Oils and vinegars: Extra-virgin olive oil, neutral cooking oil (such as canola or grapeseed), red-wine vinegar, white vinegar or white-wine vinegar.
Cans and jars: Tuna in olive oil, tomato paste, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, chicken stock or vegetable stock (box-packed tastes better than canned). A good-tasting, simple tomato sauce can become a soup or a stew, or make a quick dinner with pasta or polenta.
Spices and dried herbs: Kosher salt, red-pepper flakes, ground cayenne, curry powder, bay leaves, black peppercorns, sweet paprika, ground cinnamon, ground cumin, garlic powder or granulated garlic, dried thyme and dried oregano. This selection will take you through everything from a basic beef stew to Saturday morning pancakes to Thanksgiving dinner.
Grains and starches: Long-grain white rice, one or two other grains (such as quinoa or farro), dry pasta (one long, one short and chunky), plain bread crumbs, crackers, canned beans (white beans, black beans and-or chickpeas), dry lentils.
Nuts and nut butters: Walnuts, almonds, roasted peanuts, peanut butter (smooth and crunchy).
Sweeteners: Honey, maple syrup, granulated sugar.
Preserves and pickles: Fruit jams and preserves, anchovies.
Condiments and sauces: Basic vinaigrette, mustard (yellow or Dijon), mayonnaise, ketchup, hot sauce, salsa, soy sauce.
Produce: Garlic, onions, all-purpose potatoes (such as Yukon Gold), lemons, shelf-stable tofu (Essential for vegetarians, Expanded for others).
Dairy: Eggs, unsalted butter, cheeses (Cheddar, Jack or Colby, Parmesan), milk or cream for cooking (not skim).
Freezer: Chicken parts, sausages, thick fish fillets, shrimp, thick-sliced bread (for toast), spinach (and other vegetables such as corn and peas), berries (and other fruit such as peaches and mango). Some fruits and vegetables take particularly well to freezing — and in most growing seasons, the quality is better than fresh. Frozen fruit is useful for baking and smoothies.
Baking: All-purpose flour, cornmeal, rolled oats, cornstarch, baking soda, baking powder, pure vanilla extract, light brown sugar, dark brown sugar, confectioners’ sugar, bittersweet baking chocolate, semisweet chocolate chips, raisins or another dried fruit, cocoa powder. With these ingredients on hand, thousands of cookies, brownies, cakes, muffins, quick breads and other sweets can be produced without a trip to the store.