Must Haves for a Well-Stocked Kitchen

Buying my own home was great, but getting into my own kitchen was better. It’s not huge, there’s no island, and there’s questionable tile, but it’s my personal playground. It’s where I feel the calmest, the most comfortable, and the most at home. As I stood there on signing day, peering into cavernous, empty, cabinets, I couldn’t wait to hit the grocery store and fill them with awesome things.  I was ready to get the show on the road. I tried to make a casual grocery list, and was totally overwhelmed with what felt like an impossible task. How in the world do you go about filling a kitchen with any and everything you’ll possibly need? Where do you even start?

Cue my mother. As a kitchen vet, she sat down with me and helped me write out a comprehensive list of everything I’d need. Talk about an unforeseen cost- I spent hundreds at the grocery store that week. After the initial grocery store haul, and about a month or so in my new kitchen, I began to understand the importance of staple items. The staples are the basis of any meal, any recipe, and a must to have on hand to maintain a smoothly running kitchen. Specialty groceries are super fun- but the staples are what make any kitchen go around. So here’s my comprehensive guide to maintaining a well-stocked kitchen (with free  shopping list printable)!


This category is very important in my home, because almost all of my recipes include one or more of them. Best to go organic and free-range for these, or even locally sourced. Good quality dairy is the jumping off point to better cookies, breads, scrambled eggs, whatever. Splurge on your dairy if you can. Totally worth it.

Heavy cream
Free range eggs
A block of parmesan 


The produce category is where I find myself getting kind of out of hand sometimes. I love the produce section- it’s colorful and bright, it smells fresh, and it pretty much makes me feel alive. It’s so easy to get carried away with all the possibilities, but the following items are the staples. With these five items, you can produce beautiful, well-rounded flavors that are appropriate for almost any recipe.

Minced garlic

Dry Goods

Dry goods may be just as important as the dairy category. All purpose flour is the main ingredient in hundreds of recipes- not just for baking, but also for thickening sauces, etc. Sugar isn’t just for dessert either, a sprinkling here and there can balance a too tart or acidic dish. And rice, pasta, and potatoes, duh. Starch is life. And important for side dishes.

All purpose flour
White sugar
Light brown sugar
Brown and white rice
Dried beans
Variety of pasta
Russet potatoes

Often Forgotten Necessities

This category sums up the random, but equally important items necessary for the well-stocked kitchen. Chicken and beef stock (get my homemade recipe here), are the more flavorful alternative to plain old water. The oils are also necessary, for frying, sautéing, and making sauces and salad dressings. (Peanut, coconut, and other specialty oils are cool, but never totally necessary). And baking powder, soda, and instant yeast, are the sometimes forgotten staples in a new kitchen, but must haves.

Chicken and beef stock
Extra virgin olive oil
Canola or vegetable oil
Baking soda
Baking powder
Instant yeast

Tasty Accessories

I like to call this category the “accessories” category, because what accessories do for the perfect outfit, these items do for the perfect meal. Honey is the healthiest sweetener you can use, so I use it in a whole heap of recipes. I substitute it for sugar wherever I can. I use all the things in this category as healthy additions to sauces, marinades, and dressings. 

Balsamic vinegar
Dijon mustard
Apple cider or white vinegar
Vanilla and lemon extract
Low sodium soy sauce

One Last Thought...

I prefer to purchase what I like to call “responsible” groceries. That includes as much organic as we can afford (as we know that can get expensive quickly), free-range eggs, and locally sourced products, because ultimately, better ingredients make for better tasting, more nourishing, and healthier food. Organic and free-range dairy is especially important in my opinion. Even if I can’t splurge on the organic garlic or honey, I’ll definitely be sure to get organic eggs, milk, and butter.

Click here for your free kitchen staples printable grocery list!