Certain things in your household are so essential to daily life and used so frequently that you buy them without hesitation and always have a supply on hand. I’m thinking of toilet paper.
The same principle applies to your kitchen, where items such as carrots and mayonnaise are key ingredients that should be taken for granted.
That’s why you should keep a basic inventory that includes everything you need to make whatever you want, the only additional requirement being a seasonal vegetable or maybe a fresh joint of meat.
An inventory is not a “shopping list.”
It’s a record of household possessions like what you give to an insurance agency so that when something goes missing you can see exactly what it is and replace it.
Of course, an item like a jar of pickles involves a much higher rate of replacement than Granny’s pearl necklace. So, your basic inventory actually represents a system: You have the sack of flour in your kitchen, which you happen to be using, and you have the one located someplace else, which remains unopened and ready as a replacement.
When you’ve finished with the one in your kitchen, you reach for the backup. And when you get ready to go to the supermarket, your inventory reminds you to put another backup on your shopping list.
Your inventory doesn’t have to be a list. It could be a closet with neatly labeled shelves. My apartment isn’t spacious enough to afford a larder like this, so I use a list.
That list appears below. I’ve kept it for years, and it reflects my experience preparing many different types of dishes from a broad cross-section of Western cuisine. Feel free to consider it as a foundation for your own.
Nothing on the list is arbitrary. Dijon mustard, for example, may not be the one you reach for when you dress your hot dog, but its sulphuric zing is integral to many sauces and vinaigrettes, so I recommend having it on hand, anyway.
It’s a conservative list. I omit items that, while useful, aren’t absolutely necessary. Neither do I include things particular to my own affairs (my wife’s potato chip hoard, for example).
I have plenty to say about each of the products below and the brands that I prefer; I’ll post recommendations, eventually.
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Now, the list:
Bacon, thickly cut
Sausage, fully dried (e.g., Genoa salami & pepperoni)
Cucumbers (i.e., savory dill pickles)
Tomatoes, sun-dried & packed in oil
Lettuce or salad greens
Croutons (i.e., 1½-2 in. cubes of bread, dried)
Crumbs, super-fine (e.g., Panko)
Chocolate, “semi-sweet” (i.e., 50-60% cocoa mass)
Cookies suitable for pastry crusts and other desserts
Spreads (e.g., peanut butter & Nutella)
All-purpose flour (i.e., 10-11% protein content)
Super-fine sugar (i.e., “caster”)
Fresh (i.e., seasonal)
Beans, white (e.g., cannelini & navy)
Lentils, green, (e.g., du puy)
Canned pâtés & other potted meats (even Spam, why not)
Canned tuna, sardines & other oily fish
Oil, extra-virgin olive
Oil or fat capable of withstanding high temperatures, such as:
Bullion cubes, chicken
Mushrooms, dried (e.g., porcini or cèpes)
Red (i.e., red wine)
White (i.e., white wine or cider)
Grouting (for the grooves of your pots & pans)
Cream of tartar
Hand sanitizer (e.g., Purell)
Mineral oil (for cutting boards)
Disposable (i.e., latex-style)
Cling-wrap (e.g., Saran)
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