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The REAL LIFE Pantry List

pantry stuff

Probably the single-best kitchen tip I’ve ever received is to keep a well-stocked kitchen and pantry. If you’ve got the basics on hand, making a delicious meal becomes a much easier job. Here’s what I consider the essentials.

Dry Storage

Oils & Fats: Extra virgin olive oil; some fancy stuff for salads and a jug of your favorite organic store brand for (lower-heat) cooking. Coconut oil, expeller-pressed canola oil, and organic butter for higher-heat cooking. Flavored oils such as lemon and basil for salads; toasted sesame oil for stir-fries.

Soy Sauce: We buy San-J reduced-sodium tamari; it’s gluten free.

Vinegar: I like having an assortment including apple cider vinegar (Bragg’s), sherry vinegar, balsamic vinegar, white wine vinegar, red wine vinegar, champagne vinegar, and rice vinegar vinegar.

Chicken Broth: Get the reduced-sodium organic kind, such as Pacific or Imagine; also Vegetable Broth.

Canned Tomatoes: Muir Glen crushed tomatoes, Muir Glen Fire Roasted tomatoes, Pomi strained tomatoes, and San Marzano tomatoes.

Tomato Sauce: Daves’ Gourmet Heirloom tomato sauce comes in handy.

Pasta: Organic whole wheat rotini, fettucine, and gemelli, plus regular shells and penne. If you’re gluten free, I like Tinkyada brand brown rice pasta.

Rice: Organic short grain brown rice, sushi rice, and basmati are my three go-to’s.

Other grains: Farro; a delicious, high-protein whole grain, but it’s not gluten free. Also, buckwheat and quinoa.

Flour: Unbleached all-purpose flour, plus brown rice flour, and whole wheat flour. I love almond flour (or almond meal) for gluten-free applications, plus tapioca and coconut flours.

Beans: Canned and dried, including black beans, pinto beans, garbanzo beans, and cannellini beans; look for BPA-free cans, such as Eden Organic, and boxed beans, such as 365 Organic.

Lentils: Red and green

Honey: Local raw honey makes a great, unprocessed alternative to sugar and agave.

Coconut Milk (full fat).

Dried Fruit: Includes raisins, dates, cherries, and apricots, unsweetened.

Nuts & Seeds: Raw almonds, walnuts, pecans, and cashews; plus sunflower seeds.

Salsa: Newman’s Own organic or 365.

Taco Shells: Buy organic because conventional corn is almost all GMO.

Olives & Pickles: Green and black olives, dill pickles; my kids love these as snacks.

On the Counter

Bread: Rudi’s Organic Honey Sweet Whole Wheat.

In the Refrigerator

Milk: Organic milk does not contain antibiotics or bovine growth hormones; I buy 2%.

Heavy cream: Again organic (for coffee).

Eggs: The free-range ones are higher in omega-3s. I buy large brown eggs.

Butter: Unsalted, organic.

Yogurt: Organic plain Greek yogurt for breakfast, smoothies, and sauces; Noosa (yum) for a treat.

Cheese: Hard grating cheese such as Parmesan or aged gouda, plus Swiss or pepper Jack, and sometimes goat (I try to get organic, except the Parm, which is from Italy where I don’t think they use growth hormones).

Nitrate-Free Preserved Meats: Such as bacon, Spanish chorizo, and pancetta; these are mostly for flavoring, and a little bit goes a long way; keep in the freezer if you don’t eat them often.

Breakfast Sausage (I buy the organic chicken sausage links at Whole Foods).

Mayo: Try the olive oil–based kind from Kraft.

Ranch Dressing: I make my own (try this recipe) and keep in a jar. Makes veggies a lot more palatable for kids.

Ketchup (try to get the kind without High Fructose Corn Syrup)

Mustard: French’s yellow, spicy yellow, Grey Poupon, and German.

Tomato Paste: I buy the kind that comes in a jar and keep in the fridge because I only use a couple tablespoons at a time.

Breadcrumbs: I make these from the heels of my bread, just toast and pulse in food processor; store in a jar.

Maple Syrup (real). For sweetening things. And pancakes.

Peanut Butter: I like creamy; buy organic because conventional peanuts are heavily sprayed. I actually like Kirkland peanut butter a lot.

Almond Butter: Raw, for adding protein to smoothies.

Jam: We have quite an assortment, mostly homemade from nice friends and relatives; I add to yogurt for the kids and sauces for meat, plus PB&Js.

Hot Sauce: If you’re into that kind of thing… we love Lingham’s, Marie Sharp’s, Sriracha, and Cholula.

Miso: I buy Sweet White Miso paste.


Lime Juice: I keep a small bottle or plastic lime since fresh limes don’t keep very well. If your limes start to turn brown, squeeze them into a jar and store the juice.

Pine Nuts



Apples: A good vehicle for peanut butter; always buy organic apples as they are one of the most contaminated crops.

Greens: Usually lettuce (romaine or green leaf), kale, and arugula – all organic if possible.

Parsley: I buy Italian flat-leaf parsley, wash, and wrap in paper towels; it keeps for a couple weeks and is delicious in almost anything.

Other veggies (such as broccoli, bell peppers, scallions, etc.) —preferably organic.


Tortillas: Corn tortillas and whole wheat flour; look for as few ingredients as possible.

Dry White Wine (chardonnay): Excellent in risotto, also nice for drinking.

In the Freezer

Frozen Veggies: A lifesaver when you haven’t been to the store in a while; I like organic frozen green beans, broccoli, peas, corn, and edamame.

Frozen Berries: Great for smoothies

Fish Fillets: (they thaw fairly quickly and are a good substitute when there’s no decent fresh fish at the market).

Dark chocolate bars: for emergencies (70% cacao or higher).

My Spice Drawer

Kosher Salt: Cook with this, then finish with sea salt.

Sea Salt: Maldon, Celtic, and several flavored varieties.

Black Pepper: I buy the disposable grinders and love them.

I don’t use as many spices as I used to, but I do reach for these pretty often: Red pepper flakes, Paprika, Ancho chile powder, Garlic powder, Cumin, Thyme, Rosemary, Oregano, Dried Sage, Bay Leaves, Tarragon, Harissa

Plus: Baking supplies (baking powder, sugar, chocolate chips, etc.), snacks and crackers (Nut Thins, Kind Bars), breakfast stuff (rolled and steel-cut oats, granola, tea, coffee), and Williams-Sonoma Hot Cocoa.

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What People Say
“Class was really fun and full of great ideas for feeding my family good, healthy, real food. Thanks Bevin!”

Audrey, mother of three, tennis ace
Cherry Hills Village, Colorado