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.

About Karen

I travel the back roads of New England and beyond, sharing great food and interesting places.
This entry was posted in food, Home, lifestyle, photography, recipes, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

59 Responses to Pantry Essentials

  1. Thanks, Karen. I’m glad you are so well stocked. Stay safe and well 🙂 x

  2. Now that is a well-stocked pantry and so nice and neat

  3. Sunnycovechef says:

    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.

    • Karen says:

      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.

  4. 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

    • Karen says:

      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.

  5. NativeNM says:

    Thanks for sharing. Good to know you are safe and well!

  6. Gosh you are sooooo tiday! It’s a pleasure to look at these photos!

  7. Darlene says:

    Excellent items to have on hand. All the best. Stay safe and healthy.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Good advice Karen.

  9. Mad Dog says:

    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 🙂

  10. Pam says:

    I’m all for stocked pantries and a cocktail or two!

  11. Gloria says:

    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.

  12. Penny at Enjoying The Simple Things says:

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

  13. kitchenriffs says:

    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.

    • Karen says:

      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.

  14. plumdirt says:

    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

  15. marymtf says:

    Lovely of you to share your experiences and ideas, Karen. They have been so helpful..

  16. 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.

    • Karen says:

      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.

  17. marymtf says:

    If I can just ask, Karen, have you stocked eggs in fridge for months? Usually the use by date is not much longer than two weeks.

    • Karen says:

      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.

  18. mjskitchen says:

    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!

    • Karen says:

      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.

  19. Excellent suggestions. We have been able to get and to cook just about anything we want, but I’m sure that is subject to change as things progress. Tomorrow’s project – organize the pantry!

    • Karen says:

      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.

  20. 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. 🙂

  21. eliotthecat says:

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

  22. Good article Karen and your pantry sure is nice and neat.

  23. 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!

  24. Good job of stocking up! Your pantry is so organized, mine is stocked up and a little messy right now!

  25. Cathy says:

    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.

  26. Great Tips Karen. We have never stopped the Y2K supplies…Do you remember? Living around the world, natural disasters are common so pantry supplies are essential. Stay well and take care

  27. Roz says:

    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!

  28. ladyfi says:

    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.

  29. Sartenada says:

    Well done Karen! We have food for two weeks and all other supplies.

    Stay safe and healthy!

  30. 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.

  31. 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. ❤

  32. 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 🙂

  33. Ron says:

    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.

  34. restlessjo says:

    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!

  35. Your pantry is well-prepared! Hoping it keeps you going during this outbreak. It is not easy at all. Stay safe and healthy! Oh and thank you for the hand sanitizer tip.

  36. Eva Taylor says:

    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

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