Your pantry will have two kinds of things in it: things you buy for the coming week or so and things you need to keep on hand in case you need them. How much of each will partly depend on how much stuff you can store and how much money you can tie up in inventory.

For example, you can save money by buying eight cans of tomato sauce at once at CostCo, but you need space to store them. Maybe you can keep one or two in the pantry and the rest in the garage, but unless you have a lot of storage, you can’t buy too much stuff in bulk.

I’m going to make a list of things that I have found handy to keep around. But realizing that you might be limited on storage space or money, or both, we’ll keep the priority items at the top of the lists. We’re going to address herbs and spices and things kept in the refrigerator and freezer separately.

Dry ingredients:
General purpose flour
Bisquick (for pancakes and waffles)
Baking Soda
Baking Powder
Powdered sugar
Brown sugar (light and dark)
Pasta (spaghetti, macaroni, fettuccini)
Beans (pinto, black, white)

Liquid ingredients:
Vegetable oil (corn or safflower or canola or peanut, and olive and sesame)
Vinegar (white, red wine, tarragon)
Cooking wine (Sherry, Marsala, Madeira) (These are flavoring wines; for most recipes you will use red or white drinking wine that you have on hand.)

Tomato sauce
Tomato paste*
Tomatoes, whole
Tomatoes, diced
Spam (that’s for sandwiches and fried for breakfast for me)
Soup (chicken noodle, mushroom, chicken and beef broth)
Small cans of assorted vegetables (corn, mushrooms, beans)
Chiles (California green chiles, jalapeños, diced green chiles)
Olives (ripe, green, sliced, chopped)

* Even though tomato paste comes in small cans, many recipes call for only a tablespoon or two. Rather than throw away the rest, take the lid off both ends of the can and push the cylinder of paste into a zip lock bag. Keep it in the freezer and slice off a tablespoon or two whenever you need it.

Jars and Bottles:
Salsa (green and red, like Herdez)
Kalamata olives
Dijon mustard
Catsup (or ketchup)
Maple (or other) pancake syrup
Pepperoncini (whole, sliced)
Pickles (dill, sliced, sweet, tiny dills, tiny sweet, relish)

Some of these things will graduate to the refrigerator after they’ve been opened; read the labels to be sure.

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