Keep your pantry shelves stocked with these timeless staples.
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Like many Southerners, my Grandma is prepared for disaster at all times. Her small, wood-paneled kitchen may look unassuming, but it's only once you descend into the basement that you uncover the real treasures: Shelves upon shelves of canned beans and sauces, dried rice and pasta, frozen meat, towers of toilet paper. My siblings and I used to "go shopping" in Grandma's basement, sent downstairs with a particular mission: Find the frozen lamb chops, locate a couple cans of tomato paste. Our reward? A scoop of chocolate ice cream, served in a stale cone. It was the best.

If you grew up with a Grandma who was prepared for some natural disaster at all times (we're talking at least a month's worth of provisions), chances are you've committed an inventory of pantry staples to memory. The tornado stock list—rice, beans, tomato sauce—stays with you. But for those who may not feel quite so prepared, it's helpful to have a list of non-perishable foods to keep around in case of emergency. Here are the basics that you should keep stocked in your pantry at all times.

Canned Beans

When you don't have access to fresh meat (or your frozen supply starts to dwindle), beans are here for you. Not only are canned beans shelf-stable, but they're full of protein and nutrients. Beans can form the hearty backbone of countless dishes; as each type of bean can serve a different purpose, we recommend keeping a variety of beans on hand—start with cans of black beans, pinto beans, cannellini beans, and garbanzo beans, and build up from there. It's really all about what you like!

If you want to go the extra mile and buy in bulk, you can also purchase dried beans or other legumes like lentils, which have to be soaked overnight before cooking. For the lovely flavor and texture that dried beans bring, it's worth the time and effort.

Canned Vegetables

Once you've got your protein, you need your veggies! Canned green beans, carrots, and peas will help you round out your diet. (While they may not be shelf-stable, frozen vegetables come in handy, too.)

Canned Soup

Canned soup is the superhero that makes so many Southern casseroles creamy, bubbly, and delicious. We're particularly fond of "cream of" soups that thicken our green bean casserole or cauliflower casserole, but you can also enjoy canned soups all on their own.

Grains

Dried rice, oats, and pasta fulfill your starch needs, all while delivering maximum comfort. Plus, there are hundreds of ways that you can reimagine rice—talk about the ultimate versatile side. And us Southerners can't forget the grits.

Sauces and Condiments

Most jarred sauces are shelf-stable until opening, upon which they have to be stored in the fridge. We recommend keeping at least one jar of marinara and one of Alfredo stocked at all times. Similarly, stock up on ketchup, mustard, mayo, and the works. You'll have to store them in the fridge after opening, but they're staples that can liven up any drab pantry dish.

Stock/Broth

Like jarred sauces, stock and broth can be stored in your pantry until they're opened. Broth forms the foundation of catch-all soups and stews; whether you opt for chicken broth, beef broth, vegetable broth, or all of the above, be sure to keep at least 2 boxes of broth in your pantry. If you run out, though, you can always make your own.

Tinned Fish

If you enjoy tinned fish, it's a great thing to keep in your pantry. Canned tuna, salmon, sardines, or anchovies taste great in casseroles or pasta dishes, and they'll ensure you're getting your protein in.

Peanut Butter

Another great source of protein? Nuts. Full of healthy fats and protein, peanut butter will give you energy and can be enjoyed at any time of day. Best of all, most brands don't require refrigeration after opening.

Baking Staples

Flour, sugar, oil, Crisco—you know the drill. You'll be happy to have these staple ingredients when you decide to try your hand at baking fresh bread or just need some chocolate chip cookies.

Snacks

While snacks aren't top priority when you're thinking about emergency preparedness, your future self will be happy that you took a moment to grab that trail mix. Focus on healthy, nourishing snacks. Here are a few we recommend:

  • Cereal
  • Granola bars or protein bars
  • Whole-grain crackers
  • Trail mix
  • Dried fruit and dried nuts