A well stocked pantry will allow you to get home at 7:30pm with no ideas of what to make for dinner, and have a deliciously nutritious meal on the table by 8:00pm. (See Blog, “A meal from scratch in 29 min? Yes!”)
Making it a routine to keep your pantry stocked with some basic items can make meal time preparation quicker and more creative — and it even allows last-minute planning! Here’s some ideas.
Grains: Brown rice, Quinoa, Barley, Farro, Oats and explore using other whole grains too!
A Note on Savings: Buying the plain whole grain rice is about 1/2 as expensive than the pre-seasoned small boxes.
Beans: Black beans, Kidney beans, Butter beans, Chick peas, Great Northern beans, Cannelloni and any other of the huge variety – choose low sodium canned, or using dried beans is easy to learn and can cook quickly with a pressure cooker. Dried lentils cook quickly and easily without soaking.
A Note on Savings: Beans and whole grains are great sources of protein, fiber, antioxidants. Make a fun Mexican meal for a family of 5 for under $5.00 – 2 cans black beans ($1.99) + 1 pound brown rice ($.79) + large bag of frozen mixed veggies ($1.99) = $4.77!!
Other Canned/jarred items: Applesauce (can be used to replace oil in baking!!), artichokes, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce (look for low sodium), and tomato paste. Watch out for added sodium, sugar, fat, preservatives and other additives – canned foods can be loaded; be aware that the “typical serving size” is often less than what people often serve themselves.
Freezer: Frozen veggies – peppers, onions, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, green beans. Frozen fruit – blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, mango, and bananas
A Note on Savings: I buy these in season and freeze. Also, store bought frozen veggies and fruits are economic and harvested at peak ripeness for flavor and nutritional value.
Fresh items that keep fairly long at room temperature: White, yellow, red, fingerling and sweet potatoes, onions, whole garlic, butternut squash, apples, oranges, and lemons.
Keep well in refrigerator: Carrots, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms, head of romaine lettuce, red lettuce, arugula, red/green cabbage, boc choy, collard greens, kale, and grapes. (You can freeze greens and grapes for smoothies!)
Comment – make sure your lettuce isn’t wet when you put it in the refrigerator.
Things to buy more often and that can be frozen for smoothies if they get over ripe before you get to use them: bananas, berries, peaches, and cantaloupe.
Comment: Buy fruits and veggies in season, buy local, check out your local CSA(Community Supported Agriculture)!
Spices: Cinnamon, Turmeric, Curry, Chili Powder, Garlic Powder, Ginger Powder, Onion Powder, Oregano, Paprika, Thyme, Dried Parsley, and Cardamon. Also useful for flavor: Dijon Mustard, balsamic vinegar (huge variety), Maple Syrup, Nutritional Yeast
Healthy Breakfast Cereals:
Rolled Oats, Original Cheerios, Shredded Wheat (not frosted or sweetened), Grape Nuts, Wheat Chex, Bran Flakes, Engine 2 Cereals
Also useful to have available:
Whole wheat, buckwheat flour, Ground Flax Seeds (keep refrigerated) – good as egg substitute and for thickening Flax seed and Chia seeds to add to cereal, baked goods, smoothy as excellant sources of Omega 3’s.
When you head out for grocery shopping, just scan through to see that your “pantry” is stocked. Or you could use the technique of adding items to a grocery list as you use them. Be sure to add in-season fresh fruits and veggies, and any items you might need for a new recipe you’ve discovered. With a well stocked pantry, you can open the refrigerator and cabinets and see what inspires you – to make any variation of roasted veggies and beans, a fun stir fry to put over brown rice or a delicious soup… and be sure to enjoy a creative salad along with it!
You can find a helpful shopping list with specific brand names in this article from T. Collin Campbell’s (author of The China Study) website Center For Nutrition Studies