Even if you’re a whiz in the kitchen, there are times when you will be too tired or just not have the time to prepare a home-cooked dish. As such, when going grocery shopping, you will be tempted to throw in several dinner or lunch items that will simply need heating up in the microwave.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this, but microwaveable dishes are mostly tasteless and not at all nutritious. The good news is that you can always stock up your pantry and fridge with plenty of ingredients that you can use to whip up something easy, quick, healthy yet delicious. Another bonus is that home-cooked dishes will save you a lot of money because it’s cheaper than ordering in or dining out.
50 Vital Ingredients You Should Stock Up On
If you have no idea about how to make your pantry, fridge, spice rack and kitchen in general well-stocked so that you can cook almost anything at any time of the day, here are the top 50 ingredients you should always keep handy:
1. Almond Extract
Almond extract has that unique, subtle taste and just a few drops will add luscious flavor to desserts and pie crusts. It can even be used for savory dishes with vegetables and meat.
2. Apple Sauce
If you think that apple sauce is just a snack for the baby, think again. This kitchen staple can be used for cooking, baking or simply spread over cookies for easy snacks or desserts.
3. Balsamic Vinegar
Instead of paying a lot of money on prepared salad dressings in bottles, make your own at home. You can whip up just enough by mixing balsamic vinegar with a few key ingredients, and drizzle it over a few greens for a quick salad.
4. Baking Soda
A staple ingredient for creating baked goods, baking soda is also a powerful natural household cleaner.
5. Baking Powder
Even if you don’t like baking, this ingredient would be very useful in the kitchen. Baking powder is a chemical leavener which produces carbon dioxide and causes pancakes, breads, waffles, cakes and other baked goodies to rise.
6. Brown Sugar
Brown sugar is healthier although a bit tangier than white sugar. It can be used for baking, and for adding just a tad of sweetness to savory dishes.
7. Bay Leaves
You can use bay leaves for meat or fish dishes, as well as stews and soups.
8. Barbecue Sauce
Whether you’re grilling outdoors or indoors, you will find barbecue sauce to be a very useful cooking tool.
Stock up on dried or canned beans because they can be used as a main or secondary ingredient in soups, stews and other dishes.
Bouillons of beef, chicken and vegetables are available to make your time preparing dishes a lot easier. They can be used as seasoning for soups, casseroles and marinades.
11. Bread Crumbs
You can either make your own or buy the ready-made variant. Bread crumbs can be used to bread fish, chicken, pork and other meats, and can be utilized as a thickener for other dishes.
12. Beer and Wine
Did you know that beer and wine can be used for more than just drinking? Wine can be reduced and turned into mouth-watering sauces, while beer can be used as marinade for meats and veggies.
13. Brown Rice
Brown rice has many uses – starting from plain steamed brown rice to salads, soups, stuffing, casseroles and side dishes.
Keep a carton of broth in your pantry until you’re ready to use it, and you can incorporate it in chilli, stews, soups and other dishes. Just make sure to purchase the low-sodium variants.
15. Cheddar Cheese
Cheddar cheese is good for more than just sandwiches. Incorporate it in omelettes, soups, stews and pasta dishes which require all that cheesy goodness.
16. Canned Cream Soup
If you’re out of time to make soup from scratch, you can simply heat up canned cream soup. It can also be used for other dishes.
17. Canned Tomatoes
This can be used for pastas, casseroles, sauces, salads and stews.
18. Canned Tuna Fish
Instead of snacking on junk food when you’re hungry, simply put together a tuna sandwich using the canned variant. It can also be used for pastas, salads and other dishes.
19. Canned Olives
Canned olives keep for a long time and are very flavorful. Add them to pastas, stews, vegetable dishes and other home-cooked meals.
20. Cocoa Powder
During cold winter nights, nothing beats the feeling of drinking some hot cocoa. You could stock up on cocoa powder for this purpose, and also use it for baked goodies.
21. Dried Fruit
There’s more uses to dried fruit than just desserts. You can use it for sweet-savory dishes, for roasting poultry or even for some healthy snacking.
22. Dried Spices
There are plenty of dried spices that you should stock up on including nutmeg, cinnamon, oregano, cumin, paprika, mustard, allspice, ginger, cayenne pepper, etc.
Scrambled, over-easy, hard-boiled? Aside from cooking eggs like these, they can also be used as a bonding agent, they’re a baking staple and you will definitely find plenty of other uses for this kitchen staple.
24. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
From frying to salad dressings, sautéing to whipping up sauces, there are a lot of uses that you will find for extra virgin olive oil.
25. Flavored Vinegar
This ingredient is healthy and good for the heart, and can be used along with berries to brighten the flavors of salads, or balsamic as part of a dressing.
26. Fresh Herbs
Cilantro, parsley, rosemary, thyme – there are plenty of fresh herbs that you can use when cooking pasta and other Italian dishes.
A lot of Asian dishes use garlic as a staple ingredient. At home, you can use it to add lots of flavor to whatever it is you’re cooking, and it’s 100% good for your health.
Yet another Asian food staple is ginger, and you will find that adding some minced or grated ginger to your dishes will give it that extra oomph.
You can use honey as a natural sweetener instead of relying on processed sugar too much. You can also use it for savory dishes.
30. Hot Sauce
The quickest way to add a touch of spice to your dishes? Add a dash of hot sauce straight out of the bottle.
No household with kids will ever be complete without ketchup, because it can be used for fries, burgers, hotdogs, meatloaf – pretty much any comfort food that you allow yourself to cook around the house.
Lentils are healthy and quite easy to cook. You can incorporate them in stews, soups and other main dishes.
33. Maple Syrup
Drizzle maple syrup over your morning pancakes and waffles, or use it when preparing dessert.
Mayonnaise is yet another kitchen staple that you can use on salad, sandwiches and other delicious treats that you usually prepare for your family in the kitchen.
More than just dunking your favorite chocolate cookies in, milk is a staple ingredient that can be used in creamy sauces, desserts, scrambled eggs and even homemade ice cream.
Mustard is used in sandwiches, dressings, dips and other savory dishes.
This unique spice is usually added in sweet dishes or savory sauces.
Caramelized, sautéed or used raw, onions are another kitchen staple which is usually paired with garlic.
Instead of ordering takeout, simply boil your own pasta and look for recipes which let you whip up Italian sauces for a quick, filling meal.
Whole peppercorns can be dropped at the last minute to spice up soups, marinades, stocks or roast meat dishes.
41. Sausage, Bacon or Pancetta
Also known as cold cuts, you can add these items when preparing a quick sandwich or when whipping up other dishes.
42. Soy Sauce
Perfect for stir-fry meat or veggies, soy sauce can be incorporated in pretty much any Asian dish. It’s also the perfect substitute to salt if you would like to add a little bit of kick to what you’re cooking.
43. Unflavored Gelatin
A dessert staple ingredient, you can use unflavored gelatin for puddings, custards, jelly recipes and many others.
44. Unsweetened Chocolate
Unsweetened chocolate can be used for baking and cooking, or making hot chocolate from scratch.
The best way to use vanilla is to use the pod or the beans so that you can extract the most flavour. This delicious spice is almost always used in desserts.
46. Vegetable Oil
Vegetable oil is a healthier alternative to lard, and can be used for frying, cooking and making salad dressings.
47. White Sugar
Aside from sweetening your hot drinks, white sugar can be used for cooking and baking.
48. White Wine Vinegar
White wine vinegar makes for the perfect seasoning for salads and other savory dishes.
49. Worcestershire Sauce
Worcestershire sauce is a common seasoning which is also used to add color to meat or fish dishes.
Yeast is an item used for baking, especially if you have the talent to make bread from scratch.
When you have these staple ingredients, you simply need to replenish your pantry with perishable goods – and you can whip up delicious, healthy, filling meals for your family.