If you’re anything like me, you live for going to the grocery store. While some might describe it as a boring and necessary task, I feel like a kid in a candy store once I step inside and see all the produce, packages, bakery, deli, and everything in between all organized oh-so-satisfyingly. Pre-COVID I used to frequent a few local grocery stores multiple times a week because I never really got into meal-planning and prepping. I loved scrolling through Instagram or the New York Times Cooking app and seeing what tickled my fancy then picking up just what I needed for dinner. Apparently this is a more European way of shopping so while I felt chic, I was very much frazzled when COVID-19 rolled around and I had to do a mega weekly grocery shop to limit exposure to other people.
Daunted by the task of only shopping once weekly for my groceries, I called in reinforcements in the form of cookbooks. Another thing about me is that I house an extensive cookbook library in my 1 bedroom apartment. I began to comb through my cookbooks one by one to see what sparked the inspiration to keep me out of the grocery store and into my own kitchen using up what was in my if I do say so, expertly stocked pantry.
Here are the cookbooks that I’ve found help use up pantry staples to keep you out of the grocery store as much as possible.
Jamie Oliver has done it again with his latest cookbook 7 Ways. Similar to his also recent book 5 Ingredient Food, this book is filled with recipes that use just 7 ingredients total minus a few pantry basics like salt, oil & vinegar. Jamie is all about staying cool and calm in the kitchen and when there are fewer ingredients on the counter, it makes cooking a breeze. Don’t think that just because there are just 7 ingredients that these recipes will be basic. Jamie maximizes each one and uses them in unique and brilliant ways.
I know that plant-based cooking can seem daunting but if anyone can make it look easy, it’s Ella Mills of Deliciously Ella. While I don’t follow a plant-based diet, I do try to tuck into more vegetable/plant-focused meals at least twice weekly to counteract all the naughty desserts I’ve been baking. Ella’s book Quick & Easy is exactly that — the recipes are very easy to follow and while there are more intensive recipes in the book, there are also some with few ingredients that still pack a punch. Plus, once you pick up Ella’s list of vegan pantry staples like non-dairy milks, flours, and grains to name a few, you’re ready to go.
Known for being a force in the Bon Appetit test kitchen is Carla Lalli Music and her book Where Cooking Begins continues to be a best-seller. What I absolutely love about Carla’s book are all the swap-outs she includes. Each recipe has a wide array of swaps that you can make if you don’t have a certain ingredient. The fact that more cookbooks/recipes don’t do this is astounding and I can’t help but applaud Carla for her forward-thinking.
While this book by culinary icon Ina Garten might not be pantry focused, it’s amazing in its own right because every recipe can be made ahead and baked off whenever you need it. Even though the focus of these recipes are for entertaining guests, they can still be used for meal-prepping in advance. If you want to get ahead on some meals for the week, simply whip up a few of these recipes and have them waiting in the fridge for their time to shine.
Creating recipes for real people is Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen. Even though this book is a few years old, it proves still useful in my kitchen and will be in yours too. Deb’s recipes are approachable, flavourful, and unfussy so if you often get flustered in the kitchen, you might want to consider reaching for this book. In it, you’ll find new ways to use basic ingredients that result in impossible-to-resist dishes and treats.
One thing, of many, that I love about Middle Eastern food is that so many dishes utilize pantry staples like grains, spices, dried fruits, and so much more. Eating Out Loud by Eden Grinshpan is a book that every Middle Eastern cuisine lover or any foodie at all really, needs on their shelf.