Your first apartment: Stocking the pantry

A comprehensive list of food staples to shop for when you start out on your own.

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  • You've moved into your first place. Maybe it's your college apartment, you're out on your own and working, or a newlywed. You get things unpacked and put away and go to open the refrigerator or cabinet and realize you need to shop. Your first grocery shopping trip can be a little overwhelming the first time mom isn't there to cook. There are a handful of staple items, things that you will use again and again, to help get you stocked up and ready for your own culinary adventures.

    These are suggestions for the masses and don't consider whether you're vegan, carnivore, gluten intolerant or have other dietary restrictions. You know your own special circumstance and can substitute accordingly. These are just what most folks have in their cupboards to get them started.

  • Flours

    White, self-rising, whole wheat, graham, rye, soy, almond, and the list goes on and on. So many choices can be overwhelming, but my suggestion is a bag of white and a bag of whole wheat. That way you can use one or the other or a blend of the two.

  • Baking soda

    This has a variety of uses besides baking, including cleaning and deodorizing — so stock up.

  • Baking powder

    For biscuits and quick breads.

  • Salt and pepper

    There are choices here as well. Regular, iodized salt or sea salt. Pepper corns with grinder, fine ground or coarse ground. You decide.

  • Oils

    Corn, safflower, sunflower, olive, almond, walnut. Again. TOO many choices, but each one works a little differently. Any sort of all-purpose vegetable oil is a must for general cooking, and olive oil for specialty cooking. They heat differently, so you will have to study up on what to use for what. Also a can of cooking spray.

  • Shortening

    This is used for pie crusts, biscuits, and some cookies. Good to have a little on hand.

  • Bread crumbs

    For coating fish or chicken or sprinkling on top of casseroles.

  • Sugars

    White, brown, and confectioner's (aka powdered).

  • Vinegar

    Apple cider or Balsamic. Used on salads, to activate baking powder or soda when baking or for pickling. Can also be added to milk to make it curdle for recipes calling for buttermilk.

  • Corn starch

    Used as thickener for gravies and sauces.

  • Honey

    An alternative sweetener. I strongly suggest buying local if you have seasonal allergies.

  • Lemon juice

    Lots of recipes call for this tangy ingredient.

  • Spices

    Most commonly used are: cinnamon, basil, curry powder, oregano, chili powder, garlic, nutmeg, paprika, parsley, rosemary, thyme, turmeric, sage, cloves, cayenne and allspice.

  • Yeast

    If you plan on baking bread, rolls or pizza dough.

  • Pasta and rice

    Your preferences for side dishes or soups.

  • Condiments

    Mayonnaise, salad dressings, mustards, catsup, relishes, jellies, jams, soy sauce, salsa and pancake syrup.

  • Grains

    Oats, corn meal, flax seed, wheat germ.

  • Legumes

    Dried beans, split peas and lentils.

  • Peanut butter

    Spread on toast, it's a quick breakfast with a piece of fruit, or for your brown bag lunch.

  • Dried fruit

    Raisins, Craisins, dried apricots and prunes.

  • Nuts

    Peanuts, walnuts, pecans, almonds.

  • Chocolate

    Cocoa powder, chocolate syrup, unsweetened chocolate squares, chocolate chips.

  • Flavorings

    Vanilla, almond extract, peppermint extract, bouillon, dry soup mixes.

  • Quick desserts

    Puddings and gelatin, cake mixes.

  • Canned meats

    Tuna, chicken, corned beef, sardines.

  • Canned soups

    Cream of soups are great for quick casseroles. Ramen is also a quick and handy meal and can be dressed up a lot of ways. Broths, both chicken and beef, for making homemade soups.

  • Crackers

    Saltines, Wheat Thins, Triscuits, cheese crackers.

  • Cereals

    Stock up on your favorite breakfast cereals which double as a bedtime snack.

  • Beverages

    Coffee, tea bags, herbal teas, dried milk, hot cocoa mix.

  • Love

    Love your new place and love your kitchen. You will taste it in the meals you make.

    Many of these can be purchased even before you move out and stored under your bed or in a closet. A case of this and a case of that will cut down on the stress of that first shopping trip.

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Becky Lyn is an author and a 35+ year (most of the time) single mom.


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