My Pantry Essentials: 5 Staples When Cooking for Two

updated May 12, 2022
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

With no one to hold us accountable, my husband and I have been known to devour entire bags of chips with bowls of salsa and call it dinner. A household of two can sometimes lead to strange dining decisions.

However, we do try to limit this kind of activity to the occasional dalliance by keeping the cupboards stocked with a few dinner essentials.

Since I work as a food writer, you’d think that my husband and I would eat like rock stars all day, every day. Not so. The life of a food writer means that one week you get leftovers of beef ragu for every meal (literally) while the next is flush with far too many versions of plum cobbler.

On the days in between when there are no leftovers at all, putting thought into an elaborate meal for just the two of us is the last thing we feel like doing. We have a few key pantry staples to aid us in such moments.

These are the building blocks for the kind of effortless meals that one can make with a brain that’s half-fried after a long day. Namely, frittatas, tomato sauce with pasta, and pizza.

Emma’s 5 Pantry Staples for Cooking for Two

1. Eggs – Eggs are the ne plus ultra of quick-fix dinners. We end up cooking them at least once a week in some form or another. Frittatas, scrambled eggs on toast, poached eggs with some greens, eggs in a basket… Yup, eggs never fail to hit the spot.

2. Onions – I panic when my onion tally falls below two. I throw onions in everything. As a flavor base and all-around meal filler, onions are the best.

3. Cans of Diced Tomatoes – As the basis for our standby meal of Weeknight Tomato Sauce and Pasta, we make sure to have a few 28-oz cans in the cupboard at all times.

4. Jars of Roasted Red Peppers – My practical self loves these because they are, essentially, a shelf-stable vegetable. My culinary self loves them for their smokey flavor and meaty texture. Whenever the fridge is bare of fresh vegetables, and even when it isn’t, these get diced up and thrown into the pot.

5. Chicken Sausage – We dice these up for everything from a quick pizza topping to filling out a frittata. They come in a wide range of flavors, but andouille is a favorite around here. We use 1-2 links in most of our dishes and freeze the rest to have on-hand.

These five ingredients have gotten us out of more close calls than I can count when it comes to dinner. What are your emergency weeknight dinner staples?

Related: Great Recipes for Small-Portioned Sweet Treats for Two?