Singleton Menu Planning: A Well Stocked Pantry

Here’s part 1 about my basic approach to menu planning for one.

One of the most important things to cooking and eating healthy, thoughtful meals is keeping  my kitchen well-stocked at all times with all the basics that I need. That way, when I decide on a menu plan for the week, it’s only the out-of-the-ordinary fresh stuff or maybe a random pantry item that I need to buy. This makes shopping quicker and cheaper! As I go throughout the week, I keep a grocery list clipped to the fridge where I write down any pantry items that I’m running low on or need replacing, and then when I’m menu planning I add any fresh stuff to the list that I’ll need to pick up as well. Here’s how I stock my kitchen; adapt as you see fit for the stuff you actually use and cook most often.

I keep the ones I use the most right next to the stove for easy access: cooking oil/spray, salt & pepper.

Oils: Olive, canola, sesame and coconut
Vinegars: Balsamic, red wine, champagne, rice, apple cider
Kosher salt grinder
Pepper grinder
Dijon mustard
Soy sauce
Curry paste

By keeping this small collection of items on hand at all times, I nearly always find I’m able to whip up a quick batch of cookies or a simple bread or cake without even going shopping.

All purpose flour
Rolled oats
Sugar/sweeteners: White, brown, icing sugars; agave syrup
Extracts: Vanilla, almond
Baking soda
Baking powder
Coconut flakes
Various chocolate chips or squares: white, milk, semi-sweet, bittersweet, dark

Other Dry Goods:
I try to stock up and buy all this stuff when it’s on sale. I’ve also found with tea in particular, it’s nice to have created a “guest collection.” I keep a basket of various types of herbal, black, rooibos & green tea that I pull out and offer when I have company so people can choose  whatever they like. People always seem to think this is such a nice touch, and it is so easy!

Cereal – a couple of different varieties
Dry pasta – I always have a long and small kind on hand. Right now it’s fusilli & spaghetti.
Rices: Arborio, jasmine white, long grain brown
Green lentils
Popcorn kernels
A couple of types of crackers
Breadcrumbs – panko or other, for crusted fish or meat dishes
Granola (either homemade or Terra Breads variety)
Dry herbs & spices: cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, cloves, basil, oregano, rosemary, cayenne, red chili flakes, curry powder, bay leaves, ginger, paprika, mustard powder, cumin.
Coffee beans – OBVIOUSLY!

Toast Condiments:
Honeys: liquid, unpasteurized “solid”
Peanut butter – I keep the shitty Kraft sweetened stuff in the cupboard for my toast, SORRY NOT SORRY. I also keep natural PB in the fridge for smoothies and making sauces
Marmite – this is how you can tell I have British blood!

Canned/Liquid Goods:
I keep very few canned/boxed goods on hand most of the time. I used to always keep canned fruits during their off-season, like mandarins, peaches and apricots, but I’ve started using frozen instead – they taste fresher. Here’s the short list of what I try to buy on sale and keep in the cupboard all the time:

Water chestnuts – love them in stir fries and spinach dip for crunch!
Good quality olives
Diced tomatoes
Beans: chickpeas, black beans
Chicken stock
Almond milk

I love having a couple of lemons or limes on hand for adding to impromptu salad dressings or sauces. I eat a lot of veggies but the list below are just the ones I keep on hand all the time, regardless of what I’m cooking that week. I make a veggie egg scramble for breakfast very often with zucchini, peppers and mushrooms so I keep those around all the time for that reason, and there’s enough veggies/fruit/cheese in the house all the time that if I have greens, I can always whip up a salad without going shopping. Greens and bananas are also great for smoothies, so I try to have them around all the time.

Basil plant
Lemon & lime – and if I don’t need the rind for whatever I’m making, sometimes I’ll zest the peel and put it in a ziploc in the freezer.
Veggies: zucchini, coloured peppers, onion, cucumber, tomatoes, mushrooms, salad greens
Assorted seasonal fruit
Head of garlic
Vanilla yogurt
Cheese: cheddar, goat & parmesan

Multigrain bread
Fruit for smoothies – always mixed berries, occasionally peaches or mango.
A couple of quick meals – frozen pizza or lasagne, leftovers
Oven fries (uncooked)

That’s it! With these items constantly available in my kitchen, I can always whip up a quick salad, smoothie, “stuff on bread” meal, or pasta dish without needing to go shopping, and it minimizes the extra ingredients I need to buy for a recipe. You should use this as a basic guide, but adapt as necessary to the things you tend to eat most. How can you use this to simplify your shopping? How would your pantry staples differ from mine?

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