When setting up a new kitchen, or cleaning out and re-stocking an old one, much thought must be given to which ingredients and supplies are vital for building and maintaining the family’s health, while also boosting flavor and easing the burden of meal preparation.
Every seasoned chef knows the importance of stocking a few basic ingredients in the pantry, and in a Wise Traditions pantry, these basics will resemble those of a fine chef. Replacing typical highly processed staples with unprocessed, additive-free choices is a vital first step. Start by pitching all the refined sugars, vegetable oils and refined salt; mixes (even most labeled “natural”), and most canned foods. The few canned items worthy of space in my cupboard include tomato sauce and canned tomatoes (both preferably in glass jars) and whole coconut milk. I keep no mixes that I don’t make myself, although there are a few, very few, available on the market now that are actually healthy and practical (To Your Health, for instance, sells some sprouted flour baking mixes, and others are working on the same).
Salt, sugar and fat are three of the main staples which every kitchen must keep on hand. We who are familiar with Dr. Price’s wise principles know the importance of healthy, unprocessed natural fats including high-quality olive and coconut oils, lard, duck or goose fat and butter from pastured animals. It is critical to our health that we keep these excellent fats on hand for everyday cooking, along with unrefined salt such as Celtic, Himalayan, or Real Salt.
In my kitchen I keep raw honey, coconut sap sugar, and occasionally sucanat, Rapadura, or muscavado sugars. Jaggery is also on hand for fermented beverages and chutney, though it is not quite as easy to use as the others. And don’t forget maple syrup for homemade sourdough pancakes!
I have found that I can make absolutely any “sweet” using honey by adapting recipes to use less liquid. The other sugars work beautifully as well with little to no change to a recipe, and I believe they should be a staple in your kitchen, too.
Of course baking soda, aluminum-free baking powder and arrowroot powders are necessary for baking and even cooking, and I also find chia seeds very useful for thickening and binding non-grain flours. Also, good-quality vanilla extract—we can’t be without this basic ingredient for flavoring a wide variety of baked goods, and even beverages!
On the savory side I include several basic herbs and spices including garlic (lots!), bay leaves (they should go into virtually every stock, broth, soup and sauce you make), turmeric, ginger, tamari (fermented soy) and fermented fish sauces, black pepper, thyme, oregano, basil, sage and rosemary. As for parsley, I prefer to keep fresh on hand, and not use dried. Other spices are also on hand, but I will not be without any of those mentioned. The herbs are often freshly snipped, easily grown in containers on the kitchen sill if desired. At any one time I usually have at least four pots of rosemary going along with thyme (tucked in with the rosemary) and other herbs for frequent use.
Vinegars, fresh lemons, and wines (red, white and sherry) are crucial for flavor and food preservation. At the most basic, keep raw apple cider and balsamic vinegars on hand, as well as dry white and red wines. Also, dry and Dijon mustards go hand in hand with the sours to add great flavor.
Another simple staple, but crucial for good taste, are canned anchovy fillets. These are real flavor-boosting power houses for salad dressings and red meats. Try them once, finely minced, in your favorite meatloaf, burger or creamy dressing and you’ll never want to be without.
I like to keep at least a few basic grains on hand such as oat groats or rolled oats, or whole grains like spelt or kamut for bread making. If you don’t have a grain mill try to purchase fresh-ground, organic whole flours. There are several sources for these, including Small Valley Milling in Halifax, Pennsylvania, and often health food stores. Sprouted grains and flours are even easier to use and are available from To Your Health Flours as well as a few other sources (look in the WAPF Shopping Guide for more). Flours should always be stored in airtight containers in your freezer.
Brown rice is also among the most basic of staples with many uses. It can be cooked with milk, cream and eggs for rice pudding at breakfast, or prepared with stock and herbs for a wonderful side dish anytime. We often use it to help fill hungry bellies when the larder is low or money tight, but always prepared with nutritious broth and lots of good-quality butter, bacon fat or schmaltz (rendered chicken fat) added. Lastly, you’ll want to have dried beans on hand, such as black beans or kidney beans.
LOAD THE FRIDGE!
Ideally we all like to keep fresh, raw milk and cream on hand for drinking, adding to tea, and for sauces and desserts. Even those on a GAPS or similar gut-healing diet can and should have some raw butter or ghee on hand as well as cultured cream (crème fraiche). I believe it is also important to have raw, whole milk (and possibly cream-enhanced) yogurt or kefir on hand at all times. For those who absolutely cannot tolerate any dairy, substitute dairy with coconut milk and cream. This can be cultured and fermented also into yogurt, kefir, and “crème fraiche.” And of course a block of raw milk cheddar is a standby at all times, but I also keep a few other high-quality cheeses for variety. Remember, raw milk cheeses are best eaten as is, but other high-quality cheeses from pastured herds are also good for cooking and baking.
We always make sure to have plenty of ground beef from one of our local farmers or Costco in the freezer, and venison when we can get it. This is the most versatile and least expensive of red meats. Liver is usually cheap also, and I keep some frozen with the goal of preparing it weekly. Organic chicken is a staple in our household, and should be in yours, too, with pastured from local farms being preferred. But I often buy mine from Costco just to make sure we always have it for stock, soup, chicken salad and roasted chicken. It makes for a delicious and (relatively) inexpensive meal.
Good-quality pastured bacon is invaluable for flavor, and so even if we can’t afford a higher priced product for eating by the slice, I always keep some in the fridge for flavoring dishes, and keep the fat for use in sautéing vegetables, other meats, and even as a fat in my mayonnaise!
Seafood is also important and so I try to keep some form of wild-caught seafood in the freezer, including salmon, cod, and flounder. Because fresh or frozen salmon can be prohibitively expensive and hard to get, I also keep wild-caught Alaskan canned salmon on hand, that is used primarily for salmon cakes or casseroles. Salt cod is also widely available and quite inexpensive, so I will purchase this to keep on hand for use in chowder (just make sure you soak and rinse several times to remove the excess salt).
Our freezer always contains at least a few frozen vegetables, mainly broccoli, spinach or kale, and green beans. During the growing season of course we have much more on hand, but we must have at least these few vegetables throughout the year. Some should be dried or fermented, but having some frozen is important for soups, sides and general nutritional value.
Celery, onions and carrots are basic vegetables that are critical for flavor as well as nutrients. It goes without saying that every kitchen should be well-stocked with these basic vegetables.
Of course, we cannot forget the egg. Eggs are an extremely versatile, inexpensive, nutritious and flavorful food. Don’t ever run out and you will always have something useful and good for a satisfying meal or snack, besides being an important ingredient in many dishes. Dr. Price suggested that there was enough protein in one egg to meet the daily protein requirements of most adults, while also supplying several key fat-soluble nutrients including, vitamins A and D.
DON’T FORGET THE BONES!
No kitchen should ever be without this most important of ingredients. My family incorporates stock and broth into our daily diet whether it be for making soup, stew, rice or steaming our vegetables. Fleshy bones are used for making these delicious, nutritious, healing stocks and soups, and I always make sure to keep as much of the muscle, skin and cartilage with the bones as is possible for the most nutritious of broth or stock—don’t throw it away! Also be sure to scoop the marrow from the marrow bones either to eat on its own (it’s simply delicious sprinkled with a little salt), or added to soups, sauces and gravy.
With these ingredients on hand, one can provide nourishing, delicious meals any time. It never ceases to amaze me how with just a few simple ingredients and the right technique, we can produce the most satisfying of meals, even on a very tight budget!
THE WISELY STOCKED PANTRY
SALT: Unrefined salt such as Celtic, Himalayan or Red Salt
SWEETENERS: Raw honey, coconut sap sugar, sucanat or Rapadura, muscavado sugar, jaggery, maple syrup
FATS: Olive oil, coconut oil, lard, duck or goose fat, pastured butter or ghee
FLAVORINGS: Vanilla extract, naturally fermented soy sauce, naturally fermented fish sauce (such as Red Boat brand), dry and prepared mustard
THICKENERS/CONDITIONERS: Baking powder, aluminum-free baking soda, arrowroot powder, chia seeds
DRY HERBS AND SPICES: Bay leaves, turmeric, ginger, black pepper, thyme, oregano, basil, sage and rosemary
CANNED ITEMS: Anchovies, tomato sauce, tomatoes, whole coconut milk
VINEGARS: Raw apple cider, raw wine, balsamic
WINES: Red, white, sherry
GRAINS AND LEGUMES: Brown rice, oat groats or rolled oats, spelt or kamut grains or sprouted whole grain flour, dry beans
THE WELL STOCKED FRIDGE AND FREEZER
DAIRY: Raw milk, raw cream, raw cheese, crѐme fraiche, yogurt or kefir
MEAT: Ground pastured beef, liver, chicken, bacon
SEAFOOD: Wild-caught fish
VEGETABLES: Fresh, lacto-fermented and some frozen
EGGS: From pastured hens
BONES: For making broth
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly magazine of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Spring 2017.