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Guide To Stocking A Pantry For Healthy Cooking

Updated on June 19, 2013

Healthy Cooking

What’s the point of the well stocked pantry? The whole point of having a well stocked pantry is that you can have items on hand to make wonderfully delicious yet more nutritious meals at the drop of a hat.

Everything we do in life revolves around supplies. Cooking is really no different. I believe healthy cooking is an art form or expression of creativity. In order to do it well, you need the right tools. The well stocked pantry enables you to do that.

It helps you plan meals more easily and saves time (and gas) with those extra trips to get ingredients for dishes you want to prepare.


Having a well stocked pantry can also help you eat a more balanced diet and encourage you to stay away from fast foods, takeout, junk foods and useless calories.

Using the items in your healthy cooking pantry can also help satisfy cravings for foods you want but know you “shouldn’t” have. By making them in a healthier way, you can have them in moderation and add them periodically to your diet.

One important thing to consider is that while you are striving to create your healthy cooking pantry, make sure you read the labels.

I personally try to use as much low sodium or organic product as I possibly can without going turbo over it. I find Trader Joe’s has a lot of organic products and I love their products. However, I have to say at times, I grow a little frustrated with the fact that their products have so much sodium.

Let's take a look at what you might find in a well stocked pantry for healthy cooking.



  • Balsamic – use in salad dressings or to make a reduction
  • Red Wine – use in salad dressings or as suggested in recipes
  • White Wine – use in salad dressings or as suggested in recipes
  • Rice – sprinkle on veggies like steamed cauliflower or broccoli for unique taste
  • Apple Cider- (organic) use in dressings or use as digestive aid


  • Extra virgin olive oil – use for cooking and salad dressings
  • Canola oil – use for cooking and baking
  • Oils like walnut oil or coconut oil – use for greasing muffin pans or stir fry
  • Spray olive oil or canola oil – use instead of frying
  • Butter – unsalted preferably though sometimes salted is needed for recipes
  • All vegetable shortening (small quantity) – use for piecrusts if required

Flavorings and Condiments

  • Low-sodium soy sauce – use to brush on fish or use in stir frys or marinades
  • Hoisin sauce, fish sauce, mirin, oyster sauce or curry paste – use in Asian or Indian dishes, stir fry
  • Kalamata olives, black olives or green olives – use in Mediterranean dishes or as an appetizer
  • Dijon mustard – use on sandwiches, in recipes
  • Mustard – use on sandwiches or in recipes as called for
  • Capers – use in dishes such as chicken picatta or other recipes
  • Ketchup – use on sandwiches or in recipes as called for
  • BBQ sauce – use for the grill or use in recipes as called for
  • Worcestershire sauce – use a few drops in stews or marinades
  • Pure maple syrup – use for breakfasts but also use for flavoring or marinades
  • Pickles – sweet and dill - use on sandwiches or in salads
  • Horseradish - use for sandwiches or in recipes
  • Nonfat or low fat mayonnaise (substitute Greek yogurt for part)

Spices and Herbs - remember the ratio – usually 3:1 fresh versus dried - so 1 teaspoon dried but 3 teaspoons fresh.

  • Garlic – fresh and/or dried though fresh has more flavor – can substitute jarred

  • Onions – fresh or dried

  • Green onions – fresh if you can

  • Kosher salt – it has less sodium in it than regular salt

  • Black pepper – peppercorns if you like

  • White pepper – optional but neat to have for white sauces – or peppercorns

  • Fresh ginger – use grated in stir fry or other dishes – a little piece goes a ways

  • Anchovy paste if you like it for recipes like Caesar salad or pastas

Spices for Healthy Cooking

Bay Leaves
Italian Seasoning Blend
No Salt Seasoning Blend
Various meat/fish rubs
Chili Powder
Dry Mustard
Red Pepper Flakes
Cayenne Pepper
Curry Powder
Lemon Zest
Orange Zest
Lime Zest

Watch the video I created on Youtube showing the different items in a well stocked pantry. These are just ideas that work for me in my effort to make almost everything from scratch and still enjoy food. Remember that healthy cooking doesn't have to be boring!


  • Granulated sugar or raw sugar
  • Powdered sugar
  • Brown sugar - use in recipes or in marinades
  • Honey - great in marinades
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder, natural or Dutch processed
  • Unsweetened chocolate - use as a dusting or in recipes
  • Semisweet chocolate (chips or otherwise)
  • Graham crackers or graham cracker crumbs
  • Gelatin
  • Evaporated milk – low fat or nonfat
  • Sweetened condensed milk - low fat
  • Powdered milk – use for making breads
  • Yeast – slow rising and/or quick rising
  • Whole wheat flour
  • Whole wheat pastry flour
  • Unbleached all purpose flour
  • Cake flour
  • Oat flour (this is actually ground rolled oats)
  • Assorted bread flours if you bake breads
  • Oat Bran
  • Wheat Bran
  • Flax seeds
  • Wheat berries and other types of baking additives if you make bread
  • Rolled oats and/or quick cooking oats
  • Steel cut oats - great for cereal but also used in baking
  • Stone ground cornmeal
  • Panko bread crumbs
  • Dried breadcrumbs (make your own from leftover breads)
  • Baking Soda - always test for freshness
  • Baking Powder - always test for freshness
  • Cornstarch
  • Molasses
  • Real vanilla and/or vanilla beans
  • Almond extract
  • Extracts or oils based on what you cook – for instance hard candy requires oils like cinnamon oil

Great Nuts to Have on Hand

Pine Nuts
Dry Roasted Unsalted Peanuts
*Slivered Almonds
*Crushed Hazelnuts
* Make your own and save money

Staple Dried Fruits

Dried Apples
Dried Pears
Dried Apricots
Dried Cranberries or Craisins
Shredded unsweetened coconut
Dried Blueberries
Dried Cherries

Seed Ideas

Sesame Seeds
Poppy Seeds
Pumpkin Seeds
Unsalted Raw Sunflower Seeds
Almond Butter
Natural Peanut Butter


  • Canned tomatoes – low sodium or unsalted
  • Tomato paste – low sodium or unsalted
  • Tomato sauce – low sodium or unsalted
  • Sundried tomatoes - dry pack
  • Reduced sodium chicken broth, beef broth or vegetable broth
  • Clam juice
  • Clams
  • Lite coconut milk – use for curries or soups
  • Canned beans – cannellini, great northern, garbanzo, black beans, kidney beans
  • Canned tuna - low sodium
  • Canned salmon - low sodium
  • Canned fruit – in fruit juice - no syrup
  • Canned vegetables – unsalted
  • Salsa - low sodium - or buy fresh or make your own


  • Assorted brown rice or wheat pastas and noodles
  • Brown rice and/or instant brown rice
  • Wild rice or wild rice blend
  • Pearl barley and/or quick cooking barley
  • Quinoa
  • Bulgur
  • Dried beans like cranberry, kidney, pinto, garbanzo, great northern
  • Lentils – red, yellow and green
  • Split peas


Though not technically the "pantry" for healthy cooking it is necessary to stock your fridge and freezer with some must have items as well. Here's my short list:

  • Nonfat milk or soymilk – or almond milk
  • Nonfat plain yogurt or Greek yogurt
  • Nonfat sour cream
  • Low fat whipping cream
  • Neufachtel cheese
  • Parmesan cheese or Romano cheese – brick to grate
  • Other brick cheeses as desired
  • Cheddar cheese or jack cheese - low fat/low sodium
  • Swiss or Havarti cheese - low fat/low sodium
  • Cage free large eggs
  • Egg substitute or egg whites
  • Orange juice or other fruit juice - fresh, not from concentrate
  • Dry white wine or nonalcoholic wine for cooking
  • Water packed tofu
  • Butter – unsalted and salted
  • Low fat buttermilk or powdered buttermilk
  • Lettuces
  • Green onions
  • Celery
  • Carrots
  • Vegetables
  • Fruits


Fruit Juices
Fruit Bars
Frozen Berries
Shredded Potatoes
Freezer Jam
Spaghetti Sauce*
Or other make ahead meals and freeze well labeled


Does it sound like a lot of stuff to have in a pantry? I suppose on some levels it does. However, if you think about how many meals you can make from all these items over the course of 6 months or a year, it's amazing how much money you would save. Add to that the bonus of eating healthier, more additive-free meals and you have a winning situation.

Remember that as often as you can, opt for fresh. Buy fruits and veggies when they're in season and can, freeze or dry them yourself using for instance a food dehydrator. The same goes with herbs. I usually grow at least 6 different kinds of herbs and then freeze them for the winter months when fresh isn't available.

Most of all, stock your pantry for healthy cooking with the idea in mind that you will use it often and that you'll enjoy your culinary works of art. Like any other project, without the right tools readily at hand, it's harder to create something. Stocking your pantry with healthy food items allows you the freedom to create great things every day.

For some ideas on using some of the items in your pantry, fridge and freezer, check out some of my ideas on healthy cooking.


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    • akirchner profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Kirchner 

      5 years ago from Washington

      Thanks for stopping by Thelma and I've had a lot of years to practice stocking it I suppose~

    • Thelma Alberts profile image

      Thelma Alberts 

      5 years ago from Germany and Philippines

      This is a very organized list . I like it the way you organized your pantry. Thanks for the idea. Although I´m cooking everyday, my pantry is not well stocked compared to yours. Voted this up and shared.

    • akirchner profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Kirchner 

      6 years ago from Washington

      Hi Ethereal - thanks for stopping by - Amazon or Ebay are my go-to places. In fact, I think I have a hub or two on here about dehydrating and 1 of the listings is from Amazon where I purchased mine. I've used it exhaustively for several years and it is still purring along. It was a great buy too - I think it cost me $45 or $50 and it was free shipping.

    • Etherealenigma profile image

      Sandra M. Urquhart 

      6 years ago from Florida

      That is an extensive list. I'm going to have to look into getting more of these items. I also need to check into getting a dehydrator. Any idea where one can purchase one at a good price?

    • akirchner profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Kirchner 

      6 years ago from Washington

      Thanks, Om~ I knew we had many things in common~~~

    • Om Paramapoonya profile image

      Om Paramapoonya 

      6 years ago

      I have most of these things on your lists. So I guess I have been cooking and eating right! YAY =D

    • kissayer profile image

      Kristy Sayer 

      6 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      This is a great hub for people starting a healthy diet and not knowing where to start! Well done!

    • akirchner profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Kirchner 

      6 years ago from Washington

      Thanks, Maddy~

    • Maddie Ruud profile image

      Maddie Ruud 

      6 years ago from Oakland, CA

      I hope lots of people will take this list with them on their next stock-up trip! You've really covered all the bases here. Nice work!

    • akirchner profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Kirchner 

      6 years ago from Washington

      Exactly, Virginia - that's why I try so hard to make everything I can from scratch. You don't have to use a dehydrator to dry your herbs though - I have air dried and oven dried them too - I love having leftovers from my summer madness~~ Thanks for stopping by!

    • VirginiaLynne profile image

      Virginia Kearney 

      6 years ago from United States

      Good ideas about using a food dehydrator to dry down herbs for later. I have lots of herbs in my garden but I'm rather lazy about harvesting them regularly. I also mostly cook at home and I think that eating out really takes a lot more money/time/toll on our health than most people realize.

    • akirchner profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Kirchner 

      6 years ago from Washington

      Hi Helen - oh heavens - call me Audrey~~ Thanks for the kind comments and had fun with the video and taping my satellite pantries! Or the extensions....good grief. I do have enough things in my house to cook for an army and only a regiment shows up. I take cooking very seriously though so it's a good thing I have so much stuff I guess...I'm always ready!

      As to the coconut oil, now that is a bit of a pros and cons thing. I've started using it even though I know a lot of people yell about all the bad cholesterol in it. However, in the tiny amounts that I'm using it, I don't see the 'beef' so to speak. I put just a dab in things to give it a bit of a different flavor - like stirfry - probably not even 1/2 teaspoon so I don't think it's going to kill me!

      As to the dogs, I read about that being good for allergies, immune systems, and skin. Griffin at this time of year has a terrible time with all his shedding, etc. and he tends to have a very sensitive stomach. We also noted that fish oil (which we've always given the mals) was making them all fart - I don't mean pass a little bit of gas - I mean out and out farting nonstop! (Am I allowed to say fart on here? Ooops if not) - so when I read about coconut oil, I also read that it was easier to digest. So we give them about a heaping tablespoon mixed in with their food morning and night (they each weigh 80-95 pounds). The coconut oil is actually not an "oil" as it comes in a jar (we buy organic and special pressed, can't think of the name now) - and it looks like shortening to be honest in their bowl. They just gobble it up - they love it - and no more gas!

      I also use it to rub on dry spots - for the dogs and for me as well as it is insanely dry here - you can even use it as a conditioner on your hair. I don't EAT a lot of it myself but I do like it.

      Thanks again for stopping by - and let me know if you confirm what I've read about the dogs and the oil. There is still a huge debate about it from sources like Mayo Clinic - for humans - so I imagine it extends to canines as well - but then if you're not feeding them (or us) buckets of it....I think moderation is the key - as in MOST things~

    • Seeker7 profile image

      Helen Murphy Howell 

      6 years ago from Fife, Scotland

      Hi Audrey (hope you don't mind me using your first name? I noti ced it on your photograph and on your video)

      I loved this hub and what great timing as well for me. I'm in the process of making my foods much more natural and trying to get away from processed junk. I agree with you about the sodium, I was shocked at how much salt is put into some food! But this hub has pointed out a lot of ingredients I didn't know about but would love to have as part of my stock cupboard. The video you did was great - very professional and a huge help in identifying the essentials for healthy eating.

      I was interested that you mentioned about coconut oil and that you give it to your dogs. Do you add this to their main meals? I have heard it is very good for folks and pets but I wasn't sure how to add this into the diet?

      A wonderful and very informative hub!

    • akirchner profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Kirchner 

      6 years ago from Washington

      BJ- As usual, you make me smile....did you happen to notice that I do not have 1 pantry - no built in which I would surely enjoy....another time, another house perhaps. I have 4 pantry cupboards or as I call them my satellite pantries.

      All I can say is writing about pantries is enormously rewarding - ha ha - but at least I'm not writing about panties...although I did once upon a time and where did that get me?

      Thanks for stopping by my pantry~ Audrey

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 

      6 years ago from south Florida

      There are pantries and there are pantries, Audrey. And then there is YOUR pantry - a perfect model of excellent pantriness. Your video illustrating the multitude of items in your pantry is a model for every cook, nay, every eater to follow.

      Thanks you for taking the time to educate those like me who failed Pantry 101 in school. Now I, too, can possess the positively perfect pantry. Some day I may even learn to cook. :)

    • akirchner profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Kirchner 

      6 years ago from Washington

      Hi Gail~ I am indeed having a fun summer - am busier than ever but that is good.

      Thanks for the kudos and the votes!~ I am still working on this one - have to add a video in just a minute - if it turned out~

      Keep in touch please!


    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 

      6 years ago from South Carolina

      Like the way you organized these items. My pantry is fairly well stocked but there's much here that I never thought of adding.

      Voted up across the board except for funny.

      Sending Hub Hugs and hope you're having a great summer.



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