Here's my list...
Meat, Poultry, and Seafood
I don't eat much beef, so I only buy it as necessary. I do, however, keep the following items in my freezer:
- Chicken breasts (boneless, skinless and bone-in, skin-on if I can find them)
- Ground Turkey
- Shrimp (uncooked, peeled and deveined)
- Pork loin and/or tenderloin
Even if you're not a baker, you'll need some of these items to make gravy, sauce, pizza crust or other items.
- All-Purpose unbleached white flour
- Brown sugar
- Baking soda
- Baking powder
I love fresh vegetables, but in the winter (or any other time when you don't have fresh veggies on hand), frozen vegetables are nutritious and convenient.
- Peas and/or Peas and Carrots (great in soups, stir fries, pot pies, etc.)
- Corn (particularly in the winter)
- Steam-in bag unseasoned, unsauced vegetables (very easy side dish)
Dry Pantry Items
- Oatmeal (steel-cut or old fashioned)
- Coffee beans
- White rice (I like Basmati or Jasmine)
- Brown rice
- Pasta (medium shells, spaghetti, penne, etc.)
Sauces, Condiments, Oils, Etc.
- Ketchup (I keep mine in the refrigerator)
- Soy sauce
- Worschishire sauce
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Vegetable oil (I use canola oil)
- Balsamic vinegar
- Apple cider vinegar
- Red wine vinegar
Canned and Bottled Goods
- Crushed tomatoes
- Diced tomatoes
- Whole tomatoes
- Small white (cannelini) beans
- Small red beans
- Black beans
- Roasted red peppers
- Tomato paste (I actually prefer it in a tube that you store in your refrigerator)
These items have a relatively long shelf life and can be found year-round. I buy all others fresh as I need them.
- Garlic (I buy mine peeled and store the whole cloves in the fridge)
This is what I use for cooking or eating 99% of the time. You'll never catch me with some margarine.
- 1% milk
- half and half (for coffee, mostly)
- Sliced American cheese (from the deli section, not off the shelf)
- Sharp cheddar cheese (I purchase it in blocks and grate it myself)
- Parmesan cheese
Herbs and Spices
I keep a lot more than this in my pantry, but this will get you started.
- Kosher salt (Diamond brand - not as salty as iodized salt, nice thick crystals)
- Freshly cracked black pepper
- Garlic powder
- Pure vanilla extract (not really a spice)
A while ago a did a few listings of essential herbs and spices:
Gardening and Essential Fresh Herbs
Essential Herbs and Spices
I'm linking back to those old posts because I remember my frustration of buying a random spice for one recipe and not knowing when or if I'd ever use it again (hello $5 bottle of tarragon).
Okay, that was quite a list. You may not like, want, or need all of these items. I do promise you, however, if you find out what your basics are and they find their way into your pantry, you'll be more likely to eat meals you enjoy without running to the grocery store. I absolutely love food shopping, but I'm pressed for time (and money), so I have to be careful and where and when I shop. I've heard some bloggers say that they only grocery shop once a month. I can't live like that. I shop once a week and I enjoy every minute of my well-organized shopping trip.