Why not just ask us to name your first-born child? There are an awful lot of variables in your question, and we don’t know you that well.

But whether you’re a vegetarian, Muslim, busy mom, or newlywed, the goal is to have enough of the right ingredients on hand so that you can feed yourself (well) without running out to the store (or the fast-food joint) each time your stomach growls. As Rosemary Brown says, "A well-stocked pantry is one of the best keys I know to being able to prepare good meals in a hurry. Having plenty of ingredients tucked away in your refrigerator, freezer, and pantry will add hours to your week."

With that in mind, we looked through our own cupboards and turned to two books that offer advice on stocking a kitchen - The Kitchen Survival Guide, by Laura Brody, and Rosemary Brown’s Big Kitchen Instruction Book. Brody’s book is for beginners, and includes 130 "hand-holding" recipes. Brown’s book is more comprehensive, in both its general information and the number and caliber of the recipes.

Some of these choices you can certainly live without; others you’ll have on hand at certain times and not at others. And many cooks will notice items missing from this list that they consider essential to life. All in all, we’d rather pick a name for your child. But the cumulative suggestions are as follows:

Baking & Spices

baking soda baking powder cornstarch yeast flour salt pepper peppercorns sugar confectioner’s sugar brown sugar light corn syrup vanilla extract ground cinnamon nutmeg ground cloves powdered ginger basil oregano chili powder dry mustard paprika thyme tarragon dill bay leaves poultry seasoning beef, chicken & vegetable bouillon cubes cream of tartar unseasoned bread crumbs Bisquick or pancake mix powdered milk unsweetened cocoa powder unsweetened baking chocolate chocolate chips

General & Condiments

rice pasta dried onion soup mix tomato paste tomato sauce canned tomatoes peanut butter jelly canned tuna raisins chocolate syrup cereals chicken or beef stock canned soups canned beans olives canned pears canned peaches applesauce vegetable oil olive oil red wine vinegar white wine vinegar vegetable shortening nonstick cooking spray mayonnaise ketchup mustard salad dressings soy sauce hot pepper sauce Worcestershire sauce barbecue sauce salsa honey maple syrup white wine red wine


milk eggs butter cheese yogurt cottage cheese cream cheese sour cream meats/fish deli meats bacon juices carrots celery lemon mushroom lettuce peppers


orange juice concentrate corn green beans spinach peas mixed vegetables ground beef chicken breasts shrimp dinner rolls or bread ice cream pie crust nuts


oranges apples bananas tomatoes potatoes garlic onions bread