A well-stocked pantry is a home cook’s paint palette: the foundation for thrifty, resourceful, creative, delicious cooking; the components with which most meals (meals that many of us now cook at home thrice daily) are made. Most pantries include some proteins, some reliable starches, some canned veg, and some flavor-boosters, but “well-stocked” really just means filled with a few meals’ worth of a variety of the things you like to eat. As long as they’re long-lasting, lovable staples you lean on day in and day out, it makes sense—both economically and practically—to buy in bulk.
Many stores, including Sam’s Club, offer a Curbside Pickup service that’s both safe and efficient: Order online ahead of time, pick it up at your convenience, and skip the heavy lifting buying in bulk often entails. (Wins all around!) Here are some ideas for rounding out your bulk-ingredient pantry:
Canned and/or dried beans
Pasta e fagioli, refried beans, homemade hummus, black bean salad, chili (as long as you’re outside Texas), red beans and rice, even black bean brownies—you’ll always find something to do with beans, and some (*raises hand*) might say you can never have enough. A flat of cans of your favorite varieties, or a few bags of dried beans, is a worthy investment.
Peanut (and other nut) butters
Keep a jar of peanut butter on hand and you’ve got spicy peanut noodles, sweet-salty peanut butter cookies, and ever-faithful PB&Js within easy reach. (These Scotcheroos, too!) PB has a long shelf life, so stock up freely and swipe over toast, spoon into oatmeal, or spread onto apple slices liberally.
Pasta, rice, and grains
A pack of pasta in the pantry is an insurance policy against frantic weeknight dinners and lunch hours that sneak up on you. Same for a sack of rice (or quinoa, or barley, or whatever quick-cooking grain has your heart). Buy a variety pack—or just a range of types (brown and white rices, for example) and shapes (linguine! shells! bowties!)—and you’ll be prepared for quick grain bowls and gooey pasta bakes alike. And don’t forget about bulk rolled oats, for oatmeal, homemade granola, baking, or even savory recipes.
Shelf-stable nondairy milks and broths
Cartons of shelf-stable milks—either dairy or nondairy—and broth are incredibly handy when you’re minimizing trips to the store. The cartons give daily staples longevity outside the refrigerator (and stack neatly in the pantry to boot). Use the milk in your morning coffee, baking adventures, and breakfast cereal; and the broth for soups and stews (or in place of water for flavorful rice).
Canned and jarred fruits
Canned and jarred fruits—especially purées, like applesauce, sweet potato, and pumpkin—are pantry powerhouses. A spoonful of any of those will give your oatmeal, yogurt, or smoothie a subtle fruity boost, or make baked goods like cakes and muffins tender and moist. Applesauce makes for a speedy sweet snack, and canned pumpkin or sweet potato can be made into creamy soup or pasta sauce. (Hey, you can even put a dollop in your pup’s food!)
Butter, in bulk?! Yes indeed! When you spot a good deal on butter, buy it up, tuck a few sticks in the fridge, and freeze the rest. In the freezer, butter will last up to 4 months, and you can be sure you’ll never be out when the baking urge strikes (or when your pan sauce just needs a little oomph). Unsalted butter is the most versatile (because it gives you total control over the amount of salt in whatever you’re making), so we’d recommend stocking up on that.