Last year, everything in our kitchen started falling apart; the counters were bowing, the faucet burst off the sink, I had to bang the burners on the stove with the heel of my hand to get them to light, and the refrigerator was showing its age.  Andrew and I decided it was time to have our old kitchen remodeled this summer.

Before construction began when we were packing up all the food from the pantry and cabinets, I was amazed by how many condiments, oils, cans and packages we had accrued over the 16 years we’ve been in this house. I pride myself on using up ingredients before buying new ones and trying to use what we have on hand first, but clearly things had gotten out of control. Did I really need 3 different types of soy sauce and 12 different varieties of oil?

Now that the kitchen is almost finished and we are organizing our new and improved kitchen and unloading the boxes, I’m giving some thought to what ingredients we really need to have filling our limited space. Which ones do we use all the time, and which are just taking up room? I wondered what I would buy if I were starting from scratch.

Below is my list of the pantry staples we really need to put together most family-friendly meals and snacks. Your list probably looks a little different than mine, so I’d love you to leave a comment below telling me what items you must have in your pantry to feel capable of putting together your meals. (For this list, I have stuck to the non-refrigerated and frozen items to keep it from looking overwhelming.  If you want me to, I’ll tackle that list in an upcoming week.)

Pantry Staples for Family Dinners:
•    olive oil, vegetable or canola oil, nonstick cooking spray
•    red wine vinegar, rice vinegar, balsamic vinegar
•    Dijon and yellow mustard
•    ketchup and barbeque sauce
•    reduced-fat mayonnaise
•    reduced-sodium soy sauce
•    wines: rice wine, white cooking wine, red cooking wine, dry sherry
•    Worcestershire sauce
•    pitted black and green olives, capers
•    bread crumbs, panko, cornmeal, flour
•    white and brown sugar, honey, pure maple syrup or agave nectar
•    peanut butter or other nut butters
•    white or brown rice, quinoa, couscous or your favorite grains
•    pasta (regular or whole grain), variety of shapes
•    whole wheat tortillas
•    whole grain bread
•    reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
•    red pasta sauce
•    canned tomatoes
•    canned beans such as black, kidney, cannellini, pinto beans and/or chickpeas
•    salsa
•    tuna
•    nuts:  pine nuts, slivered almonds, walnuts, pecans (keep in freezer)
•    onions, potatoes and garlic
•    DARK CHOCOLATE! (Can’t live without it…)

•    salt
•    black pepper
•    basil
•    chili powder
•    cinnamon
•    cumin
•    curry powder
•    dry mustard powder
•    garlic powder
•    oregano
•    rosemary
•    thyme

Once you’re all stocked up, you can easily add some fresh ingredients to make a colorful and healthy meal like this one for your family.

Recipe: Warm Garden Wraps with Corn and Sweet Potatoes

  • Prep Time: 30 min(s)
  • Servings: 8

A colorful and healthy meal


  • 2 Tbsp. butter or extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium sweet potato, diced into 1/4-inch pieces (about 2 cups total)
  • 1 small yellow onion (preferably a sweet Vidalia onion), diced into 1/4-inch pieces (about 1 cup total)
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced into 1/4-inch pieces (about 1 cup total)
  • 4 ears fresh corn, kernels cut off (1 1/2 – 2 cups total) or 15 oz. unsweetened corn kernels
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. chili powder
  • 1/2 cup reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable broth, or use water (optional)
  • 15 oz. canned black or pinto beans, partially drained
  • 1/4 tsp. salt (optional)
  • 8 spinach wraps or whole wheat tortillas
  • 1 cup salsa, for serving (optional)
  • 1 cup nonfat or low fat sour cream for serving (optional)


  1. In a large heavy skillet, melt the butter or heat the oil over medium heat. Add the sweet potatoes and onions and brown them, stirring occasionally, for 8-10 minutes. Add the bell peppers, corn, cumin and chili powder and continue to cook it for about 5 minutes. If the mixture starts to dry out or stick to the pot, add the broth or water. Add the beans and salt (optional) and cook, stirring gently, until it is heated through. (At this point you can refrigerate the filling for up to 24 hours or serve it immediately.)
  2. Put a scoop of the vegetable mixture onto the center of a wrap, and top it with salsa and/or sour cream, if desired. Fold one side of the wrap up about an inch to catch drips, and then roll it up burrito style.
  3. Slow Cooker Directions: Add the butter, sweet potatoes, onions, bell peppers, corn, beans, 1/4 cup broth and spices to the slow cooker and cook on low 6 -10 hours or on high 4-5 hours, until the vegetables are tender. Use a slotted spoon to scoop into the center of the wraps and serve as directed.

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4 Responses to “Pantry Essentials and Garden Wrap Recipe”

  1. Renee

    Your list looks like it matches what is in our pantry. And thank you for including dark chocolate – there must always be some of that around!!!

    Enjoy your new kitchen!

  2. amy

    I compared yours to mine and one item stood out as missing … canned mushrooms. Love your list, only thing I do not have is dry mustard. CONGRATS on your new kitchen, I had new counter-tops installed and what a difference! One thing at a time for me. ENJOY!!!!!