The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Hints From Heloise: Staples to have on hand in the pantry


Dear Heloise: During the pandemic, I've enjoyed watching cooking videos on many of the social media platforms, but it got me wondering: What cooking staples should I keep on hand? What do your readers always have in their pantries?

Lots of the chefs reach for olive oil, evaporated milk, breadcrumbs, sauces and, of course spices, including garlic. What are good shelf-stable items I should always keep on hand to prep these meals?

— Evey W. in Arizona

Evey W. in Arizona: It’s always important to keep some basics on hand. I think you’ve got a good head start with the oils, breadcrumbs, canned milks and dried spices. Also consider rice, pasta, chicken broth, vinegar (many varieties), sugar and flour.

P.S. Some items, such as meats — including poultry — and fresh vegetables need to be bought weekly. It might be helpful to make a list.

Dear Heloise: When I undertake a big decluttering in my home, I never buy organizational items (bins, totes, hangers, boxes, etc.) before I get rid of trash, donations, items I can resell, etc. There's no point in bringing more things into the home before I know exactly what I'm working with.

I can't buy my way out of clutter. It's time for an honest conversation … with myself!

— Kathy R. in Texas

Kathy R. in Texas: This is definitely an instance of where “the more the merrier” does not apply!

Dear Heloise: Even though I don't have youngsters at home, I do keep that staple kids snack around: string cheese. It's so easy to cut and stuff into meatballs, peppers and potatoes before popping in the oven. The string cheese melts nicely, and it's delicious!

— Mary D. in Illinois

Dear Heloise: With the kids all using computers so much these days, we can't allow them to forget how to write, whether in cursive or printing.

I encourage my young grands to play with modeling clay and to use scissors. These activities keep the fingers and hands nimble and mobile. This might be good exercise for us, too!

— Betty M. in Pennsylvania

Dear Heloise: I buy rotisserie chicken, pull it off the bone and freeze small portions. These are great for enchiladas, pot pies, soups, stews, chicken salad, dumplings — the list goes on. I'm sure your readers can come up with many uses for delicious rotisserie chicken.

— Mark Y. in New York

Readers, What recipes would you use chunky or shredded chicken, turkey or roast beef in? (Adding cheese is always an option in my book!)

Dear Readers: What is a surfactant? This is a big subject, but for our purposes, a surfactant is added to a personal care product, such as shampoo, to clean the hair and to make bubbles. Surfactants in makeup and lotions make the product smoother.

Surfactants in household cleaning products help, again, with lather and spreadability.

Heloise’s column appears six days a week at Send a hint to Heloise, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio, TX 78279-5000, or email it to

2020, King Features Syndicate