Great article about what's in and out in the kitchen pantry: www.nytimes.com/2009/01/07/dining/07mini.h
Here's a snippet...
"...But if your goal is to cook and cook quickly, to get a satisfying and enjoyable variety of real food on the table as often as possible, a well-stocked pantry and fridge can sustain you. Replenished weekly or even less frequently, with an occasional stop for fresh vegetables, meat, fish and dairy, they are the core supply houses for the home cook.
While you’re stocking up, you might clear out a bit of the detritus that’s cluttering your shelves. Some of these things take up more space than they’re worth, while others are so much better in their real forms that the difference is laughable. Sadly, some remain in common usage even among good cooks. My point here is not to criminalize their use, but to point out how easily and successfully we can substitute for them, in every case with better results.
Here, then, is my little list of items you might spurn, along with some essential pantry and long-keeping refrigerator items you might consider. Note that I’m not including the ultra-obvious, things that are more or less ubiquitous in the contemporary American pantry, like potatoes, eggs and honey..."