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Dependable pantry & freezer essentials for last minute meals

Updated: Apr 27, 2021

From "The Infinite Feast: How to Host the Ones You Love—Recipes from the Big Easy . . . and Beyond" by Brian Theis, 2020 Click here for more on my new cookbook!

The lists below are part of the opening section of my book. They're a combination of pantry essentials, reliable dry goods, and freezer basics. Great for throwing together those last minute meals. Also be prepared if there's unexpected bad weather or circumstances where you're locked down for an extended period of time.

Some basics to keep on hand in your pantry:


Fine salt and coarse or kosher salt

Whole black peppercorns (with a good grinder)

Chili powder

Vanilla extract

Ground cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg

Dried oregano

Ground cumin

Smoked paprika

Garlic and onion powders

Instant diced onions (a must-have for making my famous onion dip)

Dehydrated Creole or Cajun Trinity with garlic (I use this in everything)

Bay leaves

Oils and Condiments

Olive and peanut oils

Canola, or a canola/olive blend

Toasted sesame oil

Non-stick cooking spray

Distilled white, apple cider, red wine vinegars

Soy sauce

Worcestershire sauce

Mustard: Creole, classic yellow



Unbleached all-purpose flour

Arrowroot starch & cornstarch

Baking powder & baking soda

Cocoa powder

White & light brown sugars

Confectioners’ sugar

Panko breadcrumbs


Fill your pantry with lots of reliable dry items that are flexible, even festive:

Popcorn for movie-watching

Plenty of water, other beverages


Fully stocked bar, if you imbibe

Pasta, pasta sauce, rice, dried beans, salsa

Canned tomato: whole, diced, paste

Canned vegetables, potatoes, fruit

Canned fish, tuna, sardines, meats

Jarred pickles, ketchup, jams

Broth, stock, soup & chili needs

Bread, yeast, flour, baking needs

Snacks: cookies, chips, energy bars

Cereal, granola, oatmeal

Baby food, pet food

Cake, cookie, pastry-making items


Stock up your freezer with bedrock basics and tasty standalone standards:

Hamburger, ground turkey, meatballs

Steaks, pork chops, chicken parts

Bacon, hot dogs, smoked ham

Shrimp, crab, crawfish, andouille sausage

White fish, tuna steaks, salmon fillets

Vegetables: broccoli, spinach, corn, beans

Fruit: mango, peaches, bananas, berries

Bread, butter, waffles, pancakes, biscuits

Broth, chili, pasta sauce, soup, tortillas

Frozen dinners, lasagna, pizza

Nuts: walnuts, pecans, almonds

Ice cream, pastry, pies, cookie dough

Remember: Frozen foods don’t keep their quality forever. Consult this

“FDA freezer storage chart” for guidance.

Essentials to have on hand for snowstorms and other social disruptions:

Toilet paper, paper towels

Extra prescription medications

Pain and stomach relievers, first aid kit

Food storage bags/containers, trash bags

Hand sanitizer and wipes, face masks, bar soap, dish soap, cleaning supplies

Flashlights, light bulbs, batteries, tool kit

Battery/crank radio with weather alert

Rechargeable power station for small appliances, external drives for data

Cash, traveler’s checks, family documents in waterproof storage

Hobby supplies, board games, puzzles

Baby supplies, toys for kids

Shop in advance for special occasions

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