Into everyone’s life the occasional and unexpected house guest will fall, trust me. Just as surely as you’ve a threshold, an old college friend will be in town for a meeting or your business partner will want to stop by around dinner time to brainstorm a few ideas. While take-out and dining out are ALWAYS options, stocking your pantry with culinary essentials draws you one-step closer to simple, home-cooked meals at Chez You. 

Keep these items on hand and a great meal always rests in your kitchen!

  • Spices and seasonings: salt (iodized table & sea or kosher), pepper (black & red flakes), garlic cloves
  • Oils: extra-virgin olive oil (the best you can afford), truffle oil, real butter (unsalted)
  • Dry goods: flour, sugar, angel hair pasta, brown rice, bread crumbs
  • Canned goods: diced tomatoes, white beans, black beans, a good marinara sauce
  • Poultry-related items: chicken stock, eggs, boneless and skinless chicken breasts
  • Seafood: salmon, shrimp
  • Dairy: parmigiano-reggiano cheese, gruyere cheese, heavy cream
  • Vegetables (and frozen ones are just fine): asparagus, spinach, broccoli
  • Fruit: Berries (those that are not used each week can be thrown into smoothies for yourself) and lemons
  • Bread: French and a good sandwich bread such as a loaf of sourdough
  • Dessert: angel food cups (keep in your freezer) that can be quickly thawed then filled with berries and whipped cream

Can you see the permutations of meal possibilities? *grabs Romper Room-esque mirror* I see shrimp scampi, chicken parmesan and fancy grilled cheese sandwiches. Oh, and there’s poached eggs over asparagus, omelets and creamy tomato soup!  Is that French toast and a fruit salad in your future? Absolutely!

Half of the battle with keeping a kitchen pantry s, well, keeping these items on-hand. You should always feel free to add additional items, especially spices and seasonings or more vegetables to accommodate your preferences. Ultimately, there are no rules!

Now throw a little flour on your forehead, enjoy your company and be prepared for rave reviews!

Shameeka Ayers is an Atlanta-based lifestyle blogger and author who dispenses entertaining, shelter and food and wine anecdotes and advice via her alter ego, The Broke Socialite. She also produces a national tour of curated dessert-tasting experiences, Sugar Coma Events™.  Her first novella, Instantly: How Quickly I Realized I Hate My Job will be published in 2012.