The Pantry Ingredients Busy Mom Joanna Gaines Always Has on Hand

June 11, 2018

When a mother of four (with a fifth on the way) shares her time- and money-saving kitchen tips that help her day in and day out, I'm all ears. Joanna Gaines, star of the popular HGTV show Fixer Upper, outlines her pantry basics in her new book, Magnolia Table: A Collection of Recipes for Gathering, and I made sure to drill down on specific strategies when I had a chance to meet her last month.

"On a weekly basis, a lot of the dishes that I cook use a lot of the same ingredients," Jo (as she's known) tells me. "I try and buy a lot of those ingredients in bulk so I'm not always going to the grocery store right before I'm set to cook."

Preparation, as always, is key. "I always do this on a Sunday night. I figure out what it is that everyone wants to eat and then I do the whole grocery list. And I think when you go with a plan, that alone is a big deal because you're not buying stuff you don't need. But also when you're buying those tried and true ingredients in bulk that you know you'll use, I think that helps as well."

Another helpful strategy in planning and stretching the family food budget: leftovers. "Finding a new way to spin leftovers is key, even though my kids aren't big on them unless you kind of tweak it a little bit."

Her trusted pantry staples include everything from:

  • Standard baking essentials like flours (unbleached all-purpose and self-rising), sugars, and cocoa powders;
  • Produce like bananas, lemons, white onions, and garlic (both fresh and the jarred, chopped variety);
  • Southern favorites like pecans and buttermilk;
  • Spices like kosher salt, parsley flakes, garlic salt, and garlic powder;
  • And of course, personal favorites like salted butter, refrigerated pie crust, organic chicken broth, and most importantly, dark chocolate-covered almonds. ("These aren't for cooking but for my sanity!" she divulges in the most relatable mom statement yet.)

What are the pantry essentials you can't bear to be without? Share them with us below!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Monica Bhagwan
    Monica Bhagwan
  • Deborah Trenchfield
    Deborah Trenchfield
  • Lisa Morrison
    Lisa Morrison
  • SophieL
  • Jessie
Hana is a food writer/editor based in New York.


Monica B. June 15, 2018
This article is a useless celebrity PR vehicle. Since when is stocking your pantry with flour and garlic powder noteworthy?
Monica B. June 15, 2018
smells like a publicist is doing his/her job here.
Deborah T. June 14, 2018
Several boxes of pasta, fettuccine, linguine, penne, etc. Specialty pasta sauce from the
local gourmet market. Bread flour and yeast for making homemade bread. Buttermilk and cornmeal for cornbread. Lentils, black beans and chickpeas for healthy high fiber dishes. Truffle Zest is my new favorite spice!
Hana A. June 15, 2018
You had me at truffle zest <3 Thanks, Deborah!
Lisa M. June 14, 2018
I got as far as parsley flakes and stopped reading
SophieL June 14, 2018
My Pantry staples:
Baking - flours (all-purpose, cake, whole wheat, pastry), baking soda, baking powder, Penzey's cake spice and pie spice, vanilla bean paste, Kosher salt
Unsalted butter
High-quality canned tomatoes (San Marzano)
TJ's frozen fire-roasted corn
Mini peppers (assorted colors)
Onions (yellow, green, red, shallots)
Envy apples
Penzey's herb blends (Fox Point, Mural of Flavor, Sunny Paris, Tuscan Sunset, Arizona Dreaming, Sandwich Sprinkle, Seasoned Salt, California Seasoned Pepper)
Grated cheese (Asiago blend, Mexican blend, sharp Cheddar)
Pasta (all shapes)
Rao spaghetti sauce
Yogurt (Greek, Icelandic, Whole Milk)
Hana A. June 15, 2018
LOVE Rao's sauce so much! Thanks for sharing, SophieL! Will have to look for these Envy apples you speak of...
Jessie June 11, 2018
I was disabled and low-income so I had to improvise a lot while my kids were growing up. So, I didn't have a pantry, per se, but cereals, like Cheerios, Raisin Bran and plain corn flakes (they're multipurpose!) were a monthly purchase. Also soy milk from the local Asian market was essential because my younger son was dairy-allergic.
For the rest of my meals, I kept a good relationship going with my local butcher (yes, we had one in the neighborhood in the 90's!) and they kept me supplied with drumstick bones for all kinds of soups. I also made sure my kids ate both plant and animal protein so they wouldn't feel hungry after dinner. Snacks were either fruit or, about once a week, a walk to the also local organic co-op for tasting the cheeses and artisan breads they had on offer. We sometimes, if the budget allowed, would take home a few ounces of feta or an aged cheese because we could buy fresh-baked bread just around the corner and add things like butter or sliced cold cuts for a light meal on the weekends.
They've grown into amazing cooks and love to eat all kinds of foods.
Proud of my 2 boys!
Hana A. June 12, 2018
Thank you for sharing, Jessie - sounds like your boys are so lucky to have you for a mom!
Leslie V. June 15, 2018
I agree What a great Mom..and your boys we fortunate of your ingenuity.
Leslie V. June 15, 2018
We are 200 miles from the store we chose to shop ( as i am retired employee and still get my discount) so having a well stocked pantry is a real must. Several freezers, too.
Hana A. June 15, 2018
Sounds like you're a great planner, thanks for commenting Leslie VB!
Rita P. June 11, 2018
Raising a family to be healthy, wealthy, and wise, is number one priority on the list. I loved that time in my life. The essential ingredients in my kitchen were and still are the same as Joannas with a few additions.
From the Garden:
Fresh tomatoes and cucumbers.
Green beans
New Potatoes.
From the Grocery Store:
10 lb bag of Irish Potatoes
Real Butter
From The Farm:
Fresh Eggs
Rita P. June 11, 2018
From the Meat Market:
Pot Roast
Stew Meat
Hana A. June 11, 2018
Thanks for sharing your list, Rita! It's always so great to see how others stock their pantries. New potatoes are my favorite. :)