Pantry essentials list: Non-perishable ingredients to have on hand

Spice market in Jerusalem's Old City

Spice heaven. Spice market in Jerusalem’s Old City. Experiment with spices when you cook.
Photo: Ariel Palmon/Wikimedia/CC BY-SA 3.0

I am often asked which standard items people should consider having on hand. This pantry essentials list includes non-perishable ingredients. It doesn’t include fresh food and other items that you buy to consume immediately. You will develop your own list. Let me know your feedback and suggestions.


Fats and oils for cooking
Coconut oil and ghee are your stove top staples. Butter burns but is usable. If you can’t find these fats at your supermarket, check online.

I use olive oil for salad dressing and food that cooks quickly. I never use “vegetable oil” such as oil from soybeans, corn, canola, cottonseed or grape seed. These vegetable oils are highly inflammatory. Even though they have the same calories as “old school” fats, they promote weight gain through hormonal mechanisms, especially in women.

Animal products

Grass-fed butter
My favorite is Kerrygold butter, which is carried in many grocery stores. Even better, find a local source at a farmers market.

Pastured eggs
This is one food that’s worth the trouble to hunt down. Eggs have confusing labels (free range, organic, omega 3, etc.). I buy “pastured” eggs, which means the chickens get outside in the sun. They scratch the dirt, eat bugs, forage and make eggs that have 20 times the nutrients of typical supermarket eggs. Even at three times the cost, these eggs are a bargain.

Salt and spices

Unrefined salt
My favorite salts are Himalayan pink salt or Celtic Sea Salt. Not plain old sea salt, which has only sodium choloride. You need more minerals.

Spices and spice blends
Spices offer variety and are the easiest way I know to make a meal in minutes. My favorite source is the Spice House. Penzeys is also good.

Modern science is just beginning to prove what thousands of years of culture already knew — that some spices have health benefits. We already know a few have medicinal and health value. Probably others will prove to as well in the future. Just explore and enjoy. Try thyme, turmeric, garlic and ginger. You will find others you like. You don’t need to start with organic spices. Just start experimenting with spices when you cook.

In the freezer

Frozen wild salmon
It has a short season but a lot of health value. I keep frozen salmon filets in my freezer. You can get it from VitalChoice, among other sources.

Frozen sardines
Sardines are one of the most sustainable fish. Sardines are wild caught. They are a great staple to have as a quick, cheap and sustainable source of omega 3 fatty acids. You can get them frozen from VitalChoice, among other sources.

Frozen blueberries
In season I love them fresh. But I also keep them in the freezer for when I need something sweet.


Supplements are not substitutes. They don’t make up for a poor diet. My personal supplements are limited to:

  • Cod liver oil
  • Kelp granules in a shaker
  • Magnesium oil, Theresa Nesbitt and her publications provide general information on health and wellness. This general information is not a substitute for health advice and medical care from physicians who know you. Please talk to them before making significant changes in your lifestyle. Complete Terms of Use and Disclaimers