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All you need to know about stocking your kitchen with tools and ingredients to make cooking for yourself easy and enjoyable.

a small kitchen with a white stove and pans hanging from the ceiling

A well stocked kitchen and pantry allows you to create meals at the last minute with little or no planning. Take a protein from the freezer or refrigerator, add some spices, combine it with a vegetable or starch and a salad and within 20 to 30 minutes you will have a great tasting meal.

Once you have stocked your kitchen with things you want and use, buying groceries each week is more about replenishing what you have used the past week as well as adding specific ingredients for meals you have planned for the next week. If you are following a specific diet it is easier to keep to the diet by stocking your kitchen with foods that fit within the diet and avoid those late night or mid afternoon temptations. This is something I have done for years and has helped me avoid late evening or mid afternoon “indiscretions”. 

The items found on this list are the essentials that many recipes (including those on this website and in our cookbook) are built on. Keep in mind that everyone’s pantry will look a little different; add or subtract items from the list based on what you love and know you will use.

You can modify most of the recipes on our website to fit what you have in your pantry and refrigerator. 

a bowl of butter chicken next to a bowl of white rice on a flowered tablecloth

Spices and Herbs

Paying full price for spices at the grocery store can be expensive. Consider growing your own herbs and keep an eye on sales. Many mainstream grocery stores and markets have a bulk bin aisle. Buying your spices from the bulk aisles can save you lots of money. By measuring out exactly what you need and paying for a small amount, you will not be left with jars of partially used spices in your pantry. Purchasing spices this way also allows you to try a spice that you wouldn’t normally buy.

Herbs and spices for your kitchen pantry:

  • Kosher salt
  • Ground black pepper
  • Dried basil
  • Italian seasoning
  • Smoked paprika
  • Cumin
  • Cinnamon
  • Garlic powder
  • Add your favorites


Before you head to the store, look through your refrigerator. Take stock of what you already have so you don’t purchase the same item again. Also note what you may be running out of so you are not stuck when cooking during the next week.

Items for your refrigerator:

  • Eggs
  • Cheese
  • Butter
  • Heavy cream
  • Plain yogurt
  • Mayonnaise
  • Mustard
  • Carrots
  • Bell peppers
  • Celery
  • Sausage (Italian and ground)
  • Onions (red and yellow)
  • Garlic
  • Tomatoes
  • Lettuce
  • Apples
  • Lemons
  • Jams or jellies
a chicken breast on a white plate topped with cheese and tomatoes


Consider keeping pieces of meat and fish in the freezer so you can easily pull one out, defrost it, and cook it when ready. Look for packages of chicken, beef, or seafood and purchase them when they are on sale. Then, immediately divide, individually wrap and freeze pieces for later use.

Freezing and Food Safety – USDA Recommendations:

  • Uncooked chicken breasts: no longer than nine months
  • Frozen raw fish: up to 8 months
  • Raw shellfish: up to 12 months
  • Uncooked ground beef: up to 4 months
  • Uncooked steaks, roasts or chops: up to 8 months

Items For Your Freezer:

  • Frozen chicken and fish
  • Bread crumbs
  • Frozen fruit
lentil stew


Keep your pantry filled with canned beans, cans of diced tomatoes, rice, pasta, chicken broth and spices. Dried or canned beans, dried lentils, and rice in particular keep for a very long time. Consider purchasing extra cans of beans when you find them on sale. You might also think about purchasing larger, often less expensive bags of rice to have on hand when you want to put a meal together quickly.

Pantry Essentials

  • All-purpose flour
  • Baking powder
  • Baking soda
  • Granulated sugar
  • Powdered sugar
  • Light or dark brown sugar
  • Smooth peanut butter
  • Canned beans (red, garbanzo, and black)
  • Pasta (small shaped, linguine, fettuccine, and spaghetti)
  • Canned tuna
  • Canned or boxed chicken and beef broth
  • Vinegar (balsamic, red, white wine)
  • Rice (brown and white)
  • Tomato paste
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Canola oil

If you would like more information on the cooking and baking dishes I use in our “recipes for one”, please visit our FAQ page.
Examples of the dishes used at One Dish Kitchen can be found at our Store page.

Make 80+ Recipes With This Dish!

Ideal for home chefs, this individual square ceramic baking dish is safe for oven, microwave, freezer, and dishwasher. Simple to use & easy to clean!


I’m Joanie and I’m incredibly happy you’re here! Our aim is to inspire individuals with access to single serving recipes, education, and a supportive community that will enable them to enjoy the preparation of a meal that will nourish both body and soul.

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  1. I just came across this site – and look forward to cooking more than frozen meals, or ordering takeout to get me through the weekend (I work where I do get 1 meal a day during the work week). You caught my attention with the French onion soup – as wanted some so bad last week, can’t wait to make it!

  2. If I open a can of biscuits can I bake half and freeze the other half?
    Trying to wrap my head around cooking for one. My wife passed away from covid January 17.

    1. Hi Steve, I’m so sorry for your loss. I hope you find the recipes here helpful. You can freeze an opened can of biscuits, separate the raw biscuits and lay them out on a baking sheet (don’t let them touch each other or they will stick together) and freeze. Once frozen, transfer the biscuits to sealable freezer bags and store in the freezer. Remove one at a time, as needed and allow the dough to thaw in the refrigerator. Bake according to the original instructions.

  3. Joanie, this website has been a life saver. My husband passed away a few months ago, so cooking for one has been a real learning experience. Your recipes allow me to cook much smarter and also to try new ingredients and combinations. Thanks for such a great resource!

    1. Dina, I’m so sorry for your loss. I’m glad the recipes are helpful to you. Thank you so much for taking the time to let me know.

    2. Oh, thank you for this question and this answer. I’ve passed on buying canned biscuits on sale because I knew I couldn’t use them all, and freezing the cooked ones didn’t provide a satisfactory response for me. Freeze the uncooked? Wonderful!

  4. Brilliant site, lovely recipes, favourite at the moment double eggplant bake much much nicer than twice baked potato. Many thanks Joanie.