  15. Thanks for sharing Karen. My pantry is always well stocked in a similar manner as we live out in the country. So far our supermarket has kept a good stock of fresh fruit and vegetables, so let’s hope we can get through this and then get on with our lives. Stay safe and well Karen.

    1. Thank you Cathy, I’ve not been to our market for three weeks but from what I’ve heard, the fresh produce is well stocked even though other parts still have empty shelves. Take care.

    1. We are like you Bobbi, I always try to be prepared any time of the year. After Hurricane Andrew years ago, I cooked meals for friends who were not as prepared as we had been.

  16. It’s been ‘surreal’! But one silver lining is that we are eating more healthfully (I think) by preparing more homemade delicious recipes such as incredible cornbread. Goodness, I wish that I had it a few days ago to sop up the cream from my chicken noodle casserole. There will be another day to try! Stay healthy too, my friend!

    1. I agree with you about cooking healthier Roz. When you eat in a restaurant you can be led astray sometimes. I know your chicken noodle casserole had to be delicious.

  17. Wow – your shelves are well stocked! We usually only stock up for a week or two. It’s been hard getting a lot of stuff, but we don’t want to hoard so try to resist the temptation by leaving goods for others too.

    1. Hi Ladyfi, Living in Florida where hurricane season is 6 months long means being prepared but not hoarding. We always have a well stocked pantry and have gas stove and a whole house generator…just in case. 😊

  18. How quickly things change… The whole situation is still unbelievable, like a terrible movie script that should have never seen the day of light. Nonetheless, we’re here now, and advice like this is invaluable. Glad you were so well prepared.

    1. I totally agree with you Hannah, it does feel like something out of a movie. Yes, I try to be well stocked most of the time…I hope you are as well.

  19. It is a time to check your stock. Here in Toronto,Ontario, Canada, we can order online and have the groceries delivered to the door. I have cardboard boxes to place the groceries for a few hours then I will spray and wash the outside of the items and air dry them. Plastic bags go to the balcony for a few days. It does not take a long time. But, worth the extra effort. ❤

    1. Hi Eva, I’ve ordered online as well and had three deliveries of fresh produce. I too am careful to make sure that everything that now comes into the house is carefully cleaned.

      1. I now read that groceries should be left 24 hours in a cardboard box. Metal and plastic longer. I recently read baking soda (mixed with water ) is the best way to kill bacteria from fruit (FDA). 15 minutes soak time. However the virus must be breathed in (lungs) not eaten. I question this claim. Baking is my stress reliever.

  20. Stay safe! When I went to do my normal shopping two weeks ago there were exactly 2 tins of butter beans on the shelf. People went crazy here long before it was announced that we would be in lock down. People who do not have credit cards had to wait for payday which meant that last week, the shelves were completely stripped. I have pantry items to last a few days only. Thank you for sharing this post. I am hoping when I shop on Wednesday I can stock up, and will use this as inspiration 🙂

  21. Karen, our pantries look similar. Over this way, we’ve not experienced the panic buying so far and hopefully won’t. However, hand sanitizer and medical alcohol are not to be found. Luckily we have what we hope will be an ample supply to last until the supply is replenished. Be safe over your way.

    1. Hi Ron, I hope everything is still going we up your way. I’m happy that you two are as well prepared as you are. You still can’t get hand sanitizer here as well but since we aren’t leaving the house, soap and water will do the job.

  22. Such an organised and thoughtful approach to the situation, Karen. My own is much more haphazard, and I might well suffer for this. I think I may well be chubbier when this is all over. 🙂 🙂 Take care, darlin!

    1. Hi Jo, while many of my friends say they are loosing weight, I think I will be in your club of being a smidge chubbier when we can venture out again. 😘

    1. Thank you for your visit and your nice compliment Markus and Micah. I’m glad that you liked the tip about the hand sanitizer. Stay safe and healthy.

  23. I have been thinking of you in Florida. These times are so unsettling. My pantry is pretty much the same as usual, although I did add a few dried legumes; we don’t have the same run on groceries as you do. Your advice is great. Stay well, stay safe XOXO

    1. Hi Eva, I haven’t been to the grocery store since I work this but I’ve been told they are getting restocked on most everything except hand sanitizer. I’ve been ordering on line when I want fresh produce but other than that the pantry is serving us well. Thank you for your thoughts, I hope you are both well.

  24. Thanks, Karen – I somehow missed this post! I must have been out trying to find Clorox or rubbing alcohol. Your pantry is perfectly stocked. Ours is, like John (Kitchen Riffs), usually well-stocked. The only things we added were some canned vegetables, of which I’m not a huge fan. Stay safe and well…

  25. Hi David, I tend to agree with you about canned vegetables not being as good as fresh or frozen but I always keep a supply…just in case. After all, our hurricane season lasts 6 months and you can imagine what our grocery stores look like when we get a warning. It is better to be prepared. 😁

  26. You were better prepared than me, though my usual practice of buying my meat in bulk from the farm along with freezing / canning summer CSA leftovers has helped immensely. Plus I froze many pounds of cheese after the American Cheese Society conference last August. I even bought 40 dozen eggs the end of February from a farmer with young hens who lay smaller than market-sized eggs. Flour was my big miss. Going to see if that’s eased up next week at all, though we’ve been finding bread at local bakeries. It’s a strange time.

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