Mary Hunt

No one knows how long these difficult times brought on by a wicked virus will last. It could drag on for a while; it may be over relatively quickly. Life is uncertain. Regardless, every home needs a stockpile of nonperishable, shelf-stable food. It’s part of any sensible emergency preparedness plan. You need to stock up now. Today.

Here’s a list of the essential pantry items that need to be stocked in your cupboards and pantry. You may have some of these items already. It’s time to check and take stock.

BEANS AND LEGUMES. Beans and legumes — whether they’re dry or canned — are a good source of protein. There are lots to choose from, but I suggest you have cans of white beans, lentils, black beans and kidney beans in your stockpile, and a few bags of dry beans, too.

WHOLE GRAINS. Grains are another inexpensive way to build your stock of nonperishable food items — oatmeal and/or steel-cut oats, quinoa, farro and rice.

CANNED GOODS. You will want to devote a good amount of your available space to canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, tuna (white albacore), green beans, corn, pasta sauce, coconut milk, chicken stock and evaporated milk.

PASTA. You’ll be turning out wonderful pasta dishes with a good variety of pastas to pull from. Choose the ones your family enjoys most. Some classic options are spaghetti, penne, macaroni and couscous.

BAKING. The lineup of baking items should minimally include all-purpose flour, white sugar, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder, yeast and dry milk.

CONDIMENTS AND SAUCES. This important category is what turns ho-hum fare into fabulous home-cooked meals! The essential pantry includes mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, soy sauce, fish sauce, hoisin sauce, hot sauce, honey, peanut butter and bouillon.

SEASONINGS. Your kitchen and/or pantry should have a good lineup of essential seasonings and spices including but not limited to salt, pepper, garlic, cumin, Italian seasoning, crushed red pepper, onion powder and garlic powder.

OIL AND VINEGAR. Many sauces and dressings require oil and vinegar, and these are the ones you will use most often: olive oil, sesame oil, white vinegar and apple cider vinegar.

There you go — a quick guide so you can move quickly to stock your cabinets and cupboards with food items you’ll use now and in the future. As you use up items from your stocked pantry, make plans to replace them.

My point in all of this is to help you be prepared with a well-stocked pantry but at the same time make sure you don’t end up with a bunch of food that will spoil quickly or go unused.

Once you have a well-stocked pantry, you may be wondering what to do with it. Use it! Cook your meals from home. Of course, you will need to supplement with meat, poultry, dairy and fresh produce. But in your pantry, you will have the foundation for just about any meal.

I have collected a number of resources for using your essential pantry items — wonderful recipes, a free cookbook and lots more — at

Mary Hunt writes this column for Creators Syndicate. She is the founder of, a lifestyle blog, and the author of “Debt-Proof Living. Submit comments or tips or address questions on her website. She will answer questions of general interest via this column, but letters cannot be answered individually.

Load comments