Save money and time by shopping for these pantry workhorses now.

We've all learned a lot over the past year and a half, and maybe the biggest lesson is that there is a certain comfort in a pantry that is well stocked with some key building blocks for great simple meals. Whether things may tighten again or not with supply chains and grocery store access, having a well-stocked larder can help to keep you sane and put terrific meals on the table. Here are our top 10 things to buy now for your fall pantry.

Canned foods
Credit: Getty / Hazal Ak

1. Rices

Notice there is an "s" at the end of that word! Sure, it was very helpful to have that 25-pound bag of long grain during the dark winter of lockdown, but this year, think more broadly and load in smaller amounts of various types and styles of rice:

  • Arborio for risottos and rice puddings
  • Basmati and jasmine to pair with stir frys and curries
  • Brown rice for healthful grain bowls
  • Wild rice for when you are feeling fancy

2. Canned fish

Both canned fish and shellfish are incredibly helpful to have in your larder. Here's what's on my pantry stock-up list: 

  • Canned tuna in olive oil for salads and sandwiches
  • Anchovies for sauces and dressings
  • Canned salmon for everything from salads to old school croquettes
  • Clams and bottled clam juice for pastas
  • Sardines for sandwiches and tartines
  • Smoked items like oysters or mussels for snacks with crackers (and a lovely pairing with chilled wines or martinis!)

3. Beans

Yep, beans are back, and if you don't still have your stash from last year, now is the time to replenish. Buy a variety of types, both dried and canned, and the styles your family most enjoys. This year I am going long on the following:

  • Dried lentils, which don't need to be soaked and cook fast
  • Canned chickpeas for everything from hummus and salad toppers to curries
  • Canned black beans for tacos and soups
  • Dried red beans for red beans and rice

4. Canned tomatoes

Stocking up on canned tomatoes in every style from whole peeled, to crushed, to sauce means you are just an opener away from everything from pasta sauce to tomato soup to baked dishes. Again, think variety here: 

  • Canned fire roasted tomatoes for smoky chilis
  • Whole peeled cherry tomatoes for fast pasta pan sauces 
  • Tomato puree for quick soups or red rice
  • Whole peeled plum tomatoes for everything from pizza to gazpacho

5. Spice blends and simmer sauces

Often the difference between basic and breathtaking is just a shake or a drizzle away! Now is the time to invest in meal boosters to ensure that you can up the ante on even the simplest supper. Here's a list of some of amazing spice blends and sauces to inspire you. 

6. Stocks and broths

These building blocks -- boxed stock and bone broth and bouillon powders, cubes, and pastes -- are the foundation to all the cooking you want to do all season long. From simple soups to complex sauce work, from stews and braises to risottos or pilafs, having a mix of flavors can be really useful. I buy chicken and vegetable flavors for lighter dishes and beef and veal for sauces or slow-cooked meals.

7. Fresh baking supplies

There is nothing worse than baking powder or soda that no longer lift, or yeast that won't proof. And rancid nuts and pest-infested flour are the worst. Check all the "best by" dates on your key baking supplies and be sure that this year when the bug hits and you want to make that cake or those cookies, you are using ingredients that won't let you down.

8. Nut butters, jams, and jellies

Sure, a peanut butter sandwich is a classic lunch, and peanut butter on crackers or celery sticks or apple slices is a healthy snack. There is nothing at all wrong with tossing your hands in the air at 7pm and going all-in on PB&J for dinner. But there are also all kinds of fabulous nut butters out there, so this year stock up on some variety in your pantry, and bring in not just peanut, but pistachio, cashew, and almond butters, and a variety of jams and jellies to please everyone in your household.

9. Parmesan cheese

The king of cheeses makes everything it touches better, especially for fall and winter cooking. So, invest in a large wedge or two of the good stuff -- Parmigiano Reggiano -- and store it properly. From a flurry of finely grated cheese on your popcorn, to shreds on your pasta, to a rind bobbing in your soup to flavor it, you will turn to this magic ingredient again and again all season long. Parm freezes well, so carve into chunks the size you will use up a couple of weeks at a time, then wrap well in plastic then foil and pop in a freezer bag to grab new ones as needed. 

10. Finally... coffee and tea

Whichever you drink, you do not want to be without a good stash of your favorite hot beverage this fall. So stock it up and enjoy those many seamless mornings!