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When preparing meals on the fly, it is important to have a well-stocked pantry of general, non-perishable items. If you're not sure what your pantry should look like, follow our essential pantry ingredients list below, so that when the time comes, you can prepare a delicious meal without having to run to the store.
First, make sure to keep a list handy of what you use most often and what you need to replace on your next shopping trip. Absent from this list are the perishables -- such as bread, milk and meat.
Almond extract: for adding a little extra flavor to desserts, pie crusts, vegetables and other dishes.
Apples: for long storage, eating out of hand and making desserts.
Applesauce: for snacking, cooking, baking and an easy dessert.
Balsamic vinegar: for flavoring dishes and making salad dressings.
Baking soda: for baking and cleaning.
Baking powder: for baking.
Barbecue sauce: for cooking and flavoring.
Bay leaves: for seasoning soups, stocks, roasts, sauces and poaching liquids.
Beans (dried and canned): for soups, stews and other dishes.
Boullion (beef, chicken, and vegetable): for soups, seasoning, casseroles and marinades.
Breadcrumbs: for toppings, stuffings and other dishes.
Brown rice: for casseroles, soups, stuffings and side dishes.
Brown sugar: for cooking, baking and seasoning.
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Canned cream soup: for a quick lunch, or to add to side dishes, soups, casseroles and other dishes.
Canned tomatoes: for sauces, salads, soups, stews, casseroles and other dishes.
Canned tuna fish: for quick sandwiches and casseroles.
Carrots: for long storage, snacking, soups, side dishes, roasting meats, casseroles, stews and more.
Cocoa powder: for baking and making hot cocoa.
Cold cereal: for baking, topping casseroles, snacking and breakfast.
Cooking sprays: for greasing pans for baking or frying.
Cornmeal: for cornbread, breading proteins and for baking white bread.
Cornstarch: for thickening puddings, sauces, stews and gravies.
Crackers: for snacking, appetizers and topping casseroles.
Cream of tartar: for whipping egg whites.
Dried fruit: for desserts, sauces, roasting meat and poultry and snacking.
Dried herbs: for seasoning sweet and savory dishes (good ones to have on hand: basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, dill, cilantro, tarragon, chives)
Dried spices: for seasoning sweet and savory dishes (good ones to have on hand: cinnamon, nutmeg, cumin, paprika, mustard, ginger, allspice, cayenne pepper)
Garlic: for flavoring or garlic bread.
Ginger: fresh for mincing or grating and adding to dishes for a spark.
Honey: for seasoning, cooking, or eating on biscuits or cereal.
Hot sauce: for adding a touch of spice to dishes.
Jams or jellies: for making sandwiches, desserts or sauces.
Ketchup: for flavoring sandwiches or other dishes.
Kosher salt: for seasoning
Lemons and limes: for squeezing into fresh juice or using the zest in cooking.
Lentils: for soups, stews and other dishes.
Maple syrup: for breakfasts and baking
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Mayonnaise: for salads, sandwiches, salad dressings and many other dishes; low-fat or fat-free are also good choices.
Nutmeg: for sweet and savory dishes and sauces.
Nuts: a selection of your favorite nuts for breads, muffins, desserts, casseroles and side dishes.
Oatmeal: for baking, cooking and as a breakfast cereal.
Olive oil: for cooking, greasing pans or making salad dressings.
Onions: for seasoning meats, soups, stews, casseroles and many other dishes.
Pasta: for eating plain, with butter, or a sauce; also great for using in soups, stews, casseroles, or as a side dish.
Peanut butter: for cooking, baking and snacking.
Peppercorns: for including whole in soups, stocks, marinades and roasts and for grinding for cooking and table use.
Powdered sugar: for making frosting, cooking, baking and decorating.
Prepared mustard: for sandwiches, mayonnaise-based salads, salad dressings and marinade.
Potatoes, russet: for baking and mashing.
Potatoes, small red: for boiling and roasting.
Red wine vinegar: for cooking and seasoning.
Semisweet chocolate chips: for desserts and snacking.
Solid shortening: for baking and greasing pans.
Soy sauce: for flavoring and quick stir-frying.
Tomato paste: for making pasta sauces, stews, soups and casseroles.
Unbleached white flour: for cooking, baking, thickening.
Unsweetened chocolate: for baking and cooking.
Vanilla: for flavoring many dishes, especially desserts; only use the real flavoring or vanilla beans.
Vegetable oil: for frying, cooking, salad dressings and greasing pans.
White sugar: for cooking and seasoning.
White wine vinegar: for salads, flavoring and cleaning coffee pots.
Worcestershire sauce: for seasoning and adding color.
Yeast: for baking.
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