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How To Stock Your Minimalist Kitchen + List: 16 Pantry Staples

The term “minimalist kitchen” is a bit of an oxymoron, isn’t it? After all, many of us love cooking and the kitchen is one of the most complex areas of our home. Even with a tiny house, my kitchen is my “command center.” I like cooking. I keep my kitchen organized and clean it every day–it’s small and orderly…but does mean it’s a “minimalist kitchen?”

kitchen staples

At the heart of it, minimalism is all about embracing simplicity. When we have a bunch of expired ingredients on hand and storage for a small army we’ll never need to feed, it gets stressful. Rather than working through a cluttered kitchen and sorting through expired jars of who-knows-what, a minimalist kitchen list consists of items you use regularly for meals you enjoy. Stock your minimalist kitchen with the equipment you’ll use and the items needed to prepare your favorite foods. That’s it.

When it comes down to it, all you really need to store in your pantry or kitchen are the ingredients to tide you over until your next trip to the store. Now, that said, there are a few staples that are helpful to keep on hand. This is especially true if the weather gets bad or life gets busy and you need the components of a meal, fast.

So what items should go on your minimalist kitchen list? What are the basic guidelines for stocking a minimalist pantry and what ingredients will maximize your meals in a minimal amount of space, clutter, and stress? This is what I’ve discovered when it comes to keeping a small, but useful kitchen and pantry.

Guidelines for Stocking a Minimalist Pantry

If you’re ready to start cutting out pantry clutter, especially if you have a small storage space, there are a few guidelines you should follow:

1. Buy only what you like

buy food you like

One of the biggest mistakes people make when they stock a small pantry is storing extra food for special meals or occasions—from cake mix to cranberry sauce. Some people get a “food storage list” and assume they should buy every item on it. Only buy foods you like to eat and eat regularly. If you don’t bake, then don’t keep baking supplies on hand. If you aren’t a fan of beans, don’t feel like you should buy beans for your storage. This is especially applicable if your space is at a minimum.

2. Watch for items that go with many different meals

Ingredients like broth or canned tomatoes go with all sorts of dishes. It’s a good idea to keep a few cans on hand. The same goes for items like pasta, oil, spices, and rice. Look for simple ingredients that work into many of your favorite meals.

3. Stick to a meal routine

taco tuesday food planningJust like wearing similar outfits every day, sticking with a regular meal routine cuts out a lot of stress. If you know you’re always going to enjoy Taco Tuesday or fish on Friday, then you don’t need to spend time planning and ensuring you’ve purchased a bunch of different ingredients. Treat yourself by going out when you want to enjoy a meal out of the routine or plan a dinner at home for a special occasion. The rest of the time, stick with foods you enjoy and put them in a regular rotation.

4. Purchase shelf-stable items

Stocking a pantry, whether big or small, calls for shelf-stable items. When you purchase foods requiring cold storage like freezing or refrigeration, it takes up a lot of room. This is a problem if you don’t have a much fridge or freezer space. I have a very small fridge (a 4.4 cu ft bar fridge), which I use to house the basics: milk, meat, cheese and fresh vegetables. Many items (like eggs, butter and produce) are easily and safely stored right on the counter or on shelves rather than in your fridge.

5. Watch expiration dates

If you’re decluttering and organizing your pantry, watch your expiration dates! Anything past the “best by” date, get rid of! If you don’t plan to eat it (but it’s still good) consider donating it to a food bank. Don’t keep items you don’t like or won’t eat before their expiration date. Chalk it up to a good life lesson and toss it out.

when do food expire chart

6. Store only what you’ll need until your next trip to the market

You don’t need to store weeks or months of food in your pantry, especially if you’re applying a minimalist approach. Store only what you’ll use before your next trip to the market. Keep a few basic ingredients on hand to pull together meals you enjoy.

Minimalist Kitchen List: 16 Pantry Basics You Need on Hand

Obeying the guidelines above, these are pantry basics most people like to store. Again—follow your own preferences and habits. If you don’t bake, skip baking supplies. If you’re a vegetarian, then you won’t have much use for canned meat or jerky. Keep one or two weeks’ worth of each item on hand.

1. Beans

beans for pantry

Beans are inexpensive, easy store and a great source of protein. If your storage space is limited, beans give you a great shelf-stable option to dress up or dress down. Dried beans and chickpeas are typically softened by soaking overnight. Lentils and split peas will soften as they cook (no need to soak). Beans provide a nice, simple base for many dishes.

2. Rice

rice as pantry staple

Rice is another great, simple item to keep on-hand, especially if you don’t have much space. Store it easily—any dry spot will do. There are tons of meal options using rice as the base. Mexican food, Middle Eastern dishes and Asian meals all work well with rice. There are many different types of rice: Jasmine, Basmati, sushi…but buy basic white or brown rice (white takes less time to cook) if you only have room to store one type.

3. Baking Supplies

baking items - flour, sugar, salt

If you’re a regular baker, you may want to purchase baking supplies (flour, sugar, baking soda, etc.). Buy only the basics you need in between your trips to the store and watch for items like Bisquick or cake mix which are used to bake several different dishes. When space is limited, baking supplies take up a lot of room, but for those who use them often it’s well worth the sacrifice of space. I personally prefer to buy a few pre-made baked goods, so I don’t need to store ingredients like big bags of flour.

4. Spices

piles of spices in spoons

Spices are an area where many people tend to go overboard. After all, they don’t require much space, they’re inexpensive and add flavor, so why not stock up on every spice, right? Well, spices actually have a very short shelf-life. Many ground spices only stay potent and flavorful for a year or two after opening. Dried herbs tend to last even less time. It’s better to buy small quantities you’ll use up quickly and regularly. Salt and pepper are exceptions of course. I keep my grinders along with Texas Pete (the best hot sauce ever–sorry Tabasco) right on hand at all times.

5. Pasta

keep dry pasta in pantry

Pasta is a fast, easy meal to enjoy all kinds of ways. Add peanut butter and soy sauce for Asian peanut noodles. Use pasta as a base for spaghetti or enjoy plain noodles with a little olive oil, cheese and egg. Dried pasta is easy to store, so it’s smart to keep a box or two ready for meals.

6. Canned Tomatoes

cans of tomatoes

Canned tomatoes can be pureed to make tomato sauce. Use them as a base for soup, stir them into pasta, or use them in chili. Canned tomatoes are another versatile and easy to store ingredient, even in the smallest pantry. They add a lot of flavor and stretch many different meals.

7. Oil

olive oil for cooking

There are many oil options. I tent to prefer olive oil because it’s shelf-stable and easy to use in almost any dish. Coconut oil is another good option because it’s used in both cooking and baking. Whichever type you choose, oil is a must-have for your minimalist kitchen list, especially if you’re looking for ingredients you’ll use all the time. Use oil to brown meat, keep vegetables from sticking or in pasta dishes. You can use olive oil as a swap for butter to dip bread. Add lemon juice or vinegar to oil and make instant salad dressing.

8. Dried Fruit

dried fruits

Dried fruit is one of those like it or hate it foods. Some people think raisins are the worst ever while others love them. As far as pantry foods go, dried fruit is pretty versatile. Use it in trail mix, add it to baked goods for sweetness, keep dried fruits on hand for snacking or adding into salads and sandwiches. If you like oatmeal or hot cereal, dried fruit is a nice addition. Again—choose only the type you like.

9. Cereal & Oats

dried oats and oatmeal

Basic cereals like Chex, corn flakes or Rice Krispies are great to keep on hand because you can use them as a coating for chicken or fish. Use them in rice crispy treats or snack mix. Then, of course, you can also enjoy them as a breakfast or snack with milk. You may also want to keep oats in your pantry too. Oatmeal is a great hot cereal and oats are often used in cookies and other baked treats.

10. Canned Vegetables & Soups

canned soups in pantry

As far as canned vegetables go, some people love them, while others can’t stand them. They’re certainly easy to store, especially if you’re living in a small space. Keeping a few cans of corn or another basic vegetable is smart, in case you need a quick meal or side dish. Similarly, soups are used for all sorts of meals, so storing a few cans of broth or soup makes a lot of sense for most people. To take up even less space, buy concentrated bullion cubes or paste, then just add water.

11. Peanut Butter & Nuts

peanut butter and nuts

Peanut butter is a great high protein snack and it’s also an ingredient in all kinds of meals. Peanut butter is used in Asian or African cooking. Peanut butter’s easy to store and almost everyone loves a PB&J when you need a fast, easy meal. Keeping nuts like cashews or almonds in your pantry is a good idea too. Add them in cereal, use them to top salads, add them to stir-fry and in other dishes.

12. Canned Meat/Fish

chicken for meals

Having a few packets or cans of tuna fish on hand is a basic for most pantries. If you need an easy way to add protein to your meals: just open a can of tuna and stir it into pasta or make a tuna fish sandwich. Canned chicken is also a good option to put together a chicken salad, use in soups, casseroles or pasta dishes.

13. Shelf-Stable Dairy & Sauces

shelf stable sauces

Parmesan cheese is shelf-stable and can be stored unopened in your pantry for a very long time. Soy or powdered milk is also a good idea if you only venture to the store occasionally and run out of regular milk between trips. It’s also used as an ingredient in many dishes. Most salad dressings, mayonnaise and sauces are shelf-stable until they’re opened. If you go through these items fast, it makes sense to add one extra bottle to your minimalist kitchen list.

14. Jerky

beef jerky lasts long in storage

Jerky is easy to store. It doesn’t take up much room and it’s great to keep on hand for a quick snack. Look for individually packaged sticks as well as different flavors and types. There’s turkey jerky, salmon jerky and even jerky with caffeine in it (a.k.a. Perky Jerky). If you need a high protein snack that doesn’t need to be refrigerated, jerky is a good option.

15. Bread & Crackers


Keeping bread and crackers on hand is a smart plan. Bread doesn’t last a long time though, so only store what you will eat within a week or two. Crackers are more shelf-stable and will last for months unopened. Tortillas are another option to keep on hand. If your space is small or if you’re looking for less clutter in your pantry, pick one type of bread you will use in several different ways.

16. Snacks


When it comes to snacks we all have our own preferences. Keep a few snacks on hand, but don’t go overboard. Cookies or chips are easy to store and don’t usually take up much room. Again, the best rule of thumb is to only store what you’ll eat within a week or two (between trips to the store). Most snacks aren’t used as ingredients for another meal, so there’s no reason to keep more than you need (unless you anticipate a snack emergency).

Your food storage is a lifesaver (literally!) if the weather is bad, if you live in a remote area or if you can’t get to the store for whatever reason. Keeping a minimalist kitchen should help make your life and meal planning less stressful. If you store only the basic ingredients you need for your favorite meals, you’ll always be prepared, even if you’re stuck at home or don’t have time to fix something big. Cut out the clutter and unnecessary items in your pantry today!

 Your turn!

  • What are your must-have minimalist pantry items?
  • Do you stick to a meal routine or mix it up?

Three Reasons You Won’t Be Happy In A Tiny House

When people dream about living in a tiny house, they idealize the life a fair bit.  It’s something we all do, heck, I even do it even today.  There are, of course, many reasons tiny houses aren’t the best, but I thought I’d share some thoughts on things that leave people unhappy in a tiny house so you can avoid them.


You started with the design, not with the function

There is a adage: form follows function.  Many people fall in love with a specific house or set of plans, then try to make it work for them. This is backwards.  The most successful houses start with what a person needs, then a design is spawn from that list of needs and functions.  You need to play anthropologist, taking an objective eye when you look at your life and what your house needs to support.

You didn’t take the time to get in your own head

I see this all the time, people move into a tiny house very quickly without going through the deep self reflection and understanding required to make it work.  The biggest thing that will make you settle into your tiny house for the long term isn’t the design, the size, the amenities, it’s your coming to terms with what makes you happy, with a departure from gratuitous consumption, and a break from status symbols.

It’s easy to say you don’t buy a lot of stuff or that you don’t need things; it’s an entirely different thing to be deprogrammed of consumer culture and when someone shuns you in a social situation that you can be okay with the fact your house isn’t large or that you only own a few things.

You think it is about the house

I say this time and time again, living in a tiny house and The Tiny Life has nothing to do with the house, it is a lifestyle that you adopt that will change your life.  While tiny houses have a great aesthetic, they are appealing and cozy. When someone successfully lives in a tiny house long term it is not because of these facts.

A tiny houser is committed to making a change in their life to a magnitude that most people are willing to.  If you live the tiny life, you could live in any size house because it’s not about the house, it’s the commitment to your priorities and to doing what needs to be done to live your best life.

Your Turn!

  • What things are you thinking about when it comes to making the leap?
  • What are you worried about moving to such a small space?


Determining The Needs Of Your Space

Understanding what you do in your home and work is an important step to designing any space for the perfect place for you.  The greatest thing about living The Tiny Life is that you get to design your space and your life from the ground up.  Today we’re going to focus on our physical space and what need in a built environment that sets the stage for our best life.


In some cases understanding your needs will show you that all you need to do is tweak a few things in the space you’re already in.  It may be the case that more drastic changes or starting from scratch may be required.  You may also be looking towards building a new space anyway so it’s time to consider what that design will be.  It’s important to understand that to live The Tiny Life, you don’t necessarily need to live in a tiny house and what you have right now may be adapted.

room-trackingThe first step in understanding what your space needs to have in it, you need to understand how you actually use it already.  We often have ideas of what we would do if… or if only I had ____ I do more of this one thing.  It can be easy to fall into the trap of future planning so let’s focus on what you do right now.

To do this I use my Room Tracking method: to start, gather a bunch of pens and some post-it notes.    Go around to each of your rooms in your house or apartment and close every door.  Put a post-it note on the door and a pen on top of the door frame of each door.  When you go into a room, write down what you are going into that room for and estimate how long it will take.  On your front door (or your main door) put a post it note on it and write things down that you leave your house to do with time estimates.  Do this for a week.

This will create a comprehensive list of what you actually do in your home, not just what you think you do in your home.  You can even re-purpose this exercise for your work space.  Take all the post-it notes and combine them into a list.

I put together this free worksheet to help, click here.

Once you’ve compiled a list of what you do and how long you do it, start estimating the amount of space you’ll need to do that one thing.  You can even rank your activities by which you do the longest and ask yourself, “Are the things I spend the most time on the most important to me?” Just think about that.

What can you outsource?

With your list consider things that could happen outside the home.  A gym membership is one example.  Instead of having a home gym, would a gym work just as well or even better?  Or if you haven’t stepped foot in your home gym in several months, do you even need it at all?  For me I realized while I was effective at working from home, it was lonely; so I started working at a coworking space.

What things can you cut out all together?

I realized that I really didn’t read a book twice, so keeping books was often a waste of space. So, I replaced my bookshelf with a kindle.  I did keep about 10 books that were more reference books, but the rest went.

What things can pull double duty?

Think about things that are on your list that can happen in a single area or what things are important enough to have a dedicated space.  For me I knew I wanted a work space that was just for work, but my living room could serve as a place to read, to watch TV, to hang out with friends, and to setup a table for meals.

Whittling down the list

Consider the above questions and think critically about what you really do need.  Avoid what you “hope” to do, but focus on what you actually do.  With this you can come up with a solid list of activities that can help you design your space more effectively.

Your Turn!

  • What was your most important activity in your house?
  • What other tricks have you used to determine your true needs?

Frank’s Tiny House

We have a new tiny house coming to the Tiny House Conference!  Frank is a carpenter and cabinet maker who travels for work.  He built this tiny house so he can take it with him while he is on longer jobs away from his home in NC.







Have you got your tickets yet for the Conference?

Our holiday sale ends soon!  Use code: TINY2013 for $50


Paul’s Wofati

Some of you know I’m a little bit of a permaculture fanatic, so I like to interject some of these concepts where I can.  Today I wanted to share a neat project going on over at permies.com’s forum.  It’s called a Wofati house and essentially it is an wooden structure that uses post and beam techniques that is then mostly buried under dirt to provide thermal mass.  The big concept here is that the house is optimized for solar gain and uses a large thermal mass to keep things cool in the summer and warm in the winter.  The design was inspired by Mike Oehler’s design and is touted to be pretty inexpensive.

Photos by Kristie Wheaton from Permise.com











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