The 3 Basic Spices to Begin Stocking Your Pantry

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The 3 Basic Spices to Begin Stocking Your Pantry?

Stocking Your Pantry on a Budget

When I was first married, and I didn’t have a lot of spices in my pantry, it was overwhelming to go to the grocery store and try to decide what types of spices I needed.  I felt like I should buy them all so I would have them if I needed them.  However, we were living on a very tight budget and didn’t have much money to spare.  They were such hard times, but also some of my best memories!  Sometimes I miss those days.  So anyway, I made sure the spices and seasonings I bought were, without a doubt, the ones I would use the most. With my style of cooking, I decided garlic powder, bay leaves, and chili powder were the 3 most important spices to keep in my pantry at all times.  Other spices can be bought one or two at a time until you have a well stocked spice cabinet.

What about salt and pepper?

I’m so glad you asked.  Salt and pepper are definitely staples that you should keep in your pantry, as well as, the 3 basic spices: garlic powder, bay leaves, and chili powder.  Most people keep those on hand, so I felt it was more beneficial to talk about other spices to help you stock your pantry. Salt is actually considered to be a mineral and not a spice. You can use it in almost any recipe and because it is a mineral, it has a much longer shelf life than spices.  Pepper, on the other hand, is probably one of the most widely used spices around.

Why are these 3 basic spices the most important to begin stocking your pantry?

Aside from salt and pepper and the 3 basic spices: garlic powder, bay leaves, and chili powder you can use them in an assortment of recipes.  Another plus is that it doesn’t take a large amount to give your dish a ton of flavor. This means your budget will stretch further and your spices will last longer.

Garlic is my go-to-spice.  I use it in almost every savory dish I create, because it gives everything such a great flavor.  I use it in sauces, meat loaves, soups, on chicken, pork, and any type of beef.

Bay leaves are also great to use in soups, sauces, and I use it in my pot roast.  It gives such a distinct flavor, and it’s so easy to use. Just toss in a leaf and you’re done.

Chili powder can be used in tacos, fajitas, any Mexican dish, chili, and many sauces.   It has a mild, smokey flavor that will liven up any dish.


What are the most common spices and how can I use them?

If you are a beginner cook or even someone who has been cooking for a while, there are so many spices that it can be a bit overwhelming to know what they are.  So, I compiled a list of the most common spices and ways to use them.  These are just a few suggestions, there are many more.  After you have your 3 basic spices in you pantry, you can slowly begin to add some of these.  If you are buying spices on a budget, McCormick Spices are the best bang for you buck.  They have great flavor, they have a large variety of spices, and are very affordable.

   Common Savory Spices

  • Basil – salads, sauces, soups
  • Bay Leaves – beef, and chicken, sauces, soups
  • Cayenne Pepper – chili, sauces, soups, any dish you want to have some heat
  • Chili Powder – chili, tacos (any Mexican dish),
  • Cumin – beef, chili, fish, chicken, vegetables
  • Garlic Powder – beef, chicken, fish, pork, sauces, soups, (In my opinion, just about any dish!)
  • Onion Powder- beef, chicken, fish, pork, sauces, soups
  • Oregano- Italian dishes, soups sauces, most meats
  • Paprika- beef, chicken, chili, eggs, fish, pork, soups, sauces
  • Red Pepper Flakes – chili, sauces, soups, any dish you want to have some heat
  • Rosemary – chicken, sauces, soups
  • Sage -beef, chicken, pork, stuffing or dressing as we say in the south
  • Thyme – sauces, soups, rice dishes, vegetables

If you would like a starter kit McCormick has an Everyday Essentials Variety Pack that is conveniently bundled for you with 8 different spices to get your pantry stocked.




McCormick also has an Ultimate Organic Starter Spice Set if you to prefer using organic spices.





You can also chose this handy, dandy Chrome Two-Tier Organic Spice Rack to have a way to store your yummy spices.

     Common Spices for Baking

  • All Spice – apple pie, gingerbread, soups, stews, vegetables
  • Cinnamon – apple pie, cinnamon rolls, french toast, many desserts
  • Cream of Tartar – mostly used for meringue on pies
  • Nutmeg – cakes, custards, many desserts
  • Vanilla (pure extract) – many desserts


McCormick has a great bakers variety pack that would be great for beginners and veteran cooks alike.

When should you add spices while cooking?

There is a debate about when you should add spices while you are cooking.  I think the ingredients should be added during the beginning.  By doing this the spices and seasonings have a chance to release their flavors and blend throughout the dish evenly. However, most cooks taste their dish while it is cooking to see if they need to add more flavors, which is one of my favorite parts of cooking! So, you may need to add spices all throughout the cooking process.  Out of the 3 basic spices you should keep in your pantry, bay leaves are the one ingredient that definitely needs time to cook.  It needs to be added in the beginning, because it gets better and better the longer it simmers.  As a cook you will soon learn when to add your spices as you are cooking.  The key is to add only small portions at a time.  You can always add more later, but you can’t take out what you’ve already put in.

Don’t be afraid to try new spices.  First, you need to get your pantry stocked with the basic spices you use the most and then branch out to new and exciting spices.  They have a great shelf life and last on average around 2-3 years as long as you keep them in a cool, dark, place and keep them sealed well.  You’ll be cooking up a storm in no time at all!

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What is the basic spice you use the most and how do you use it?

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