Home cooks should always have a well-stocked kitchen. Not only does it makes life easier when you need to improvise last minute meals, but it’s also helpful as you work on improving your cooking skills. Check out this list of fridge, freezer and pantry staples to get started! I’ve also included tips for food shopping on a budget AND a printable master grocery list. Dinner will be ready in no time!
Over time, I’ve received many questions about how to stock a kitchen with fridge, freezer and pantry essentials. I also get questions about how to buy pantry staples on a budget.
I always like to always have a variety of groceries on hand so that I can throw together easy meals at the last second. I’ve pulled together a list of kitchen staples I consider to be essential. However, not all of these items will be relevant based on your preferences and diet.
If you’re not sure how to use some of these list items, check out my index of recipes by ingredients to see them in use. Also keep in mind: there’s no need to purchase everything at once! Buy a few at a time when you’re at the store, and slowly build up your arsenal of pantry staples.
Fridge, Freezer and Pantry Staples
There’s some crossover between categories (for example, there are both refrigerator and shelf-stable condiments). To keep things as simple as possible, I’ve mainly categorized by types of food.
I’ve started with some general fridge and freezer items, but beyond that you’ll want to read labels and take note of how ingredients should be properly stored.
- Unsalted butter
- Large eggs
- Milk and/or cream
- Cheeses (I always have parmesan and cheddar, and will often have at least one of the following: feta, provolone, goat cheese, and blue cheese)
- Salmon filets
- Spicy Italian sausage (or your favorite sausage; that’s mine)
- Peeled & deveined shrimp (the large bags sold in the freezer section)
- Bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
- Boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- Ground beef
- Homemade chicken stock (or buy a low-sodium chicken stock for the pantry)
- Assorted nuts (I mainly use cashews, slivered almonds & pecans)
- Some type of bread
Quick Tip: I typically keep whole wheat english muffins in the freezer. They defrost quickly and are great for sandwiches.
- All-purpose flour
- White granulated sugar
- Brown sugar
- Confectioners’ sugar (powdered sugar)
- Dutch-processed cocoa powder
- Baking soda & baking powder
- Pure vanilla extract
- Baking chocolate (My favorite is Valrhona; I also recommend Guittard)
- Baking spray with flour
I have tons of spices; this is not even close to an all-inclusive list. These are options that you’ll commonly find in recipes and can use to add flavor to meals.
- Kosher salt
- Ground black pepper
- Ground cinnamon
- Ground cumin
- Ground chili powder
- Ground cayenne pepper
- Crushed red pepper
- Smoked paprika
- Granulated garlic
- Whole nutmeg (it’s better to grate it yourself)
- Tomatoes: whole or diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste
- Beans: White beans, chickpeas, black beans, pinto beans
- Coconut milk
- Canned tuna
- Marinara sauce
- Long-grain white rice
- Regular or panko breadcrumbs
- Quinoa or other whole grains
- Old-fashioned oats
Oils, Vinegars and Condiments
Note: always check the label on your condiments. Sometimes you’ll think something should go in the refrigerator or pantry, but the opposite is actually true. Certain items, like nut butters, can vary by brand.
- Extra virgin olive oil
- A neutral, high-heat oil for cooking (grapeseed oil, for example)
- Cooking spray (I’m putting this here since it’s made from oil)
- Toasted sesame oil
- Assorted vinegars (My most used are balsamic, apple cider, and red wine vinegar)
- Hot sauce (My favorites are Sriracha and Cholula)
- Maple syrup
- Dijon mustard
- Soy sauce
- Mayonnaise (I’m a big fan of Blue Plate)
- Nut butter (cashew, peanut, etc)
- BBQ sauce
- Worcestershire sauce
- Tahini (I frequently make hummus; you might not need this)
- Miso paste (I use this for miso salmon and homemade soups; you might not need this)
- Lemons & limes
- Baby arugula
- Yellow onions
- Scallions (you can put these in water so they keep growing!)
- Broccoli (I can always make roasted broccoli at the last second for a healthy side)
Quick Tip: When you’re in the produce aisle at the grocery store, pay attention to whether an item is located in the chilled section or the center of the aisle. That will tell you how to store it at home.
Food Storage and Cooking Supplies
- Plastic wrap
- Parchment paper
- Freezer bags – gallon and quart-size (these can also be used in the refrigerator)
Tips for Food Shopping on a Budget
Plenty of people need to shop on a budget, and there are ways to save as you begin stocking your kitchen with pantry staples.
- If available, buy dry goods from bulk bins. Not only are they less expensive, but you can buy only the quantity you think you’ll need.
- Occasionally you can find bulk spices, which are great if you don’t think you’ll use them often. While spices don’t technically expire, their flavor will diminish over time.
- Warehouse stores like Costco are great for saving money on everything, especially meats, nuts, and dry goods. If you don’t have a membership, Amazon often has good deals as well.
- Buy the store brand. It’s often the exact same product as the name brand with different packaging. Sometimes you can tell the difference; more often than not you can’t (especially with dry goods).
Master Grocery List
Want a simple grocery list you can print out and take with you to the store? Not a problem!
Please note: I’ve rearranged a few of the items and categories based on where you’ll find things in the store. Hopefully this will make shopping easier for you.
Tell me in the comments if I missed any of your favorite kitchen staples!