Pantry items are always going to be staples in a kitchen. You can't possibly have fresh fruits and vegetables constantly available in your kitchen (unless of course you have a garden all year round). My point is that there will always be those foods that you have in your pantry that you'll lean on when there's "nothing to make" in the house. I wanted to highlight some of the food items that are completely acceptable and, in fact, encouraged to be a part of your everyday pantry list. And yes, all of these pictures were from my own pantry, so you know I'm not lying! :)
Black beans, kidney beans, chickpeas, navy beans, all of the above! Beans are such a great pantry item because they’re so versatile and the options are endless as to what you can do with them. First, be sure to get the low-sodium beans, as they can sneak in the sodium pretty easily. Having kidney beans, navy beans and black beans means you can always make a good, healthy meal. You can use them for turkey chili, taco night, soups, or to make your favorite burger with some added fiber and protein! All you have to do is rinse and use as needed. No need to let them soak overnight like the raw beans you see in the store. You can mash them up or leave them whole, the sky’s the limit. Chickpeas are great to have around because you can grind them up for a tasty hummus, or roast them like my Roasted Chickpea recipe and have them as a snack!
Diced, whole peeled, crushed, stewed, I’ll take them any way! If I see that there’s a sale on canned tomatoes, you better believe I’ll be stocking up. I like to use the diced or crushed tomatoes for a fresh-made spaghetti sauce; because fresh is always better than jarred. All you need to do is add some garlic, onion, spices and you have a fresh, preservative-free spaghetti sauce. Stewed tomatoes are the perfect topper to your macaroni and cheese; all you need to do is heat them up. Any of these varieties of tomatoes are also going to give you a great base to start with when making chili, like my One-Pot Turkey Chili recipe. Bottom line, if you have canned tomatoes in your pantry, there’s always SOMETHING you can put together.
Oils are wonderful sources of good fats. Olive oil is personally my oil of choice for cooking most of the time. I’m always buying the biggest container of olive oil that I can. One great trait is that it’s a wonderful substitute for butter. I always dress my vegetables in olive oil instead of butter. Also, when I make fresh garlic bread instead of brushing it with butter I use olive oil. Olive oil can also help foods get crispier when desired. For example if I’m making the crostini’s for my Feta Brushetta, I always brush each slice with olive oil to make sure they crisp up just right.
Fresh, minced, peeled; another ingredient that I’ll take any way. It’s another multi-dimensional pantry item that can work in all kinds of recipes. I always have minced garlic in my fridge, and usually always have fresh garlic sitting out so I can chop it up, use it whole or roast it. Minced garlic is wonderful for mixing in with foods like meatloaf, lasagna, soups, or casseroles. My absolute favorite thing to do with fresh garlic is to roast it in the oven and spread it on Italian bread for freshly roasted garlic bread (YUMMM). It’s great for your skin and always adds a delicious flavor to anything you cook it with.
A natural sweetener that’s ALWAYS better than an artificial sweetener. I use honey to sweeten my coffee, hot tea, breakfast shakes, and of course to make my all-time favorite condiment: honey-mustard. Start using it by trying out my Honey Mustard Hummus. It’s such a versatile item because you can use it for cooking, baking, or just sweetening a drink! It’s also a great alternative for sugar when baking desserts. It works as a binder to combine all your ingredients as well as giving your food that sweetness it needs.
Low-sodium broth (beef, chicken, vegetable)
Broth should definitely be a staple item in your pantry. I’ve used it for soups, chili, quinoa, all kinds of things. If you're making a vegetable soup, chicken noodle, beef barley; you can use all broth varieties for any kind of soup you want to make. Chili goes along with that, as broth is a good way to add liquid but still lots of flavor to a chili or soup. I also use broth to cook quinoa or rice instead of water to give the grain an extra boost of flavor. Broth is something that lasts almost forever which makes it such a great pantry item. Just make sure to get the low-sodium broths, as they can be loaded with sodium. Another wonderful trait of broth is that it comes in all sizes. I often buy big containers of broth but I also have smaller, 8-12oz containers in case I only need a little bit. It’s also a pretty cheap item so it certainly stretches the dollar!
Anyone who knows me I’m sure expected this to be on the list! I love quinoa; the flavor, how easy it is to cook, and the nutrition benefits. It’s just as easy, if not easier; to cook than rice. It has a high protein content, and it also has a long shelf-life. Having quinoa in your pantry will allow you to make all kinds of dishes. You can use it as the grain compliment to your dinner, the base for a casserole, a coating for your chicken, or to make these delicious Quinoa Pepperoni Pizza Cups for your next appetizer. I’ve even made quinoa burgers and they tasted great! You can get a large bag of it and only 1 cup uncooked is enough for a typical recipe. There’s red, white, and black quinoa. You can get them individually or as a mix of all three varieties. It takes on the flavor of whatever you cook it in, and adds a nice wholesome texture to your recipe.
Whole wheat breadcrumbs
Breadcrumbs don’t really have the best rep when it comes to calories and health, but they don't have to be bad! Using whole wheat breadcrumbs in place of regular breadcrumbs could be the start to a healthier lifestyle. Just one small change like this can encourage you to continue to make changes for the better. Whole wheat breadcrumbs offer more flavor and add a crunch to meals. Use them the next time you make meatballs, meatloaf, or chicken nuggets for your kids. Just be sure not to load up on them at every meal.
Seeds and nuts are one of the healthiest and freshest long shelf-life items you’re going to come by. Raw almonds, cashews, peanuts, walnuts, sunflower seeds, any of them are great healthy snacks to grab when you’re grinding through the work day. No matter how busy you are, nuts and seeds are an easy grab and go snack. A lot of times I will buy a huge container of raw almonds and use my 1/4c scoop (which is one serving) to make little snack baggies for the week. That way they’re ready to go and I can just throw them in my lunch bag. Another great use for nuts or seeds is using them as a coating for a meat or vegetable instead of using a carbohydrate. For example, making a pistachio-crusted salmon for dinner (which is to die for by the way!) is a great way to add more flavor and nutrients to your meat. Nuts and seeds are a great source of healthy fats, and while they can run on the more expensive side, if you portion them out, they’ll last much longer
Dried or canned fruit
I love dried fruit, and while it does contain a lot of sugar, it’s a good staple pantry item to have on-hand. Fruits like dried pineapple or dried pears are a great compliment to a flatbread, like my APP Flatbread, for example. Dates are a great way to make healthier brownies or breakfast bars for the week, as they act as a binder and sweetener to any bar or bite. I also love to keep dried cranberries or raspberries on hand to add to my oatmeal , steel-cut oats, or yogurt in the morning! Canned fruits are a great item to have in your pantry as well. Like I've mentioned in my previous blog post, make sure to get "No sugar added" fruits and make sure they are canned in water, no heavy syrups. So when you're craving something sweet, you always have some fruit on hand! Especially during the winter season when fresh fruits aren't as easily accessible.
While some of these items may be higher in calories or sodium, they’re better choices for you to always keep stocked in your pantry. Not everything that has a long shelf-life needs to be unhealthy. Try and stick to these food items when you’re buying canned goods or dried foods instead of high-sodium and high calorie foods like mac and cheese or pre-packaged meals.