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Your Grocery List for a Perfect Pantry

Pasta, grains, canned goods, baking staples: Learn what to keep in your pantry -- and for how long -- with this helpful guide from "Martha Stewart's Homekeeping Handbook."

Photography by: Annie Schlechter

Baking Staples

  • Pure vanilla extract (and other extracts)
  • Vanilla beans
  • Baking soda
  • Baking powder
  • Unsweetened and semisweet dark chocolate
  • Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • Unflavored gelatin
  • Dry yeast
  • Cornstarch

Store ingredients in airtight containers, away from heat and light sources. Extracts will last several years; leavenings lose their potency after about one year and should be discarded on their expiration dates.

Canned and Bottled Items

  • Italian plum tomatoes
  • Tomato paste
  • Green and black olives
  • Olive paste
  • Anchovies
  • Anchovy paste
  • Capers
  • Chickpeas
  • Black beans
  • Hot sauce
  • Mustards
  • Italian oil-packed tuna
  • Low-sodium chicken broth
  • Canned fruits
  • Chutneys
  • Fruit jam

Heed expiration dates; otherwise, most canned and bottled goods, such as preserves, pickles, and relishes, can be kept, unopened, for up to one year. Once opened, glass bottles should be refrigerated; transfer unused canned goods to airtight containers and refrigerate for three or four days. This is especially important for canned acidic foods such as tomatoes or pineapples; once the interior of the can is exposed to air, the acidity is likely to cause rust. If you do see rust on an opened can of food, the can and food should be discarded.

Dried Pasta

  • Assorted shapes including spaghetti, penne, rigatoni, fettuccine, lasagna, orzo, couscous

Dried pasta can be stored in its original package until opened, then transferred to airtight containers. It is best used within one year of purchase.


  • Unbleached all-purpose white
  • Whole-wheat
  • Cake (not self-rising)
  • Almond

Store wheat flours in airtight containers at room temperature up to one year. Choose containers with wide mouths for easy scooping and measuring. Freeze almond and other nut flours up to six months.

Grains, Rice, Dried Beans

  • Quick-cooking polenta
  • Stone-ground cornmeal
  • Oats
  • Arborio, long-grain white, medium- to long-grain brown, and basmati rice
  • Green lentilles du Puy
  • Black-eyed and split peas
  • Black, pinto, and cannellini beans
  • Flageolets

Dried items, with the exception of cornmeal, can be stored in the pantry up to one year. To discourage pests, keep cornmeal in the freezer, for up to one year.

Nuts and Dried Fruit

  • Pecan and walnut halves
  • Pine nuts
  • Peanuts
  • Cashews
  • Almonds
  • Hazelnuts
  • Raisins
  • Golden raisins
  • Currants
  • Dried apricots
  • Dates
  • Figs
  • Sun-dried tomatoes

To discourage nuts from turning rancid, store them in the freezer for up to six months. Dried fruits can be stored at room temperature six months to a year but last longer in the refrigerator; keep them well sealed to preserve freshness and prevent stickiness.


  • Extra-virgin olive
  • Canola
  • Peanut
  • Corn
  • Specialty oils such as toasted sesame and white truffle

Store vegetable oils in the original bottles, unrefrigerated, in a cool, dark place up to six months. Refrigerate nut oils (such as walnut oil), and use within three months.

Spices and Seasonings

Most spices will lose their potency after about a year, but their flavor will deteriorate faster if stored improperly. Keep them in airtight, light-proof containers, away from heat. Choose an accessible drawer or cabinet or a wall-mounted rack (do not hang it above the cooktop).

Sugars and Other Sweeteners

  • Granulated white, superfine, light and dark brown, and confectioners' sugar
  • Light corn syrup
  • Molasses
  • Pure maple syrup
  • Honey

Humidity can make solid sugars lumpy, so keep them in well-sealed containers in a cool, dry spot. Double-wrap brown sugars to keep them moist. Store syrups at room temperature in their original containers up to one year.


Store only hardy vegetables such as potatoes, onions, garlic, and dried wild mushrooms in your pantry. Potatoes should not be refrigerated; keep up to two weeks' worth in baskets or bins in a cool, dry, dark, well-ventilated spot. Do not store them in plastic, which can encourage mold, Keep onions, shallots, and garlic in the pantry (do not refrigerate) up to one month, and dried mushrooms for several months. Store each vegetable in a separate basket or bin; it's espcially important to keep potatoes and onions apart since they can cause each other to spoil.


  • Aged balsamic
    White wine
    Red wine
    Rice wine

Keep all types of vinegar in their original bottles, and store them in a cool spot up to one year.


Now that your cupboards are stocked, here's an easy, tasty pantry meal to try tonight.