My kids will tell you if you ask them that our refrigerator is as full as it ever was even when we had all four of them living at home. While I try to plan, shop and buy for a week or two at a time, I accumulate a build up of this and that, especially in the refrigerator.
Pantries are stocked with a variety of staples according to individual tastes, so your pantry might not be the same as your neighbor's. For example, we have a variety of vinegars (white, red and sherry wine, balsamic, aged balsamic, rice, tarragon, malt, and apple cider). I also have a variety of oils (virgin olive, really good virgin olive, walnut, corn, canola, grape-seed, and toasted sesame).
I also frequently cook with wine and find the dry vermouth is a great substitute for white wine (since it's fortified, it will keep quite a while). We also keep dry sherry, marsala, port wine, madeira in the liquor cabinet. Then there are cheeses... we always have wedges of parmesan on hand. The rinds are great for adding flavor to marinara sauce.
I've built our pantry up over a long time and find that if you buy something new and like it, you'll find other recipes that use the new ingredient.
My go to cooking magazine, Cuisine at Home, had several 'pantry dinners' in the most recent issue. I tried the Carbonara this week.
Here's the recipe for the delicious Carbonara we made from our pantry and served with a green salad.
(Serves 6-8 people, easy to halve)
1 # dried spaghetti
4 eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup chopped onion
2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley (halve if using dried)
8 oz good bacon, diced and fried crisp
1/2 cup each of grated Parmesan and pecorino cheese
Reserved pasta water
Salt and pepper to taste
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook pasta pre-al dente (not quite done). Drain, saving about 1 cup of the pasta water.
Put grated cheeses in a medium sized bowl, add eggs, and whisk to combine, set aside.
In a large skillet, fry the diced bacon until crisp. Remove from the pan, allow to drain on paper towels. Retain about 1/4 cup of the bacon drippings. Sauté onions and garlic in the bacon drippings until beginning to soften, about 3 minutes.
Reduce heat to medium low. Add the pasta and about 1/4 cup of the pasta water to the skillet. Toss pasta to coat until the water is nearly evaporated.
Off heat, stir in the egg and cheese mixture stirring constantly so it doesn't curdle. Add more pasta water until it is the desired consistency.
Stir in the parsley. Serve each portion with bacon on top. Pass cheeses.