How can you guarantee that you will be able to feed yourself, your family and even company when you haven't had time to run to the store? Two words: pantry items.

I can't tell you how many times I've used items from my pantry to make meals at the last minute. 

I'm a busy woman, and I do a hundred things in one day—don't we all? I usually head for home around 5 or 6 o'clock in the evening, and the last thing I want to do is stop at the market. It's a mad house because so many people stop to shop for dinner. Have you stood in one of those lines where everyone is agitated, starving and tired? All they can think about is how much they don't want to be there. God forbid you try to sneak into the "12 Items or Less" line and you have 13. People behind you actually count and call you on it! As I'm standing there trying to hide my 13th item so I don't have to go stand in the lines with four carts in front of me packed with groceries, I start to feel anxious. I'm thinking of everyone waiting at home for me to make dinner. Why does it always feel like forever until your turn? 

When you are finally heading for home, the traffic has doubled, so it is crawling and you hit every traffic light—including the one a half a block from your house that lasts four minutes! 

Some nights I just can't face that. I'm too tired and all I want to do is get home or I forget to make the turn into the market because I have so much on my mind. 

I have learned over the years that if I keep my pantry stocked well, it is never a problem to prepare something delicious and quick. 

It is particularly handy when I get that call from my husband or daughters to tell me they are bringing people home for dinner. "People" for my daughter Arianna, who is a junior in college, means half the football team and her "besties" that she can't make a move without! Alex, who has moved out, loves to pop over and bring her friends. 

The bottom line is, I do love cooking and feeding people. I never say no to my kids or Tony no matter how worn-out I am. The great thing now is I'm always prepared no matter what, even if it's just a dinner for two. I don't have to panic, because I know that I will always find something in my pantry I can make along with whatever treasures I can find in the fridge. I call it mixing and matching. 

I've made a list of items you should keep in your pantry that are a must in order to be able to have a meal at any time. 

Get Cristina's must-have pantry list

So don't worry, you will always be able to prepare a delicious meal no matter what. Enjoy! 

Sending big bowls of love from the pantry, 



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