Your questions answered: Pantry staples?
Have you ever put up a list of pantry staples that you keep on hand, and fridge and freezer staples as well to create your great recipes? I'm a very boring cook, looking to be a better cook but never have what I need on hand to create new, interesting recipes.
I have never compiled a list of my favorite pantry, fridge, and freezer staples, but if I did, it'd be fairly simple. My pantry staples are some things for baking (flour, sugar, butter), some grains (oatmeal, pasta, rice), some dried beans, and canned tomatoes. My freezer holds veggies and meats.
I try not to keep a huge variety of things on hand all the time, since I like to use fresh ingredients and tend to forget about small bits of things that are stuffed back in a cupboard. I would rather have 1-2 kinds of dried beans on hand and cycle through them regularly than to have more variety and end up with old beans that won't get tender (this has happened to me!). :)
So what I recommend is that you make a weekly menu plan!
To save money, it's helpful to browse your grocery store fliers before you decide what to make, unless you don't mind paying full price for the ingredients you don't have.
After you've written down your menu, gather or print the recipes you will need.
Look through the ingredient lists and make sure you have everything listed (or plan an acceptable substitute, like milk plus lemon juice for buttermilk). Whatever you don't already have, put it on your grocery list for the week.
I often buy ingredients especially for the week's menu plan. You can broswe through some of my menu plans here. Any of the more expensive ingredients or perishable ingredients are usually things we got especially for that recipe! And since we like to shop at Costco, I try to plan several meals around that same "special ingredient", so none goes to waste. For me, it's a combination of looking to see what's already in my fridge and then planning some old and new recipes based on certain ingredients.
For example, we bought artichoke hearts to make our Thin-Crust Chicken Bacon Artichoke Pizza. We bought turkey bacon (not a normal buy for us) and I used some and froze the rest for future recipes. We bought artichoke hearts (another not-normal purchase) and I have made several new recipes using them. We also got Feta cheese, which is another item I don't always keep on hand (but I do freeze the extras and find lots of uses for it when I do have some on hand!).
So, I do have to plan ahead to have everything for the week's meals, but it's what works for us! I don't usually cook exclusively "from the pantry" since we use a lot of perishable fruits and veggies and rarely open cans! :)
How do you make sure you have everything you need for a recipe? Do you plan ahead, make lots of substitutions, or a little of both? :)