Pantry Tips and Tricks

EFNEP cooks spaghetti

Stocking A Basic Healthy Pantry

  1. Choose a space for your pantry. If you have no dedicated space for a
    pantry, remember that any indoor place that is cool and dry could work. It’s best also to keep your pantry near your kitchen. Be creative.
  2. Consider the food items you eat regularly. Make a list of foods you eat at least once a week. Include the main ingredients of meals you cook. For example, you have spaghetti two nights a week, and chicken on the weekends. For these, you always need the same items: pasta, chicken, bread crumbs, tomato sauce, Parmesan cheese, a loaf of Italian bread, a couple of eggs, etc. Write these items on your list
  3. Take note of the MyPlate. Your staples should include a little
    from all the food groups. Select the healthier versions of each item, low sodium broth, olive oil, vinegars, dry beans, onions, sweet potatoes, nuts or nut butter, whole-wheat pasta, etc.  To keep them fresh and bug-free, try mason jars with screw-on lids, or sealable carry out containers.
  4. Keep frequently used ingredients on hand. Consider the refrigerator and freezer as an extension of your pantry. What refrigerator or freezer staples do you use often? Frozen vegetables, chicken, apples, oranges, eggs, milk, cheese, condiments, etc.
  5. Keep your pantry well stocked. Each week as you are planning your
    weekly meals and shopping list, check your pantry. What are you getting low on? Watch for sales on items you use often (pasta, canned tomatoes, stock, etc.) and stock up.

Select Items for your healthy pantry that you use often.
These might include:

Herbs and Spices: basil, oregano, chili powder, garlic powder, parsley,
cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and pepper.
-Baking Supplies: whole wheat flour, AP flour, sugar, baking soda, baking
powder, vanilla, brown sugar, and un-sweet cocoa.
-Liquids: olive oil, canola oil, vinegars, honey, cooking sprays
Cans and Jars: tomatoes, beans, peanut butter, tuna, vegetable or chicken
stock, applesauce, fruit canned in juice, and corn.
Package Goods: oatmeal, cereal, nuts, cereal bars, whole wheat crackers,
popcorn, and BBQ sauce.
Dry goods: sweet potatoes, white potatoes, onions, garlic, and winter
squash such as butternut squash, acorn, or spaghetti squash.
-Pasta and Rice: brown rice, white rice, whole wheat pasta, elbow pasta,
couscous, and barley.

One Pot Pantry Pasta

Serves 6

-4 cups low sodium vegetable or chicken broth
-2 Tbsp. olive oil
-1 pound fettuccine or spaghetti (whole wheat preferred)
-8 ounce package frozen chopped spinach, broken into pieces
-1-28 ounce can low sodium diced tomatoes
-1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
-4 cloves of garlic, sliced
-2 tsp. dry basil
-2 tsp. dried oregano
-Pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
-½ tsp. black pepper
-½ cup grated parmesan cheese


  1. Add 4 cups vegetable or chicken broth to a large skillet that is wide enough to hold the pasta and at least 2 inches deep. On top add fettuccine, frozen spinach, diced tomatoes (with juices), onion, garlic, basil, oregano, red pepper flakes (if using) and black pepper. Give ingredients a gentle stir and make sure pasta is submerged in the liquid.
  2. Turn heat to high and allow pot to come to a boil. Once it reaches a boil turn heat down to medium-low and simmer for 15 minutes.
  3. After 15 minutes, give ingredients a good stir. Cover and let sit for 10 – 15 minutes. This will allow the pasta to absorb the rest of the pan juices.
  4. Serve hot topped with grated Parmesan cheese.

Fry Pan Pasta Cooking Tips
Most traditional pasta recipes call for making pasta in a large pot with 2-3 quarts of salted boiling water. The pasta is added, cooked for the designated amount time and drained. Sauce, made in a separate pot, is then poured or tossed with the cooked pasta. It turns out you can save time, water, and energy, not to mention make less dishes (!), by cooking pasta in a small amount of water or other flavorful liquid and adding the sauce ingredients to the same pan.

Fry Pan Pasta

-1-pound spaghetti
-1-quart low sodium chicken stock
-1 1/4 cup water


  1. In a large fry pan (wide enough to hold the pasta and at least 2 inches deep) place the room temperature chicken broth and water. Add the pasta and turn n the heat.
  2. Once the pot begins to boil cook for the amount of time designated on the pasta box (usually).

At the end of the cooking time you will have perfectly cooked flavorful pasta with the thickened liquid at the bottom of the pan ready for your sauce ingredients. As an example, in this case since I used chicken stock so I might add some left over cooked chicken, a few cups of fresh chopped spinach and a few tablespoons of parmesan cheese. Stir well and serve!

Recipe and Tips Courtesy of Chef Ellen Clevenger-Firley

© 2024 North Carolina Cooperative Extension
Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP)

North Carolina State University
Agricultural and Human Sciences Department

Cooperative Extension at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University
College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences (CAES)

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