Alex williams Joanna

Whenever I visit my dad in Michigan, I text my sister to laugh at how adorably reliable his cupboard and fridge are. Without fail, he will have hummus, bananas, Sausalito cookies, Bob’s Muesli cereal, and plain yogurt.

And my mom’s kitchen is similarly predictable: there’s always a big hunk of Manchego cheese, a French baguette, garlic, mixed nuts, and smoked salmon.

Alex williams kitchen

Of course, people try new recipes or max out on stuff, but some ingredients stick on the shopping list for years, even decades. What will you find in our Brooklyn apartment? Apples in the fridge (they taste better cold); store-bought pesto for easy dinners; milk and Cheerios (our boys eat SO much!); and Reeses Peanut Butter Cups (I’m not an animal).

My sister Lucy‘s list has a couple similarities (we must be twins!): “Apples, lemons and limes because that’s what’s in our trees and our neighbor’s trees in California. Feta cheese, which I put on everything. Baby spinach to wilt over what we’re eating or just put on the side. And my daughter and I love Trader Joe’s mini peanut butter cups.”

My friend Erin Jang is a great home cook and whips up delicious family meals. (She was the genius behind the Trader Joe’s breakfast hack.) Her family eats lots of Asian dishes, so her list reads: “Rice (short-grain brown and white rice for my rice cooker — my Japanese rice cooker is an essential); soy sauce, sesame oil, and rice vinegar, which is a trifecta for so many things (like making quick cucumber pickles or other marinades); seaweed paper (which my kids love); kale or baby spinach and frozen pineapple (for sticking into smoothies so my kids will drink their veggies). Oh, and always kimchee.”

And my friend Kavi loves spice — whenever we meet at a restaurant, she pulls her own hot sauce out of her bag — so Thai bird chilis are at the top of her list. “I can barely eat a meal without them,” she says. The other four items: “There’s always a pot of cooked beans (black, pinto, garbanzos) in our fridge. Also, lemons, ginger, and nutritional yeast, which adds a cheesy flavor to lots of things, since we avoid dairy.”

These ingredient lists made me want to go to people’s houses, poke around in their cupboards, and then stay for dinner! Everything sounds so delicious and idiosyncratic.

What about you? What five items can always be found in your kitchen?

P.S. What you eat when you’re home alone, and when we asked this question six years ago!