Cooking On a Deadline: Kitchen Must Haves

Chris Redding lives in the wilds of New Jersey with her husband, two kids, one dog, and three rabbits. She graduated from Penn State with a degree in journalism and has only had one job in that field because she spent her early marriage following her husband’s career around Europe. When she isn’t writing she works part time for her local hospital. She has 4 romantic suspense novels published.

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Most people don’t have time to cook. Especially authors who have deadlines and have to spend an amazing amount of time promoting. This is the beginning of a series of blog posts about cooking well for your family without spending too much time or using processed food.

In this blog post, I’m going to tackle items you should have in your house. If you don’t think you will use much, get the smallest container of it possible. If you think the opposite, then go to a warehouse store and get the most you can.


I use all-purpose, but also have whole wheat and quinoa. If you only have one, choose all-purpose.


Olive oil, both extra virgin and regular. Peanut oil (unless there’s an allergy).


Not margarine or Crisco. I prefer unsalted butter.


Fresh is preferable, but you may not have the time to take care of the plants. Do not buy these in bulk because they go stale.


Again, do not buy in bulk. Which ones you have can depend on your family’s tastes.


Lemons keep for a surprisingly long time in your fruit crisper.  Don’t buy a lot because you will only use one or two.


Enough said.

Frozen Vegetables

This way you can always have something nutritious no matter what you are making.


At the very least white wine and red wine vinegars. If you are willing to go further, balsamic and champagne white wine vinegar.


Dried for all of these. All of these you can add stuff to them to perk them up for a great side dish or main meal.


Clearly if there are allergy concerns, take this off your list, but nuts are pretty versatile and add a nice crunch to any dish.

Bread Crumbs

If you can save your old bread, and grind it up with spices, that is best, but if you buy ready-made, buy unflavored so you can put in your own spices.


Whatever kind you like be it whole, skim, almond, rice. Does not matter.


Unless you hate them. They don’t last long unless you can get them from a farmer’s market. If not, you can get many varieties of dried.

Tomato Sauce

Your own homemade would be best, but if necessary use jarred sauce.


Obviously, not if you are a vegetarian. Buy this in bulk and freeze in portions you would use for one meal. You just have to remember to pull them out that morning. More in the post about prepping meals beforehand.

I’m not a big fan of things in a can so if you can find these in a jar version, do it, but make sure you can pronounce all the ingredients.


Jalapeno Peppers

Artichoke Hearts

Sun-dried Tomatoes

Tomato Paste

Thanks for having me today and as Jacques Pepin says, “Happy Cooking.”

8 thoughts on “Cooking On a Deadline: Kitchen Must Haves

  1. Don’t forget beans, beans, beans! Both dry (cheaper) and canned (convenient). A crockpot on HIGH cooks dried beans perfectly between breakfast and lunch while you’re writing and totally ignoring it, if (a) you’ve soaked the beans overnight beforehand and (b) you drain the soaking water and put the beans in the crockpot with HOT water to give it a head start (using fresh water also reduces the enzymes in the beans that often cause, er, digestive distress). Add some carrot, celery, onion, cooked sausage, and lots of herbs and hot sauce and simmer another 30-60 minutes and you’ve got Cajun Beans on Rice, or dozens of variations of stew or soup. Yum! (Note: DO NOT add any salt or salty flavorings to the beans until they are fully cooked, or you’ll be eating rocks.)


  2. Lately I’ve been listing one of my hobbies as NOT cooking, but I always have plenty of things on hand as well as pesto made and frozen over the summer, salad mix, adult beverages, and a fire extinguisher.


  3. Great discussion! Don’t forget to add onions — sweet as well as cooking ones. Always. Other must-haves in our kitchen include Tabasco sauce, Crystal sauce, and Zatarain’s crab boil. Horseradish or Farmers horseradish sauce (no additives). Stadium mustard as well as regular yellow mustard. Sauer’s mayonnaise or right now Deep South since our grocery store forgot to stock it. We keep Greek pita bread in stock to make mini veggie pizzas with and regular pita bread for quick lunches, whole wheat tortillas too. Kettle dumplings don’t have additives and freeze for a long time, actually taste like the homemade ones. Cheeeses we keep on hand include mozzarella, cheddar and Muenster. We keep Usinger’s bratwurst in the freezer and sauerkraut from glass jars usually.

    For storm supplies — in our case, hurricanes — we keep (among other things) tins of sardines, tins of red beans & black beans, and soup on hand with charcoal for the grill. (I’m with you on the warnings about the tin cans but for hurricane season we keep them on hand.)

    I’ve been encountering lots of blackeyed peas that are being labeled as field peas (both frozen & in farmers’ markets). Just found some dried ones by Camellia that I HOPE will be really & truly field peas. They LOOK like them at a glimpse.


  4. Also for hurricane season, nonfat dried milk and dry cereals.

    The brand name stuff I mentioned doesn’t have high fructose corn syrup — better to avoid for health reasons IMHO plus lots of guests may have diabetes and they certainly must avaoid it. (While I love Sauer’s mayonnaise I do NOT love their salad dressing & it does have high fructose corn syrup.)


  5. Every one of you has reminded me of something else I need (or just want) to have on hand—I could fill an entire pantry just with these things. Chris, thank you for prompting me to “refresh” my supplies 😉


  6. Good list, Chris. Reminds me to check my cabinets. It’s getting to be chili time here, so dark kidney beans are on my list. I pack a meal’s worth of hamburger in gallon ziplock bags and flatten them before freezing. That way they stack easily and thaw quickly.


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