- Butter. This is the one thing you must never run out of. Buy large quantities when you find a good price. It doesn't really go bad, but I know people who keep extra in the freezer. I don't usually, but I always have at least three pounds in the fridge. You won't find margarine of any kind unless my son is home, in which case I will grudgingly supply him with Smart Balance. Then we argue about the merits or lack thereof of each of them. Bet you can guess which side I fall on. I'm not going to engage in a butter argument with you, so don't bother leaving an anti-butter diatribe in comments. Life without butter is not worth living.
- Buttermilk. Buttermilk is wonderful stuff. You can use in an endless variety of baked goods as well as salad dressings and even homemade ice cream! It has a long shelf life. Really long. I don't think I have ever thrown away buttermilk. If it is getting close to the end of its shelf life, make pancakes for breakfast. Even if you are ridiculous enough to make pancakes from a mix, use the buttermilk in place of the water or milk. It makes your pancakes so tender. Pancakes without buttermilk are almost not worth eating. Buttermilk pancake mix is a lame substitute, especially when you consider that making pancakes from scratch requires less than five minutes effort to mix. Flour, baking powder, sugar, eggs, butter, and buttermilk. That's it. One bowl, one liquid measure, one pyrex prep bowl to melt the butter in the microwave. How easy is that?
- Cream. It makes everything better. Just a tablespoon or two. I don't use it every night, not by a long shot, but if I have cream I know I can always come up with something for dinner.
- Parmesan or Romano cheese. Again, if you have some on hand you can turn rice into risotto, garnish pasta, make a gratin, it is indispensable. It also virtually never goes bad, so there is no excuse for not having it.
- Capers and Sundried tomatoes. Okay, so that's two things. I couldn't decide which I needed more in the fridge. Both are great for adding some zip to sauces. And I can't live without capers on my smoked salmon and bagel and cream cheese for breakfast. Can't. Don't try to make me.
So of course there are lots of other things I think you should always have in the fridge. Start with these and let me know how it goes. I'll give you some more essentials soon.