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Back Porch Table: The prepare-your-pantry-but-don’t-panic edition

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Stock your pantry

Consider these items to keep on hand in your pantry for any "just in case" situation.

It’s the question of the moment: How in the world do you stock a pantry that could sustain you and your family for a few days, or a few weeks?

At parties, at the gas station, on the phone, everyone I’m talking to is wondering. What are we supposed to buy? How much of it is enough? How much is too much? Is “stockpiling” something we should be doing, or are we all feeding off of each other and panicking unnecessarily? What’s rational, and what’s rumination?

Any way you look at it, it just can’t hurt to have a little supply of a few days’ worth of necessities. It’s why we’ve been shopping at Costco forever, storing paper towels and toilet paper and all the other daily stuff in quantities far greater than our needs in the moment. 

In that spirit – no panic, no “shoulds” – we came up with a few ideas about what a well-stocked pantry might look like. We thought it might come in handy, whether we use the provisions to get us through an unusual amount of time spent at home, or whether we use them over many months, confident that we can always whip up something decent without making a trip to the store. 


  • Bananas
  • Potatoes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Onions
  • Ginger
  • Lemons 


  • Olive oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Olives
  • Sundried tomatoes
  • Tomato sauce and tomato paste
  • Jarred marinara sauce
  • Pasta of several shapes
  • Wild rice
  • Rice – white or brown, or both, whatever your preference
  • Arborio rice
  • Dried mushrooms
  • Chicken broth
  • Cream of mushroom or celery soup
  • Oatmeal
  • Dried fruit – raisins, apricots, apples, dates
  • Nuts
  • Popcorn
  • Peanut butter and/or almond butter
  • White beans – cannellini, great northern
  • Chickpeas


  • Frozen spinach
  • Frozen peas
  • Chicken, steak, ground beef


  • Almond milk (because it keeps for a long time versus regular milk)
  • Eggs 
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Feta cheese
  • Butter 

What to do with all of this? We’ve got a few ideas about that, too. Here are some starters:

Banana-Peanut Butter Smoothies
Peel the bananas, and cut them in halves. Store them in freezer baggies and freeze. For a smoothie, put a half a banana, about 1/4 cup peanut butter, a little ice and about a cup of almond milk in a blender. Whir it all together, and check the consistency and taste. You might want to add a little more peanut butter, a little more milk. If you want to sweeten it, blend in a pitted date.

Oatmeal with Fruit Compote
Put a mix of dried fruit in a heavy saucepan and cover it with water. Simmer the fruit and water over medium-low until the fruit has plumped and the water has become syrupy, about 30 minutes. Cool. Cook the oatmeal following the package directions. Top it with a little almond milk, the fruit compote and a few toasted walnuts or almonds, if you like.

Creamy Risotto
Warm 4 cups chicken broth in a small saucepan, and leave it warming on the stove. In another larger saucepan, heat a little olive oil over medium heat, then add 1 clove of garlic that you’ve minced. Sauté the garlic for a couple of minutes until it is fragrant. Add 1 cup of arborio rice, and stir about 1 minute, until the rice is coated in olive oil and starting to look translucent. Pour in ¾ cup of white wine (this part is optional), and stir until the rice absorbs the wine. Then add the broth and stir until the rice absorbs the broth and you can see the bottom of the pan when you drag the spoon through the rice. Continue adding one ladle of broth at a time, stirring the rice until it absorbs each ladle of broth. Stir in ½ cup or so of grated parmesan cheese, and, if you want, add some frozen peas and/or spinach. Season with salt and pepper.

Chicken and Mushroom Wild Rice
Defrost 2 chicken breasts and season them generously with salt, freshly ground pepper and garlic powder. Sear them in a skillet over medium-high heat until the outsides have browned, about 5 or 6 minutes per side. Remove the chicken from the skillet and cut the breasts in half. Reconstitute some dried mushrooms by letting them sit in boiling water for 10 minutes or so. Once they are soft, drain them, and chop them if you like smaller pieces. Stir together a can of cream of mushroom or cream of celery soup, 2 cans of water, 1/2 cup brown rice, 1/2 cup wild rice and the mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper. Pour the mixture into an 8-inch by 8-inch baking dish that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Nestle the halved chicken breasts in the rice, and cover the dish with foil. Bake at 350 degrees, covered, for about an hour. Remove the cover and continue baking for another 20 minutes or so, until the rice is bubbly and creamy.

Sundried Tomato Pasta
Cook any shape pasta in salted, boiling water for 9 to 10 minutes. Drain it in a colander. Heat a tablespoon or 2 of olive oil in a large skillet on medium-low. Add 2 or 3 cloves of garlic that has been minced, and sauté until it is fragrant, about 2 or 3 minutes. Pour in about 2 cups of jarred marinara (I like Rao’s) and some julienned sundried tomatoes. Season with a little salt, fresh ground pepper and a pinch of crushed red pepper. Toss with the pasta and sprinkle some parmesan cheese over the top. 

Mediterranean Chickpeas
Drain and rinse a can of chickpeas. Warm a little olive oil in a skillet over medium-low. Add 1 clove of garlic that has been minced, and sauté for 2 or 3 minutes. Add the chickpeas and stir. Cook them for a couple of minutes, just until they are warm. Remove the chickpeas to a bowl and season with salt, freshly ground pepper, dried oregano and a pinch of crushed red pepper. Crumble some feta cheese over the chickpeas and drizzle a little olive oil over everything.

Parmesan Popcorn
Heat about 2 tablespoons of coconut oil in a heavy, lidded pot over medium-high heat. Drop in 3 kernels of popcorn. When they pop, add 4 or 5 tablespoons of popcorn kernels. Cover the pot and shake until the popcorn has popped, and the popping just about stops. Remove the lid, season the popcorn generously with salt and freshly ground pepper, and toss with some very finely grated parmesan cheese.

Editor's Note: See more tips on preparing for coronavirus here. See more recipe ideas on Back Porch Table.

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