A well-stocked pantry is key to saving you time and money.
No more last-minute trips to the store to grab an ingredient you missed. And no more spending an extra $10 on something you just couldn't pass up while you were there! Follow these tips to keep ingredients for quick and healthy meals on hand.
1. Hold on to whole grains.
Fill your pantry with whole grain pasta, brown rice, barley, rolled oats, and other whole grain favorites. Stock up when you find a good sale. Or, buy in bulk. Bulk bins often have better unit prices than packaged grains.
2. Bet on beans.
Canned or dried beans add bulk to soups, salads, and pastas. Swap in beans in place of half the meat in tacos or other dishes. They are less expensive and lower in saturated fats. Look for low-sodium or no-salt-added when buying canned.
3. Don't forget fruits and veggies.
Canned produce was picked at its peak, so it's full of great nutrients. Serve canned fruits or applesauce (no sugar added or canned in their own juice) as quick snacks for kids. Canned corn or green beans make quick and easy side dishes. Canned tomatoes can be used in pastas, soups, casseroles, and many other meals.
4. Feature fish.
Another item you may not think of buying canned is fish. But canned fish is a great secret for getting more heart-healthy fish into your diet in an affordable way. Use canned tuna salmon to add protein to salads, casseroles, and pasta.
5. Nosh on nuts.
Nuts and dried fruit make great pantry items. Throw into homemade trail mix for an easy snack. Add to hot cereals, baked goods, or yogurt to pack a punch. Throw onto salad or sautéed greens to add sweetness and crunch.
6. Think outside the cereal bowl.
Stock up on whole grain, low-sugar cereals when you find a good sale. Add to trail mix for a healthy snack. Or, crush and use as a crispy coating for meat, poultry, and fish. (Try our Baked Flaked Chicken.)
7. Fill your pantry with flavor.
Vinegars and other condiments, like Dijon mustard, are great for quick, homemade salad dressings. Or use them to make a flavorful marinade for proteins or vegetables. Apple cider, red wine, rice, and balsamic vinegars are all good options.
8. Spice things up.
Speaking of flavor, keep the dried herbs and spices you use often on hand. Use to add taste in place of extra salt or fat.
9. Invest in healthy fats.
Oils made with healthy fats are great for sautéing, baking, roasting vegetables, making salad dressings, and more. Canola oil is a lower-cost healthy choice best used for cooking. Olive oil may be worth the extra cost when making dressings or vinaigrettes.
10. Buy basic baking items.
Keep basic ingredients like flour, baking soda, and baking powder stored properly in your pantry. Use them to transform one ingredient into a complete dish. Got overripe apples or bananas? Make an Apple Crisp or Banana Crumble for a healthy dessert.
Want a more detailed shopping list to get your pantry started?
This Stocking Your Pantry handout (PDF) shows commonly used pantry items for making Cooking Matters recipes. If you want to stock your pantry for healthy cooking, it's a great place to start!