A couple of weeks ago I thought about this topic. Unfortunately, another subject needed to be addressed first. But the concept is still timely.

What are some of the things we ought to have on hand at all times, and what can we make with them?

If you’ve been to a few of my classes, you’ve probably heard me talk about the concept of “you can’t make it if you don’t have it.” I live by that.

I suppose my mother Claire ingrained that in me early on. She always had a well-stocked pantry. There wasn’t that much variety, but there was plenty of it. There was stuff in the refrigerator and freezer. We had a separate one in the garage.

At over 70, that’s me today. Two refrigerators with nice freezers. Plus a wine cooler. I’ve got a nice pantry thanks to Mark Stillwell. It holds all sorts of stuff. There’s even a bigger closet in the garage. Plenty of room to keep goodies.

Fortunately, I have things. Not just a bunch of empty shelves. I buy when I open the last one. Sometimes sooner, if it’s a popular item. And I buy in quantity when it makes sense, or I have to — due to availability. That makes my pantry better stocked than most.

Happily, there was no emergency grocery store run recently. That first weekend we got orange juice plus half and half. That did us for the next week and the next. Glad panic wasn’t necessary. Last week more OJ and bread plus potatoes.

What should we have?

Obviously, toilet paper! LOL. Yes, we ought to have some paper products around and household supplies. Let’s get to food.

Rice, beans, pastaRice, beans and pasta. These are really big. If you have plenty of those you can eat for a month or more.

Canned veggies are good. Beans work there too. It sure is nice to have cans of tuna and chicken. Deviled ham is good and so are sardines. There’s another month of food.

Canned tomatoes are a pantry staple. Jarred pasta sauce is versatile. Chicken stock in paste form is really useful. Herbs and spices are an assumption to some degree.

Nuts and peanut butter. Dried fruits, like raisins. Crackers and chips. Don’t forget popcorn. Pickles and olives. Jelly or preserves. Condiments, like mayo, ketchup and mustard. Olive oil.

The freezer is also a good place for veggies. I try to keep spinach, broccoli, corn and green peas at all times. As for fresh — potatoes, carrots, onions, celery and garlic are staples.

Some fresh dairy has a short shelf-life, but not cheese. It keeps and requires little space. Store-brand Cheddar and Jack are less than $5 per pound. It’s easy to have a stash. Butter lasts.

Before we go any farther, look at what you have on hand. If you feel you are lacking, fix it this weekend. You’ll be glad you did.

Meals for weeksWith things like we’ve talked about, you can make meals for weeks. Snacks and appetizers are not just a luxury. They’re part of eating. We love them — “…Kids from 1 to 92.”

Rather than slices of cheese, make into a spread — like pimento cheese. They go much farther. The French combine leftover cheese pieces into fromage fort — a simple, tasty homemade cream cheese. Spreads from butter and tuna or just tuna salad. Easy and satisfying.

Soups can begin a meal or be expanded to be the main course. A few cans in the pantry are nice. But you can produce your own with tomatoes and chicken stock made from base in a jar.

Add in onions, garlic, carrots and simmer. Then toss in some pasta and cook until done. If you have a scattering of parsley and red pepper, go for it. It’s soup. Use any little bits to make it interesting and filling.

These are a few ideas in this short space. Next week, we will look at more dishes to make from your well-stocked pantry. Be safe.

Jim Sikes is an Opelika resident; a food, wine and restaurant consultant; and a columnist for the Opelika-Auburn News. Contact him on Facebook at In the Kitchen with Chef Jim.

Jim Sikes is an Opelika resident; a food, wine and restaurant consultant; and a columnist for the Opelika-Auburn News. Contact him on Facebook at In the Kitchen with Chef Jim.

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