A well stocked kitchen is both an easier and more enjoyable place to prepare meals for your entire family. When you are missing a few of the essentials you can be greatly limited in your ability to create a menu. There is not much worse than hearing, “What’s for dinner?” when there is not a plan in mind. Keeping a stocked pantry of healthy essentials will prepare and allow you to be more creative and free to plan a healthy meal.
Have on hand a couple different grains, such as brown rice, barley, couscous, and quinoa. At the beginning of the week make a large pot of grains to use as the base of meals throughout the week. These will keep in the refrigerator 3-4 days.
While canned beans are more convenient, dried beans are cheaper and healthier. Canned beans are higher in unnecessary sodium. You can easily make beans without having to attend to them by putting them in the slow cooker on low overnight.
Vegetable stock cubes
A box or can of vegetable stock in most cases costs more than buying an entire box of vegetable stock cubes. This is a convenient and inexpensive way to create the base of a soup. Look for low sodium cubes for an even better option.
Oatmeal is not only a wonderful breakfast, but can also be used as a snack, to make granola or granola bars, or to make cookies.
It is a good idea to have on hand more than one kind of pasta, such as lasagna, spaghetti, farfalle, and rotini. These can be used as a spaghetti dinner, but also for pasta salads, casseroles, and can be added to soups.
Jarred pasta sauce
You most likely do not have time to make your own pasta sauce. Instead of waiting until you are planning to make pasta that week, keep a jar or two of pasta sauce on hand for a meal emergency.
Canned tomatoes are an excellent addition to soups, casseroles, and pasta. Keep a variety, such as crushed, whole, and fire roasted.
Nuts are useful for adding to oatmeal, salads and granola. They can also be eaten as a snack with fruit or used to make trail mix. They are an essential in baking as well.
Dried fruit is an excellent sweet option instead of eating dessert. You can also use it in cereal or oatmeal when fresh fruit is not available. It is great as an on-the-go snack with some nuts.
Both white and sweet potatoes are a pantry essential, as they can be eaten in many ways – cubed and placed in soup, baked, roasted, or mashed.
Onions are the base to almost every dish in many cultures. Having yellow and red onions on hand will enable you to begin your meal with a building block of flavor.
Most of these items have a long shelf life; however, nuts should be kept in the freezer, unless they will be used within a couple weeks. Potatoes and onions should be used and replenished frequently.
Susanna Watters is a writer and cook. She enjoys writing about recipes, cooking tips, and nutrition. Susanna recently wrote an article about the nutrition in nuts.