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My Top Pantry Ingredients

Updated on May 9, 2011

The Basics

Power go out for a few days and spoil the food in your fridge? Zombie apocalypse outside giving you cabin fever? Well, here's a list of things that I would definitely consider storing in my pantry in the lack of fresh/perishable foodstuffs. This is assuming that the power comes back on somewhat promptly, or the zombies decide your neighbour's house is more interesting, of course.

It also assumes that, in the more likely first case, the power came back on again.  As well, no spices are included here, as the list would simply go on and on and on and on and on...

Note: This is not intended to be a definitive list, as different people will have different tastes. I welcome any suggestions/comments/opinions with open arms.



Butter is one of those things that you can store without refrigeration for a longer time in its opened state than you'd expect. True, it will not last forever. However, it will most definitely survive the average suburban power outage, and will continue to be useful throughout its un-chilled tenure for use by itself or cooked in some form or other.


Few hardy bugs would dare go near a pot of vinegar, and those that did would find little-to-nothing of nutritional value. In addition to this, vinegar (especially straight white) is one of he most powerful flavouring agents you can ask for to give something a satisfying "kick".

Peanut butter

Not the nutritional paradigm it was once thought to be, but still a handy and portable source of energy.  Plus, it has the property (unlike some other things on this list) as a prepared food of being viable for long after it is opened.


The mother of bread and pasta.  Among other things.  Many other things.



Very nutritious and, when kept in the dark, quite hardy.  Keep for several days outside of the fridge, and also supply many vitamins and minerals (e.g. beta-carotene).


Also require dark storage, but nonetheless are quite shelf-safe as vegetables go.  Provide plenty of flavour when needed, and can be used in a wide variety of dishes.



Extremely shelf-stable when stored in the dark.  Being a tuber as opposed to a traditional vegetable, potatoes are actually waiting to grow in their stored state, and thus tend not to spoil.  If kept in the light, they will develop green spots which should be avoided at all costs.

Canned tomatoes/tomato sauce

Here we have a highly nutritious and useful stored food with an unopened shelf longer than that of the sphinx.  Bad news: tend to go south quickly when opened.

Canned tuna or salmon

An incredible source of lean, readily accessible protein.  Long shelf life, and canned in such a way that 1 can at a time can be eaten without having to contend with storage (hint: it wouldn't work).


Canned beans

Another case of eat-it-while-it's-not-rancid.  Beans, despite their gassy reputation, are quite nutritious and, as with my other canned goods, would keep nigh-indefinitely as long as the can is left sealed.

Skim milk powder

Huh?  What's this doing here?  Bear with me:  Milk would no doubt go bad in a power outage.  What can you do, right?  Well, when reconstituted with water it is a ringer for the original and, as a bonus, has a far-longer shelf life.



Why not sugar instead?  As a primary sweetener, honey contains far more useful nutrients than raw sugar, and still keeps forever.  Also: peanut butter and sugar does not taste as good as peanut butter and honey.


Brown rice

Why brown, specifically?  It contains token increases in nutrients like iron, and it can still be used for darn-near anything.


Generally useful, with a long shelf life and can be used in places where a liquid fat is required as opposed to butter.


Keeps forever and can be used with just about anything, even the peanut butter.  More likely the tomato sauce, though...

Boxed cereal

Oh, sure, you could make some out of the flour, honey and butter. But why?  And you need something to eat with the skim milk powder.


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