A well stocked kitchen is 1 way to save yourself lots of money, not to mention time and frustration when trying to figure out what’s for dinner.

Pantry 3

What makes a well stocked kitchen?  Well, that depends on your family and your diet, of course!  But that’s not very helpful, is it?

Here are the things my kitchen is never without, broken down into pantry, freezer, and spice rack items.  You’ll notice there are no refrigerator items


Pasta.  I buy embarrassing amounts of pasta when it’s on sale and keep it on hand.  I like to have options, so I will get a few boxes of the types we eat, which usually includes rotini, bow ties, shells, elbows, and spaghetti.  I can make Pasta Surprise, or just dump a jar of sauce on it and call it done.

Rice Pilaf.  I can’t say enough good things about boxed rice pilaf.  It’s a perfect side dish when I want something more than rice, but less than pasta.  Plus, I’ve discovered that it’s just as good when following the much simpler microwave directions.  I also buy plain rice in bulk.

Canned Tomatoes.  These cans of tangy veggie/fruits are so versatile I can’t be without them.  I can use them in Pasta Surprise, Tater Tot Casserole, homemade sauce and pizza, and fresh salsa.

Cream of Whatever Soup.  Useful in casseroles, one-pot meals, or just baked on top of chicken (or pork), I always have cream of something in the pantry.

Chicken Broth. What can’t you do with chicken broth?  Soups, casseroles, chicken pot pie, gravy, or just use it to make boiled rice more flavorful.  It’s a pantry super-food.

Jarred Sauce.  If I’ve had time these jars might have homemade sauce in them, but I won’t turn my nose up at Francesco Rinaldi either.  I like to have a couple different kinds on hand – especially now that Miss O is anti-tomato – just to give myself options.

Macaroni and Cheese.  Yum.  Just yum.  I don’t care if it’s boxed or frozen, there must be mac and cheese in my house.


Chicken.  My family could probably live for a good long time off the chicken in my freezer (so bring on the zombie apocalypse).  I have chicken I buy frozen in bags, a whole chicken or 2, and several larger packages of fresh chicken I’ve divided and frozen in freezer bags.

Veggies.  Our schedule is so hectic, and our family dinners so unpredictable fresh veggies don’t do well in our house.  Having a large stock of frozen veggies is great for healthy, fresh options to go with any meal.

Ready-Mades.  There are a few go-to meals I keep on hand that are made by “the man,” and some are family favorites that I double up and freeze for later.

Spice Rack

Salt and Pepper.  Few things do more to jazz up a boring meal than salt and pepper.  Whenever I make skin-on chicken Mr. O remarks how good it is – all I did was put salt and pepper on before baking.

Garlic Powder.  My family LOVES garlic.  I put it in almost everything.  And because it’s powdered it lasts a long time.  FYI, 1 clove of garlic equals ~1/4 tsp garlic powder.

Lawry’s Seasoning Salt.  Is there anything this stuff doesn’t go on?  I use it for chicken, pork, beef, potatoes, eggs… you name it.  Just omit any other salt when using.

Thyme.  This strong-flavored herb needs just a tiny amount to pack a big flavor punch.  My favorite way to use thyme is in chicken tortellini soup.  Mmmmmmm.

Of course, there are plenty of other things we like to have in the house – Mr. O would add ice cream as a must-have – but these are things I try to keep on hand for those nights I forgot to plan a meal (like most every night) and need to put something together quickly.

What are your must-have pantry items?  Share in the comments.