Have you ever wondered what you need in your pantry to start cooking? I mean really cooking on a daily basis? Stop doing take out and start cooking real food, at home while eating healthier and saving money with this Pantry List Checklist for Beginner Cooks.
A Complete List of Pantry, Refrigerator and Freezer Basics
When I started cooking at age 19, I had some big shoes to fill. My Italian immigrant mother was a fabulous home cook (R.I.P.)
I never realized how good her cooking was until I ate elsewhere. Thankfully, I inherited her cooking and baking talents.
It’s not easy in the beginning for anyone to learn how to cook. You have lots of questions. You don’t know which seasonings to use much less how much to use and for what exactly.
For example, you may not know that dried beans need to be soaked for many hours before you can use them and that’s why they’re cheaper than canned.
You’re afraid to ask because you don’t want to sound stupid so you look it up on your phone. Sound familiar?
I get it. I still remember the one time I made tomato sauce and added too much tomato paste and it was so bitter, I had to trash it. Then, there’s that time my S’Mores Pie caught on fire in my oven! That was only a few years ago, by the way. Mishaps will happen even to seasoned cooks. So, don’t be hard on yourself.
COOKING TAKES PRACTICE…like anything else. Plus, I’m here to ask questions at the bottom of blog posts or email me: Joanne@noplatelikehome.com. Look for my Zoom cooking classes too where you can ask questions while we’re cooking together.
Purpose: The purpose of this article is to HELP you decide what you need to start cooking NOW.
It’s that simple and doesn’t need to be complicated. It’s good to know a couple things upfront like “Is cooking at home really cheaper?” and “How do I start cooking at home?” Let’s get to that first.
Is cooking at home really cheaper?
Yes. Absolutely! Cooking (a similar meal) at home is cheaper than eating in a restaurant or ordering take out. When you eat in a restaurant, the chef/line cook, servers, manger, bus boys, dishwashers, etc. need to be paid with YOUR money. Plus, there’s rent to be paid.
Most of the operating expenses need to be covered in the cost of your meal. I say most because you are also paying tips for the servers, bar tender and bus boy.
Take for example, you can make a delicious and high quality spaghetti and meatballs dinner at home for a fraction of the cost of a meatballs and spaghetti dinner at a restaurant! Often times, I prefer to make my own dinners rather than eat out because I get irritated with the quality of the food or the high prices or both.
Disclosure: This post contains Amazon affiliate links which means, if you make a purchase, I’ll receive a small commission but, the price you pay is the same.
How do I start cooking at home?
How to start cooking at home will be different based on your current skill, motivation, amount of time and money you want or can invest. You don’t need a lot of kitchen gadgets or expensive pots and pans. Build upon the things you need over time.
Ask your family for extra kitchen tools they don’t need. If you’re unsure of paying $20 for a kitchen gadget, buy a similar one at the Dollar Store to see how much you use it before making the commitment.
To start cooking at home, you’ll need:
- a comprehensive starter list of pantry staples (see below)
- basic kitchen tools
- meal ideas that go with the pantry staples that you can make with the kitchen tools
- beginner recipes
First, see the pantry list is below. You can get the printable checklist here that also includes the kitchen tools checklist and meal ideas that go with them: FREE PRINTABLE Pantry List & Kitchen Tools Checklists HERE!
Pantry Staples List Checklist for Beginner Cooks
I’ve lived in a Philadelphia suburb (home of the cheesesteak and Liberty Bell) all of my life. Therefore, my kitchen and cooking style is based on my Italian heritage and Northeastern style cooking.
But, you can substitute items based on your area and what’s available. For example, if you live in the south, you may want to substitute other types of oils and fats in place of olive oil.
At the bottom of the list, I’ve also included basic items to have in your refrigerator and freezer just so the list is more inclusive to what you actually need.
Pick and choose what you like from this list of PANTRY STAPLES:
- sugar-white and light brown
- flour- all purpose
- vanilla extract
- rolled oats
- chocolate chips
- baking powder
- baking soda
- black pepper
- garlic powder
- Italian seasoning
- steak seasoning
- corn starch
- chili seasoning
- taco seasoning
- beans- kidney, white, black
- canned tuna
- diced tomatoes
- tomato sauce
- chicken broth
- tomato or alfredo sauce
Oils & Vinegars
- vinegar- white, red, balsamic
- oil spray
- oil- olive, corn, vegetable
- Worcestershire sauce (for meatloaf and steaks)
- soy sauce
- salad dressing
- peanut butter (almond or cashew)
- jam, jelly, preserves
- cereal, granola
- pasta- spaghetti, elbow, egg noodles
- rice- Jasmine, Arborio, instant rice, brown
- Italian bread crumbs, Panko
- sliced bread
- taco kit or shells
- tea bags
- chicken and/or beef bouillon cubes
- sour cream
- cheese- sliced and shredded
- cream cheese
- grated parmesan cheese
- coffee creamer
- shrimp, fish
- meat- chicken, beef, pork
- ice cream
- ice cubes
Here’s what vegetables I keep in my freezer:
- bags of broccoli
- bags of green beans (I don’t like canned because they’re mushy)
- one bag of chopped onions
- a bag of peas and carrots
- a bag of spinach
I like to keep a bag of frozen chopped onions in my freezer so I can quickly add them to recipes when I don’t have time to chop fresh onions.
I have a second refrigerator in my basement which is a HUGE convenience to our family. It’s my husband’s beer fridge and we use it to store extra eggs and milk too. We go through a LOT of milk with our little boys. I pack the freezer with meat, frozen waffles, ice cream and homemade tomato sauce.
Don’t forget the rule of law for your refrigerator!
Don’t pack your refrigerator, but DO pack your freezer! Why?
Your refrigerator needs circulate air. If the air can’t flow through your refrigerator, fragile items like lettuce could get frosty. Unfortunately, this has happened to me a few times. Conversely, your freezer works better when it’s packed so there’s little air flow.
I realize this can be hard to do when you’re hosting a party or when you need to stock your freezer and you’re low on cash but, you can fill your freezer with freezer packs to keep it full. Just keep this in mind.
Now that you have a complete list of pantry staples, it’s time to go over what kitchen tools you need so you can get started a.s.a.p.! Then you’ll be on your way to meal planning!
You can get the FREE PRINTABLE Pantry List Checklist HERE!!
P.S. If I had to choose just two seasonings to cook with other than salt and pepper, it would be EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) and garlic powder. Both of them add good flavor to not only American and Italian dishes but, also to Asian and Mexican cuisines. They’re needed staples for everyday American cooking, as far as I’m concerned. Now get cookin!