One of the most daunting parts of cooking is figuring out what exactly what to buy. It’s even more daunting if you’ve never had to buy or stock up on basic ingredients before. Here are the basic items I recommend you purchase to fill your pantry. With these items, you’ll be able to make a tremendous amount of meals, snacks and desserts:
- Olive oil, vegetable and/or canola oil
- Cooking spray
- Vinegar: distilled white and balsamic
- Condiments: Mustard, ketchup, barbeque sauce, salsa, soy sauce, hot sauce, honey, mayonnaise
- Baking: Sugars (5lbs white, 1 lb brown and 1 lb confectioner’s), flour (5 lbs all-purpose will make pretty much anything you need), yeast, baking soda, baking powder, cornstarch
- Various spices: salt, pepper, cumin, crushed red pepper, garlic, basil, oregano, parsley, bay leaves, onion powder, vanilla extract, chili powder, ground cinnamon, cinnamon sugar. Spices can be expensive, but I’ve found that the inexpensive brands like Kitchen Essentials ($.99 per container at one local grocery store) are just as good.
- Dry foods: beans (lentils, black beans, garbanzo beans, kidney beans), peanut butter, canned tomatoes, tomato sauce (1-2 jars), pasta (1-2 boxes), tomato paste, bread crumbs, rice, canned fruit, canned or frozen vegetables, quick cooking oatmeal, margarine or butter, and tea or coffee (depending on your taste). Having a box or two of instant pudding or jello mix or cake mix is good for a quick, cheap and sweet dessert.
Meats, fresh fruits and vegetables, bread, eggs, milk, juice and snacks like pretzels can all be bought on a weekly (or how ever often you go grocery shopping) basis.
This list is not exhaustive and can be tailored to your own tastes. But it can serve a good guide and as a good place to start if you’ve never had to stock a kitchen before. Keeping these ingredients on hand will not only help you in your quest to learn how to cook but they will also save you lots of money in the long run.