As the days grow shorter and the temperatures drop, we’re exchanging our garden hoes for aprons—and looking forward to lots of kitchen time in the months ahead. Nothing’s more comforting on a chilly day than a hearty stew simmering away on the stove or the aroma of cinnamon wafting from the oven.
But, as every home cook knows, having what you need on hand makes meal planning that much more enjoyable—and simpler! Before the rush of the holidays, now’s the time to stock your pantry so you have the right combination of ingredients at the ready when inspiration strikes.
Pantry items should be: versatile—they can be used in a variety of dishes, made with high-quality ingredients, unique in some way, and really, really tasty.
During Farmers’ Pantry we’ll donate 10% of all selected items (keep an eye for the Farmers’ Pantry circle on certain products on the shelf) to our local shelters—the Upper Valley Haven in White River Junction for Farmers’ Pantry purchases at our Woodstock store and the Good Samaritan Haven in Barre for Farmers’ Pantry purchases at our Waterbury location.
Here are some of our go-to pantry staples:
Every pantry needs a really good balsamic vinegar for drizzling over salads and using in glazes and marinades. We love everything by Ritrovo (their fruit balsamics are DELICIOUS), but we consider their aged balsamic a pantry staple. If you prefer a thicker, more syrupy balsamic, try the organic version!
Need a quick protein boost? Grab a tablespoon of nut butter! Great in oatmeal, smoothies, desserts, or simply smeared on an apple or banana, you can’t go wrong.
This is a morning staple for many of us at the Market. It’s delicious sprinkled on yogurt or oatmeal or topped with fruit as its own breakfast entree. We love varieties with nuts and seeds for that added texture and protein punch!
A raw, unfiltered cider vinegar can be enjoyed as a health tonic on its own, as a finishing vinegar, or can be added to dressings and dishes. It’s more flavorful than ordinary cider vinegar and jam-packed with health-promoting properties.
A taste of summer in the middle of winter! Pesto is great in salad dressings, as a sandwich spread, in pasta dishes, and as a sauce or garnish.
Dried soup mixes
Dried soup mixes are the foundation of a complete meal. Add a few fresh ingredients, and presto, dinner is served! We look for mixes with all natural ingredients, no added salt or preservatives.
We go through a LOT of olive oil around here. So this is a pantry no brainer. We’re particularly fond of The Olive Table’s fresh-pressed, single-source extra virgin olive oil. Even if we didn’t have a personal relationship with the owners, who live in Woodstock and import their products from their family grove, we’d still stock our pantries with their olive oils, because they’re absolutely delicious.
White truffle oil
Also known as the connoisseur’s oil, white truffle oil elevates any dish. It’s delicious drizzled over pasta, risotto, mashed potatoes, eggs, and even popcorn!
Fish sauce, a staple in Southeast Asian cooking, is what gives Asian recipes their umami—meaning “pleasant, savory taste” in Japanese. It’s the perfect pantry item because it stays good for several years and gives a flavor boost to anything from pasta sauces to marinades to soups. Our favorite Asian stir fry recipes include equal parts (about 1 tbsp each) fish sauce, hoisin sauce, and oyster sauce, along with lots of fresh veggies, ginger, and garlic.
Chicken or vegetable broth
Winter cooking includes delicious stews and soups to warm you up after a brisk walk or ski. And a flavorful chicken or vegetable broth is a key ingredient in any of these recipes. When shopping for broths, we look for ones without flavor enhancers, fillers, or additives.
Cornbread is a tasty and hearty accompaniment to your favorite winter comfort foods. But any ol’ cornbread mix won’t do. We recommend a mix made with stone-ground (and organic, if possible) cornmeal for extra texture and that delicious corny flavor. Plus stone-ground has more nutrients than regular cornmeal.
If you don’t have a few jars of marinara in your pantry already, now’s the time to stock up! The holidays are on their way, and there will be nights ahead when you just want a simple, no-fuss meal. Pasta with marinara sauce is our favorite go-to. But it has to be a GOOD marinara sauce. That’s why we love Ooma Tesoro’s marinara sauce, made in small batches without sugar or preservatives. It really is as good as homemade.
Dried or canned beans
A great complement to any meal, from chilis to soups to meat dishes, beans are also terrific on their own as a side or main entree. And they’re packed with fiber and protein! Some of the most versatile beans are: black, cannellini, chick peas, kidney beans, navy beans, and great northern beans.
Every pantry needs a decent stock of pasta. But all pastas are not created equal. We look for egg pastas that are made in Italy with organic wheat durum semolina, which is higher in protein, fiber, and gluten than regular pasta. We love it’s hearty texture and earthy aroma! Perfect for stroganoff and a rich ragu.
Happy pantry stocking!