Blog Meal Planning

This is the Ultimate Pantry Essentials Checklist

Use this handy Pantry Essentials Checklist to make sure you never run out of your most-used items!

Life is easier when we’re not rushing around to get food on the table!

One of the simplest ways to stay on top of meal prep is to always keep a well-stocked pantry.

Having a trove of your most-used non-perishable goods on hand will make quick and simple recipes easier to pull off, leaving you less stressed, with less waste, and on top of your game.

A pantry essentials checklist keeps your on your game!

Below you’ll find a handful of items I always keep in my cupboards, fridge, and freezer, with a short explanation of how I use these items.

In case you’re wondering- yep, these are literally items in my kitchen at this very moment!

I snapped a photo of some of my most-used stuff and dropped it all into this cool little image you see above. This is by no means an exhaustive list; I didn’t have room for, say, soy sauce, or milk, or chicken thighs, or flour, or beans, which are all items I use regularly (and I could go on with more!). But hey, you only have so much room on a little infographic before it gets into overkill territory.

So let’s chat about what is in the image above, plus how I use each ingredient in my own kitchen.

Kosher Salt: The only brand we use in the kitchen. I very rarely use plain table salt; Kosher salt has much cleaner flavor; plus, a little goes a long way.

Spray Oil: I used to be so snobbish about spray oil, and now I have no idea why. It’s incredibly handy, and I find that I use much less oil when it’s sprayed.

Peanut Butter: (or any nut butter) Great for chicken satay, four-ingredient peanut butter cookies, toast topper, and a very effective quick snack on a spoon when my energy is running low.

Brown Sugar: Not only for baking, I‘ll sometimes mix a small amount of brown sugar with a spicy seasoning, such as chili flakes, with other herbs and then rub on chicken thighs for a quick dinner.

Vanilla Extract: I feel like I’m always replacing vanilla! Not only for use in baking, I also like to add a teaspoon or so to my coffee grounds before brewing for easy vanilla-flavored coffee.

Panko Breadcrumbs: My all-time fave type of breadcrumbs, for the delicious extra crunch they add to everything.

Baking Soda and Baking Powder: I use these most often in baking, but I also clean my stovetop with baking soda and vinegar.

White Rice: I personally prefer jasmine rice, which is less starchy and holds up better as leftovers.

Spaghetti Pasta: Our fave around these parts is whole wheat spaghetti noodles, which I typically try to buy instead of spaghetti made with white flour.

Seasonings: These are a few of my favorites:

Ground Chipotle Powder, I prefer over chili powder for its smoky flavor.

Ground Cinnamon, a great topping for yogurt in the morning.

Garam Masala, fabulous as a dry rub on chicken thighs or pork chops, also in curries.

Ground Pepper, along with sea salt, which I add to most of our savory dishes.

Frozen Peas: Probably the easiest frozen veggie out there; I defrost frozen peas in the microwave with a little water for 30 seconds, then toss in pasta, add to burgers or Shepherd’s Pie, or blend with chicken stock and a touch of cream for a quick pea soup.

Carrots: Carrots are cheap and last for ages in the fridge crisper; we eat them often as snacks.

Garlic: Here’s our favorite recipe for Chicken Meatballs dipped in a Garlicky Honey Mustard Sauce.

Sweet Potatoes: Full of vitamin C and potassium, I love sweet potatoes for a quick meal. I slice them into oven-baked fries or bake off a handful at a time to add to smoothies or muffins, spread on a rice cake for my 9-month old, or toss with penne for a creamy “sauce”.

Greek Yogurt: I have a big, fat, Midwestern love affair with sour cream, but I am also past the age of 30 and prone to packin’ on the pounds, so I often sub in Greek Yogurt for my sour cream fix. Fage is our go-to brand.

Bananas: We bake a lot with bananas, and a few times a week I make two-ingredient banana pancakes for my kid’s breakfast.

Eggs: An easy source of protein, for every meal from breakfast straight through to dinner.

That’s it!

With these simple ingredients, I can throw dinner together in under 30 minutes, no matter how insane our weeknights are. Your list may vary depending on what meals work best in your own kitchen, but keeping a pantry go-to is a freaking lifesaver.

You might also like:

“Don’t Throw That Out!” Repurposing Leftover Ingredients

How to Cook ‘Family Meal’ Just Like a Chef

My Top Three Meal Planning Basics

Ruthy Kirwan

Ruthy Kirwan is a recipe tester and developer living in NYC with her two small kids and hard-working husband. She created Percolate Kitchen in 2016 to help busy people get their act together in the kitchen. Learn more at

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