With burgeoning food costs, fuel shortages and supply chain issues, there’s never been a better time to take stock of your pantry items and make sure you have the essentials. This list of 14 pantry basics should be enough to get your stockpile going.
I recently wrote a post on how to be a little more prepared than you may be right now which is a great article to be read alongside this one, especially if you’re new to preparedness or would like to get into pantry stockpiling.
This post is an important one for those interested in food security. Food security planning is a mixture of what you can grow yourself, what you can access in bulk locally from other growers, and what you can’t produce but still need.
What I’m sharing with you are items that we normally always use and keep a back stock on hand. I realise the way my husband and I live is maybe a bit different from that of a lot of other people. We keep a pantry stocked at a level that not a lot of people do unless you’re really focused on becoming self-sufficient. So I’m going to give you a list of the items that we keep on hand as well as suggested amounts.
I’m also going to share where we’ve upped our stock of what we keep on hand in light of everything following the last few years with the pandemic, and now the aftermath of the economic instability we are experiencing globally. Here in Queensland, we’re experiencing that just like much of the rest of Australia in varying degrees. I also want to address some of the spots that I noticed where we had some holes or I’d gotten a bit lax in our food storage.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, I have increased my pantry stockpile. I went from 6-9 months to about 12 months for most things. Anything that was easy to store long term was bumped up to a 12 month holding, and some things I’m still learning to scale up. The way I determined this was maintaining a stockpile spreadsheet and understanding what ingredients were needed for which meals – so meal planning for longer term and greater volumes was important.
Meat is currently my next project, as I’d like to be a bit more independent with how much meat we have on hand. This one to date has been the stockpile that I feel I have been thinking about the most lately.
As news continues to spread of the economic crises currently in the world, I have been adding to my stockpile in any way I can. I have to say, I have a new minimum because I was very surprised at how fast things transitioned and things became sold out despite us being told consistently that there was enough food for everyone. I was very surprised at how fast it all happened so it made me aware that I needed to do a better job of keeping a minimum threshold of stock in my pantry.
One of the most versatile things, and that I consider an important one, is flour. Flour can be used as the base for so many homemade things. The type of flour is going to vary. For some, it might be a gluten-free blend. Other it’s going to be just regular all-purpose. I stock French imported t45 flour, some rye brero flour and whole wheat. Others might stock einkorn, spelt or ancient grains.
I normally always keep at least 10kgs of flour on hand in my freezer. I always practice rotation so I’m always rotating through our food so that that we’re using the oldest stuff first.
Ideally, I’d like 30kg of the flour I use. My last pickup of 10kg lasted us well over 6 months, and I still have maybe 3kg left but I need the freezer space for a larger stockpile (which is already under pressure!) For two people though, 10-20kg is enough, and that’s generous if you bake bread and desserts, maintain a sourdough starter, and use it for homemade egg noodle pasta.
If you have flour, you can turn that into a variety of things. If you have flour and water, you can make your own yeast in the form of sourdough. You can create a sourdough starter and continue to feed it and out of that you can them make all of your bread without having to find yeast at the stores.
Yeast…You don’t need store-bought
If you don’t use a lot of yeast, or are not in the habit of having yeast on hand, it can be really challenging to get into certain types of baking without it. If you haven’t already, consider getting a bulk amount of yeast and putting it in the freezer so that you have stock on hand.
If you tend to bake a lot and have yeast on hand, just make sure you store the larger amounts correctly, and work through the best by dates because yeast will expire and then it is basically good for nothing.
Something to consider if you’re not a baker, or are only an apprentice baker, or would like to get into baking but don’t really know where or how to start, is by starting and maintaining a sourdough starter. If you have flour and water, you can make a sourdough starter.
I’ve discovered over the years of dealing with sourdough starters the best practices so that it stays active and doesn’t get too sour. I need it to be really active because if your sourdough starter is not very active, it is not going to raise bread and you’re going to be sorely disappointed with flat, dense bread.
During the Aussie winter, I keep my sourdough outside on the bench and feed it regularly. I only discard when I am going to use the discard in a recipe, but otherwise keep feeding it. In the summer, I pop it in the fridge as the Queensland weather will just annihilate it.
So yeast, flour, water, and a little bit of salt will allow you to create a bunch of no-knead artisan bread. By adding a little bit of fat like melted butter, coconut oil, or whatever cooking oil you like (my personal favorite is butter) and/or eggs then you can create different textures and gives you a lot more versatility.
I have a brioche-like bun recipe coming soon, and a few more sourdough discard recipes to write. Until then though, try this pizza base with sourdough discard to get you started!
You’ll want to have some things that are shelf-stable and don’t require refrigeration, but I just can’t give up my butter. So I stock up on it.
Butter: I buy my butter in bulk. I never buy just one package of butter. I store it in the freezer. It stores wonderfully in the freezer for a pretty long period of time. I’m sure I’ve had some butter in there at least six months, if not longer. That’s one item that I do use my freezer for because you cannot can butter at home. It’s not safe to do that. Don’t do it.
Oils: Coconut, Avocado, and Olive Oil are oils that we keep in stock and on hand.
Tallow and lard are cooking staples for me. I don’t actually pan cook with vegetable oil, so all our foods are cooked with animal fat. I also make sure to save all tallow and lard from anything I cook, even bacon, because not only does it make food tastier, it’s using up all the goodness from the meat you have.
Generally, fat sources aren’t something that is easy to get or grow at home even with butchering your own meat. So I highly recommend having back-ups of everything. I have a backup by at least one and I’ve always done this and when able, we have tried to keep two backups available.
I keep the open bottle in the kitchen and then I have one to replace it in my back pantry. When it was time to replace the bottle in the kitchen with the one from the pantry, I’d add it to the shopping list. Now my goal is to have two of those items on the shelf just in case. That should take us, depending on how fast we go through it, at least six months.
I also do keep an eye on specials on oil, especially those larger 3-4litre containers. Sometimes you can pick them up for around $25, and they store really well. It’s not bad to get into the habit of grabbing two of those when you see a special, as then you’ll always have a great quality EVOO on hand and in storage.
Salt is another item. Salt isn’t something that I can produce on my homestead and there isn’t a source to get it locally. I use salt obviously for seasoning. Do you need salt in your diet? Some people are on a low sodium diet for different health reasons, but you still need some measure of salt. I also use salt for preserving such as in my ferments as well as herb salts.
The other thing that I had gotten lax on was not having on hand dried beans. I got used to using tinned beans to make a quick cowboy bean stew recipe which we eat regularly, so not having dried beans just seemed silly on my part.
And it was one of the things that people were going out and getting. The reason for that is because they are so versatile from a nutritional standpoint for both protein, fibre and carbohydrates. They’re an excellent nutrient dense source that will go a long way to feeding your family.
I’ve since stocked up on my dried beans as well as lentils and split peas. I’ve also made sure to grow some beans in the garden and saved them all for seed for the next year. All of them can be turned into soups, for a main dish, a side dish, or use to stretch out some different cuts of meat and vegetables. Because of this versatility, I felt it was important to get restocked on them.
Rice can be used in a myriad of ways as well. I try and get 5-10kg bags when they’re on special, and I also try and get a mixed variety of sushi rice, brown, jasmine, arborio and long and short grain varieties to keep on storage.
Rice is wonderful to have in the fridge. I like to make extra if we’re having a rice dish so we can have it with breakfast the next day. We often make risotto’s and those type of dishes, so there is always at least one serving of cold rice in the fridge.
One of my pandemic fave breakfasts was rice with mayo and a resh cooked poached egg!
We love popcorn. It’s definitely a comfort food and something we look forward to having. Usually, we have a movie night once a week, sometimes twice a week so we definitely like to keep popcorn on hand. We just finished a 10kg bag we got at the start of the year so I think I will up my next purchase to their 30kg bag option.
We live in a large, long, ranch style home. With our freeze dryer on its way and our conversion of the guest side of the house into a bigger pantry stockpile area, I’ll soon have enough room to store everything out of the kitchen. My kitchen cabinets are bursting at the seams currently!
We love chocolate so I need to make sure that we have it in a couple forms. It needs to be useful for baking and a general treat.
Cocoa Powder: I usually buy it in a 1kg bag from Amazon (currently, 1kg bags are stocked here)
Chocolate Chips: I only buy organic chocolate chips because of the soy that’s found in a lot of other chocolate chips. Honest to Goodness is an awesome Aussie company that sells on Amazon and also on their own site. They are GMO free, organic and vegan in many of their products. My favourite chocolate chips are the dark chocolate drops, found here.
Chocolate blocks: We do splurge on good quality chocolate. I go into the office for 5 hours on a Tuesday and there is a DFO outlet opposite my workplace. They have a Lindt store with an awesome choccy deal where you get 4 giant blocks for $35.
My selections always last a couple of weeks, but Serge can smash one of those chocolate bars in a week. He used to eat the basic Cadbury’s one in one sitting – one sitting. But I think that’s because it’s cheaper quality chocolate. Better quality chocolate will satisfy that sweet craving better.
I am a bit fussy with sugar because we are the land of sugar cane based sugar and I know what is good sugar.
Sugar is easy to have on hand and is really good to have when you’re doing comfort baking. I usually keep about 5-10kg on hand so that if I get into canning season I’ll have enough to do my fruit preserving.
I get my bulk sugar from Coles at the moment. A 2kg bag of raw sugar in Coles brand is $3.20 and the price is locked until 31 Jan 2023.
Polenta / Corn Meal
Polenta is cooked corn meal in a porridge consistency that can be eaten as a side or used in a variety of recipes like corn bread. It is incredibly versatile and keeps well.
It is usually made from yellow corn, which is coarsely ground into cornmeal to make polenta. Finer grounds make a softer, finer polenta and coarse grinds will make a firmer one.
Polenta also has a lot of health benefits which makes it an incredibly important stockpiling staple. It’s a source of fibre and protein and recommended to keep the digestive system functioning properly.
It is also a brilliant gluten free option making it safe for people with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity. As a complex carb, polenta is broken down slowly and takes longer to digest which keeps blood sugar levels steady and not erratic.
Baking Powder & Baking Soda
In baking, you need a leavening agent. Not all recipes need it, such as sourdough bread or regular sandwich bread or artisan loaves, but other items like pancakes and waffles do. In those I’m either going to be using baking soda or baking powder, sometimes both depending upon the recipe so I want to make sure I’m well stocked on them.
Apple Cider Vinegar
I make sure to stock up on store-bought apple cider vinegar (ACV) even though I make my own. Amazon has a decent deal on the Cornwell’s brand one quite often. The Bragg is another brilliant one if you can get a good deal on it.
Prior to this we used to often get our ACV from Stanthorpe at Vincenzo’d Big Apple but that since closed down. They often had a pure organic ACV with the mother still in it. It was insanely good and I have the tiniest little bit left in a bottle from a few years ago.
The only organic vinegar that I can find is ACV. So even though it’s raw ACV and organic and I’m killing the benefits of it being raw when canning, it’s important to me that I have organic when it comes to vinegar. A lot of white vinegar is made from corn or other grains that we don’t know are GMO-free so to avoid this, I purchase what I know to be GMO-free, which is the organic apple cider vinegar.
Herbs, Spices & Aromatics
A lot of herbs I can and do grow myself. Herbs such as:
I know, garlic and onion aren’t technically herbs, but they are used in cooking. I don’t have to buy them from the store. I use garlic and onion every day. It doesn’t matter what I’m cooking I pretty much use both every day in a dish. I highly encourage you to grow them too. If you’re worried about shelf stability of fresh onion and garlic, dehydrated onion and garlic are a great option.
If you’re interested in growing both you’ll want to choose a variety that is good storage variety.
Despite having fresh onions and garlic on hand I do keep garlic and onion powder in stock too.
I grow a variety of chilli’s and have an abundance of chilli seeds. I am bsessed with chilli! Whilst they are all growing though, I do make sure to have the following on hand:
- Chili Powder
- Chilli flakes
- Paprika Hungarian and Hot
- Grouond pepper
For the majority of those spices, I like to keep a kilo on hand. What I do is take a small jar, which holds 2 cups worth and keep it in my spice cabinet. Then I like to have a backup bag.
You’re noticing a trend here, right? I like to have what I’m using. I like that amount to be full and then I like to have a backup in the back pantry in order refill my kitchen stock without having to go to the store right away.
When it comes to dairy items we have to purchase from the store since we don’t have a dairy animal.
Butter and shredded cheese freeze really well. Block cheese does not freeze well unless you want crumbled cheese. It will not slice after it’s been frozen and then thawed.
Milk can be frozen but I generally don’t because it takes up a lot of space in my freezer. I do use fresh raw goat milk in my soap business so I do freeze that but that’s more of a science thing, as the goat milk will burn due to the heat it generates when mixed with lye when fresh.
A shelf-stable option for milk would be powdered milk, although I’ve not been buying it much to be honest. It’s not something I use a lot but it’s great for use in baking and cooking so having some in the stockpile isn’t bad.
By having the basics you can eat really well from your pantry, which is a new series I’m developing for an ebook on cheap eats you can make from your stockpile. I’ll be doing some videos on YouTube as well, so if you’re not following me there, subscribe to my YouTube channel. I’ll be doing some different cooking from the pantry and home-preserved items and showing how to turn those into different meals and snacks to feed you and your family.