Melina Hammer’s Simple Secret to a Better Breakfast

It all starts with a well-stocked pantry and freezer, according to our Resident.

April 20, 2023
Photo by Ty Mecham

This might sound odd coming from someone best known for cooking with ultra-seasonal fresh produce, but I truly love my pantry and freezer stashes. A well-stocked pantry and freezer means I can be spontaneous, while also being intentional about making a nourishing meal at a moment's notice—especially around breakfast time. I think of various "departments" and stock a few variations on ingredient themes that I can pull from any day of the week. This allows me to batch up recipes easily (so I have something ready to grab for days when I’m on the go) and play around with different flavor combos (so I avoid getting bored with the same breakfast over and over).

Here are some of my freezer and pantry essentials for making a fabulous breakfast, whether you’re in a hurry or leaning into a slow weekend:

Nuts & Grains

I keep rolled oats, quinoa, chia, millet, sunflower seeds, one good boxed cereal, and a variety of nuts (think: hazelnuts, walnuts, buckwheat groats, and pepitas) for muesli or granola.


For making quick compotes, and for sweetening just about anything, I almost always have honey, maple syrup, and date syrup (or dates) on hand. In a pinch, a jar of jam is a good friend; I always have a few available, whether picked up as tokens from travel, or homemade batches from summer forages. A spoonful or two can be used to add fruity flair to French toast or breakfast bread pudding, overnight oats and other porridges—and, of course, simply to spread on toast.


I love grating whole nutmeg and adding the fine powder to crisps, muffins, cakes, and puddings—even the spiced nuts recipe in my book gets a kick from its warming, earthy quality. I always have cinnamon for its versatility, cayenne for a little wake-me-up spice, and pink peppercorns for their fruity brightness.

Nut Butters

Nut butters are an easy way to add protein and richness to any breakfast. Whether drizzled, dolloped on top, or folded in before baking, I regularly stock peanut and almond butters, plus tahini.

Frozen Berries

Whether you make a point to harvest from berry patches and orchards in summer, or you just love the benefits of peak-ripe fruit in the freezer aisle, resealable bags of blueberries, cherries, and other fruits make great candidates for quick jams, muffins, smoothies, and so much more.


I know flour can take up considerable room in the freezer, but it really is the best way to store interesting and hard-to-find flour types: einkorn for its nutty sweetness, spelt for all-around flavor and ease of use, light or dark rye flours, almond flour, even buckwheat. For pancakes or crepes, quick breads, muffins, loaf cakes and beyond—a range of flours (kept freshest in the freezer) is a pro move.


I buy butter in bulk when it's on sale and keep it in the freezer until I need it (it lasts virtually forever that way!). Butter is endlessly versatile: Use it in baking projects, of course (maybe even as browned butter in batter), or to top off hot porridge, waffles, and French toast. I make an especially tasty streusel cake—sweetened mostly with fruit, so it still counts for breakfast—and love to pair a slice with my morning coffee.

Random Things

Coconut and fruity olive oil impart a luxe texture when added to granola or other baking projects. Boxed oat milk is great for smoothies and dairy-free overnight oats. Fresh, homemade cashew milk (made from raw cashews I keep on hand) is a special treat when added to porridge, cereal, and smoothies.

Recipes for Your Breakfast Rotation

What's your go-to breakfast? Tell us in the comments!

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Melina is the author of 'A Year at Catbird Cottage' with Ten Speed Press. She grows an heirloom and pollinator garden and forages wild foods at her namesake Hudson Valley getaway, Catbird Cottage. Melina loves serving curated menus for guests from near and far seeking community amidst the hummingbirds, grosbeaks, finches, and the robust flavors of the seasons.