As we've mentioned a time or two, we create a lot of our meals by using ingredients we have at our house already. There are a few items that we always have on hand so we can throw a nice, healthy meal together on a whim.
Our non-perishable items are pretty much always available. We keep a variety of canned goods: beans, tomatoes, vegetables, etc. We like to keep pretty much every type of canned tomato available at all times. We have tomato paste, diced, crushed, stewed, you name it.
We always keep a couple of containers of beef stock and chicken stock on hand. We use stock in MANY of our recipes. We often use stock instead of water in many recipes because it adds another layer of richness to the food.
Fresh Fruits & Veggies
We always keep a bag of lemons and limes on hand. We use the acids a lot to make pan sauces, salad dressings, or just to add to a good cocktail or glass or iced tea. We also like to have at least one other fruit for eating, like apples, bananas, pears, whatever we are feeling like at the time.
As for vegetables, we always have lettuce available, generally red leaf because we think it makes the prettiest salads. Beyond that, it really depends on the season.
We use a lot of fresh herbs. In the warmer months, we grow our own herb garden so that we always have fresh herbs to season with. In the winter, we normally have parsley and cilantro. We like to have chive and thyme on hand as well. We add fresh herbs to eggs every morning we have them. We top almost all of our meals with some type of herbage. If you can keep herbs sealed well, they last for quite a while.
We like to keep the basics on hand: ground beef, chicken, Italian sausage, country sausage, more chicken, and whatever venison we can get our friends to donate to our culinary ventures. If we want to make something special, like a beef roast or lamb, we typically run and grab that close to the meal so we don't have to freeze the meat.
We always have Parmesan cheese. We use it constantly. We also keep a block of cheddar and a block of mozzarella to slice or shred when needed. For salads, we like to keep feta or blue cheese in a sealed tub around to, once again, add flavor.
Other Must Haves
Rounding out our list, we must always have eggs and bread - you know, the basics. We also keep a huge amount of spices and different kinds of vinegar to create different flavors.
If you always keep the basics available, you'd be amazed at what you can create.