This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.

Whether you are looking for a simple recipe to throw together using just the basic ingredients, or you are looking to raid the pantry because the refrigerator is running low, we’ve got you covered with our Favorite Pantry Recipes! We’re also sharing some of our favorite basic items to keep on hand that have the longest shelf life!

A bowl of spaghetti made from pantry ingredients.

As we are writing this, our country has changed as we know it, for the time being. There is no doubt about it, these are unprecedented times we are in. There are so many unknowns right now, and that can feel scary. People are particularly worried about the availability of groceries and deliveries. It doesn’t appear that there is any actual shortage of food, but it is difficult to access it now while the stores catch up with the demand. Plus, we’re all trying to socially distance ourselves which means going to the store as few times as possible, if at all. So just about everybody is learning how to survive on less, and with minimal ingredients. However, we all know it is important to think about ways to do that while still being healthy. And that’s where we come in! We are here to help, as much as we can.

Today we want to discuss some of our basic list of pantry items, as well as some basic fresh items that typically tend to last longer. We also will talk about what our plan is for strategically cooking during this time. Then, we will include recipes that correspond with this essential food list, categorized by basic ingredient.

We will continue to update this post as we figure out what is working and what we have learned, and invite you to go ahead and comment below on what has been working for you. 

A well stocked pantry with the doors open.

The Basics and Pantry Essentials

Here are some of the most essential items we try to keep on hand, or stock up on when we are able to. For the fresh items, we have listed food that tends to keep longer than a few days. If there is a particular method for keeping them fresher longer, we’ve listed them. 

Healthy Essential Pantry Items

  • Oils: Avocado Oil and Olive Oil
  • Pasta
  • Rice
  • Old Fashioned Rolled Oats
  • Dried Lentils
  • Quinoa
  • Almond Flour (we use this a lot in savory cooking, and we use blanched)
  • Canned Beans (or you can buy dried, but we prefer canned for the quicker cooking time)
  • Canned Tomatoes
  • Canned Tuna or Canned Salmon
  • Canned Coconut Milk
  • Shelf Stable Nut Milks
  • Marinara Sauce
  • Nuts (store in the freezer for maximum freshness)
  • Nut Butters
  • Hot Sauce
  • Vinegars: Apple Cider and Rice Wine Vinegar for a range of recipes
  • Sweeteners: Maple Syrup and Honey
  • Apple Sauce
  • Avocado Oil Mayo
  • Coconut Aminos (this is a soy sauce alternative)
  • Seasoning (salt, pepper, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, ground cinnamon, and red pepper flakes are a few of our most frequently used and most basic)

Healthy Fresh and Frozen Essentials

  • Romaine Lettuce (this is the one of the longer lasting fresh lettuces, store whole until ready to use)
  • Frozen Veggies: Broccoli, Cauliflower and Spinach
  • Bananas (pro-tip: you can store bananas whole in the freezer for baking and simply defrost overnight in the refrigerator for us in baking projects like Banana Muffins)
  • Frozen Fruit
  • Potatoes and Sweet Potatoes (the organic ones are the quickest to spoil, so if looking for longevity buy the non-organic and store in the refrigerator)
  • Fresh Baby Spinach: This is the easiest way to add hearty greens to anything and we have it listed twice here as it’s the easiest way to add greens to anything. We tend to keep fresh baby spinach and frozen. 
  • Carrots
  • Onions
  • Cherry Tomatoes (while typically we store these at room temperature, they’ll last significantly longer in the refrigerator)
  • Bell Peppers
  • Tortillas (store in the freezer for maximum freshness, then defrost at room temperature for a few hours before use)
  • Bread (I buy gluten-free bread that I keep in the fridge or freezer)
  • Frozen Cauliflower Rice
  • Ground Beef (store in freezer)
  • Bacon (store in freezer)
  • Chicken Breasts (store in freezer)
  • Seafood (store in freezer)

We’ve also included a PDF of our larger more extensive pantry guide of foods that we try to keep in stock at all times. This list is significantly larger than our essentials listed above, but helpful if you are looking for more guidance.

See it larger and grab the downloadable or printable PDF here.

Strategy for Cooking During a Crisis

While it isn’t always possible to plan ahead of a crisis, if possible it always makes sense to make food ahead of time if you are able. For most of us, we are largely at home right now and have some time on our hands. While we aren’t suggesting you spend all your days prepping food for some unknown event, it does make sense to at least prepare some food ahead of time while we are doing our daily cooking.

For us, we are cooking larger batches of food and eating half in the present moment and then freezing what is possible for the event that we aren’t able to cook as much or simply don’t want to in the future.

Foods that freeze really well:

  • Soups
  • Casseroles
  • Rice
  • Oatmeal Bakes
  • Grains (think quinoa or rice!)

Storing Food

While we typically use glass and other safer storage options, in a situation like this we will tend to use more than we have on hand. Using plastic storage bags or even plastic storage containers are a good option for long term freezing if you aren’t able to increase your reusable supply. Just be careful not to heat these items too much as that is the biggest way the plastic can release harmful chemicals. Stock up on:

Defrosting Frozen Food

When thawing frozen food, you have a few options. It will depend on if it is just items such as meat, or if it is a prepared meal.

The best bet is to thaw nearly anything overnight in the refrigerator. This is the easiest and best option, especially when it comes to prepared meals, though it obviously takes time. Some meals can be baked from frozen, though it can deteriorate the meal, such as baked pastas. Sometimes baked pasta dishes can get overbaked if cooked from frozen.

Meals such as soups are typically simple to reheat from frozen. You can put whatever container is holding the soup into a bowl of very warm water until the edges of the soup are defrosted enough to allow the frozen soup to come out. Then place in a large pot and cook it over a gentle heat until it’s fully melted. Once it is fully melted, bring the soup back up to a boil before serving.

It also is safe to defrost food in a microwave. Follow your manufacturer’s instructions, though typically it calls for microwaving it on a low power for a lengthy period of time.

To quickly defrost meat (I use and recommend ButcherBox) or fish, you can place them in a cold water bath for 30 minutes to an hour until fully defrost. Or defrosting in the refrigerator over 1-2 days works well too. Just make sure to place the package of meat in a container in case the packaging leaks. That way you won’t make a mess with the thawed meat all over your refrigerator.

Pantry Recipes

Here are some of our favorite recipes to make using simple basic ingredients and or pantry staples. We’ve noted if a recipe freezes well, and any substitutes possible that might be useful.

Breakfast Recipes

Chicken Recipes

Rice Recipes

Minimal Ingredient Recipes:

Ground Beef Recipes

Pasta Recipes:

Healthy Soups

  • Instant Pot Lentil Soup: This soup freezes well!
  • Tomato Soup: Freeze this soup inside of bags or mason jars so that it can be cooked from frozen. When ready to reheat, place the bag or mason jar inside of a bowl of water until it slightly warms up and can be easily removed. Place the frozen soup inside of a pot and gently reheat on low flame until it is melted. Then return the soup to a boil.
  • Instant Pot Chicken Parm Soup: If you wanted to freeze this soup, omit the pasta and freeze. When ready to serve, cook the pasta directly in the soup, adding in more liquid if necessary.
  • Feel Good Veggie Soup
  • Easy Taco Soup: Lots of pantry items used here and perfect to make a big batch of!
  • Healthy Italian Wedding Soup: Sub what greens you have available here.
  • Instant Pot Loaded Potato Soup

Bean Recipes

Tuna Recipes:

Snack Recipes:

Looking for some more basic recipes to make, check out these:

I hope this was helpful! Stay tuned, we’ll be sharing baking ideas for while your home and ones that are great to get kids involved with too!

Pin it for later:

Pantry Recipes and Pantry Guide

You May Also Like

Secrets to Quick Dinners
Get my practical tips & advice for a healthier life dropped right into your inbox!
newsletter collage

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *