Back to Basics: Pantry Items

You’ll find lots of Pantry Basics here at An Oregon Cottage. What are Pantry Basics? It’s simply the term I use for items that are in everybody’s pantry or fridge door. The things I never once thought about making…I just threw them in the shopping cart on a regular basis. I started years ago making freezer jam instead of buying jars of it because lots of people I knew made it, too. But things like mayo and ketchup? Never occurred to me and no one I knew made these things.

When did things change for me? Well, not overnight, and not all at once. It all started with chocolate syrup– you know, the kind in the brown bottle. Some of you may remember that my husband has made us cappuccinos every morning for about 14 years and he drizzles about a teaspoon of syrup on mine. Not too chocolaty, but enough to make it special.

Then I started reading labels and making more things from scratch (like breads). One day at the store I picked up the familiar bottle and decided to read the ingredients. Ugh! There were so many, in such small type I could barely read it (yes, I was starting to need glasses- geeze, bring that up, won’t you?). Wasn’t it just chocolate, sugar, and water? Why did they need all these other things?

And in case you’re wondering here they are in order: HFCS, Corn syrup, sugar, water, cocoa, potassium sorbate, salt, mono- and diglycerides, polysorbate 60, xanthum gum, and artificial vanillin- sounds yummy, huh?

Turns out, yes you can make chocolate syrup yourself and it’s easy, quick, and frugal. Not to mention that it has only five ingredients: sugar, cocoa, water, salt, and real vanilla. I like my recipe because it uses less sugar and more cocoa than other recipes I’ve found, and I like a darker-chocolate type syrup. You know what else I discovered? It’s quicker to make it myself than going to the store when we run out. And no waiting for the next shopping trip. Bonus!

That was years ago and now I regularly question what’s in my pantry and fridge and try to find ways to make it myself if there’s a compelling reason to. Mustards and hot sauces are about the only things left I buy in this category because they usually have really simple ingredients and are pretty inexpensive.

Here’s a list of some of our favorite Pantry Basics (you can find the complete list under the Kitchen button in the navigation bar above- and I will keep adding to it!):

Homemade Chocolate Syrup

Hot Cocoa Mix (to make with only boiling water)

Ketchup (starting with tomato paste which makes it super easy)

Homemade Mayonnaise

Basic Spice Rub

Teriyaki Sauce

Chicken/Beef Broth

Salad Dressings:

What pantry items do you make now?

Stay tuned later today for the easiest way to make freezer jam. It just happens to be the freshest-tasting, lowest sugar jam that and is the quickest- love it when that happens!


This is linked to Ultimate Recipe Swap @ Life as Mom





  1. says

    This is a great post–thank you! I usually make ketchup (although my recipe has a lot more spices in it–I may pare mine down after reading your recipe because yours is easier), mayo, chicken broth and what we call a caesar dressing but is really more of a green goddess dressing, but it is very tasty. I am looking forward to trying your chocolate syrup, hot cocoa mix, and some of the variation on your basic vinaigrette–I can’t wait to make the raspberry one!

  2. Jenelle says

    Well let’s see here…..

    I use your cocoa mix, chocolate syrup, & ketchup. I also make my own Teryaki sauce (I actually freeze chicken in the marinade) all our own salad dressings and my hubby makes an amazing BBQ sauce.

    Home made is always so much better then store bought. We will never go back. :)

  3. says

    Athena- yes- I had to keep the spices down for the kids- they want it to be like the kind from the store, you know…

    Jenelle- So glad you’re liking those, friend. :-) I’m always on the look-out for a good BBQ- would your husband want to share?

  4. says

    Okay, with four young children around my house, we use a lot of Hersey’s chocolate syrup (okay, that is my crutch I employ to get lots of milk drinking done and no soda drinking). I hate that I have to buy the Costco sized containers every month! I finally made your chocolate syrup recipe last week and OMGoodness – it is amazing!! We loved it. I’m a dark chocolate fan and it tasted so rich and dark and the kids loved it. I’m also saving a few dollars by making my own, plus no preservatives. Thanks again Jamie. I’m so glad I found you!!

  5. says

    I have been making alot of our own pantry items over the last year, mostly because I can’t pronouce the ingredients! I make my own chicken broth, marinades, jams and jellies, most salad dressings and of course your chocolate sauce!!! I try to make as muh as possible, even giving up my reliance of cream of ___ soups by making my own, the ultimate sacrifice!

  6. says

    I’m so glad I’m not alone in making basic pantry items from scratch! I’ve been making breads, desserts, pasta sauce, and soup for years. I’ve just started making pasta, yogurt, vanilla extract, and roasting coffee recently. Other things that I make are lotions and candles. It’s all so simple (and fun!), and it saves a bundle.

  7. Jami @An Oregon Cottage says

    Janae- No, you’re not alone- yeah! Though mine are much simpler than your roasting coffee and making pasta- wow! Kudos!!

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