What's in your home pantry?

Check to see what you have in your pantry before buying more groceries.


I wiped the handle of the grocery cart with a sanitizing wipe and noticed the large number of shoppers doing the same.

The wipes have been available for a long time, and I usually grab one. A trashcan was filled with used wipes. Unfortunately, many wipes were on the floor or left in the carts.

“This is really strange,” my husband said as I pushed the cart.

I was looking for canned soup to make some home-style Midwest hot dishes. I had no luck.

Cereal shelves were empty. We were getting low on milk, so I picked up a carton. Only two cartons were left.


Be aware that stores are able to get food. Some stores are limiting the hours they are open so they have time to restock shelves. Be sure to check on store hours.

A worker pulled a large cart filled with toilet paper packages. People swarmed toward the cart like ants at a picnic.

My husband grabbed a couple of packs, which was the limit.

This is a scene all over the U.S.

My husband and I grew up with parents or grandparents who lived through meager times of the Depression and times of food rationing during World War II. It’s in our DNA to maintain a stock of food.

While growing up, my family had a good-sized “fruit room” filled with shelves loaded with home-canned fruits and vegetables and commercially canned foods. We had a large freezer with everything from meat to casseroles to bread.

In present times, many people do not maintain a food supply due to financial constraints, or a lack of storage space or the cooking skills to make food at home.

On that day in the grocery store, I wasn’t loading my cart to the brim. We have a supply of food in a room in our basement, although not to the level of my youth.


Having a 14-day supply of food typically is recommended and lends a sense of security during uncertain times. Food is a basic physiological need, after all.

However, we also have to think of our neighbors who need food and leave some for them to buy. We can be generous to local food pantries, too.

Here are some things to consider for your “canned and dry goods” area, along with some nutritional notes.

  • Canned fruit (packed in juice or light syrup).
  • Canned vegetables (reduced sodium).
  • Canned pasta sauce.
  • Grains, such as oatmeal, whole-grain cereal, quick bread mixes, rice or brown rice.
  • Protein foods, such as canned tuna (in water), chicken, beans, lentils and chickpeas, peanut butter, nuts and seeds.
  • Dry beans, lentils.
  • Soup base (chicken, vegetable and/or beef) or canned broth.
  • Spices.
  • Condiments (ketchup, mayonnaise, mustard).
  • Oil.
  • Baking supplies, including flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda.

Commercially canned vegetables maintain their quality for up to five years, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Commercially canned fruits maintain their quality for about 18 months. For best quality, home-canned goods should be consumed within a year.
Remember to shop your pantry before you begin buying more groceries. Move all your older food to the front so you use it first.

Be aware of the free resources available from NDSU Extension at :

  • The “Cooking 101” series has recipes, menus and shopping lists designed for people with little time or experience with food preparation.
  • The “Now Serving” series includes five weeks of menus with recipes and is designed for families.
  • The “Pinchin’ Pennies in the Kitchen” series provides easy ways to create meals from what you have on hand. You can create your own soup, stir-fry, quesadillas, snack mixes, spice mixes, pizza and many others.

Here’s a tasty breakfast from the “day-old bread” publication in the “Pinchin’ Pennies” series.

As-You-Like-It Breakfast Casserole

8 eggs

2 cup grated cheddar cheese


2 cups milk

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

6 slices day-old bread, cut into cubes

Additions (choose two or three):

1 cup corn (cooked or frozen)

1/2 cup chopped broccoli

3/4 cup sliced mushrooms


1/4 cup sliced green onions or chopped onion

1 cup cubed ham

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Beat the eggs in a large bowl. Mix in the milk, cheese, salt and pepper. Add the bread and carefully stir until all pieces of bread are moistened (don’t overmix). Add additions. Bake in casserole dish for one to 1 1/2 hours, until the top is browned and the center springs back when touched, with no liquid present. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Makes 12 servings. When made with broccoli, mushrooms and onions, each serving has 180 calories, 10 g (grams) fat, 12 g protein, 10 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber and 270 milligrams sodium.

(Julie Garden-Robinson is a North Dakota State University Extension food and nutrition specialist and professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences. Follow her on Twitter @jgardenrobinson .)

Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Service
Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Service

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