It is super simple to throw something together that is easy and delicious when the ingredients are waiting for you at home.
I recommend keeping an “open” grocery list on your fridge door at all times and adding to it as you use up your staples. This is a simple and easy way to keep track of what is needed and make sure the pantry and freezer are always stocked for success!
For example, consider how easy it is to whip up the following meals, which rely heavily on pantry and freezer staples:
*Nourishing bowl: Quinoa + sautéed or steamed frozen veggies + canned salmon + diced tomatoes and avocado + tahini sauce.
*Lentil pasta + hemp seeds and spinach pesto + diced tomatoes.
*Brown rice or cauliflower rice topped with frozen veggies simmered in a curry sauce.
Dinner will be ready in about 30 minutes. There is no need to head to the drive-thru or order take-out when you know you can use the simple ingredients waiting at home. Making a quick and healthy dinner for the whole family will also save money!
Below, I outline very comprehensive pantry staples and freezer staples lists. Please adjust to your likes/dislikes and do not worry about getting all these things at once. You can build your pantry and your freezer over time. Start stocking with the types of foods your family will enjoy and use.
PANTRY STAPLES AND HOW TO USE THEM
*Whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa, millet, buckwheat, wild rice, farro, sorghum, bulgur oats, polenta, and corn. They provide a source of complex carbohydrates such as fiber, B vitamins, and minerals. Paired with beans, they also constitute a source of complete protein.
They may be used in nourishing bowls, curries, salads, stir fries, energy bites, breakfast bowls, etc. Store a small amount you plan to use within a week in a sealed container in your pantry. Put the rest in the fridge or the freezer to prevent them from going rancid.
*Beans such as black, pinto, black eye pea, kidney, lentils, chickpeas, lima, and mung beans. These may be purchased dry or canned. They can be stored in the pantry. If dry, remember to soak overnight before cooking them as this shortens cooking time and makes nutrients more bioavailable. If canned, remember to rinse and drain to reduce excess salt.
Beans are so versatile! They can be used as a base for soups and stews, in nourishing bowls, in tacos and tortillas, salads, curries, dips, and most recently as a base for plant-based cookie dough!
*Nuts (and nut butters) such as walnuts, almonds, pecans, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, and pistachios. Nuts are a wonderful source of protein and fat. For long term storage they preserve better in the fridge due to the heat and light sensitive oils they contain.
Nuts may be eaten by themselves as a snack or they can be added to oatmeal, granola, yogurt, salads, a nourishing bowl, a veggie dish, etc. They are extremely versatile. Nuts can also be used to make non-dairy milk at home.
*Seeds (and seed butters) such as pumpkin, sunflower, hemp, chia, and flax seeds. Similar to nuts, seeds preserve better in the fridge due to the light and heat sensitive oils they contain.
Seeds make great snacks by themselves and can be easily incorporated into smoothies, oatmeal, granola, yogurt, salads, a nourishing bowl, home-made bread, etc. For those with nut allergies, seeds milk is also a nutritious non-dairy option!
*Dry fruit such as dates, apricots, and raisins are handy as a snack, on yogurt, on oatmeal, added to salads, and in some dishes such as a Moroccan stew or a couscous. Dry fruit are a concentrated source of sugar so they should be eaten in moderation.
*Flour such as whole wheat, rye, buckwheat, quinoa, cassava, garbanzo, almond, coconut etc. As with grains, nuts and seeds they preserve better in the fridge (or freezer) for long term storage.
Whole grain, nut, and bean flour can be used in a diversity of dishes. For example, bread, pancakes, waffles, cookies, tortillas, cakes, crepes, falafel, arepas, naan bread, etc. Flour may be used to thicken a soup or to encrust fish or vegetables.
*Whole wheat pasta or veggie alternative (e.g. red lentil pasta) is always a family favorite and makes a speedy dinner. While I don’t recommend relying heavily on flour and pasta, you can make a well-rounded meal by balancing the carbohydrates in pasta with healthy fats, protein and fiber.
*Fats and oils such as coconut oil, avocado oil, ghee, and extra virgin olive oil for your cooking and baking needs. Oils will preserve better in a dark glass container. Some oils such as hemp and flax oil are to be stored in the fridge as they become rancid quickly at room temperature.
*Herbs & spices such as black pepper, cayenne, chili powder, cinnamon, cumin, garlic powder, ginger, oregano, rosemary, sea salt, turmeric, and thyme.
Herbs and spices are a wonderful way to add depth to a dish and to play with different flavor profiles in your cooking. Herbs and spices are also regarded for their health benefits. For example, ginger is beneficial for digestion while turmeric is a potent anti-inflammatory.
Herbs can be used in soups, stews, roasts, salads, dips, rubs, pesto sauces, etc. Spices can be added to smoothies, oatmeal, and yogurt, among others. Dry herbs and spices are to be added to the pan or pot early on along with the cooking oil to allow them to release their fragrance.
*An assortment of canned goods such as canned pumpkin, canned tomatoes (BPA free lining), canned sardines, canned salmon, or canned anchovies.
There are a variety of healthy canned products that can be used in different dishes. At home we use canned pumpkin to make pumpkin bread. We use canned tomatoes for pasta dishes. We use canned salmon to make salmon salad on toast or on greens. We also like making salmon patties. Anchovies are great for Cesar dressings or some pasta dishes.
*An assortment of jarred vegetables such as olives, capers, artichokes, green beans, beets, peppers, etc. Having an assortment of jarred vegetables will be very helpful for salads, pasta dishes, and nourishing bowls among other dishes.
Read the labels and make sure there aren’t added sugars and inflammatory oils.
*Vegetable and animal-based broth is very handy as a base for soups and stews or to flavor quinoa or brown rice (using it instead of water). Read the labels and check for possible added preservatives and salt.
*Other great staples and condiments to stock include canned coconut milk (watch out for added thickeners such as carrageenan), marinara sauce, honey, maple syrup, molasses, ready to go curry sauce, tahini, tomato paste, shredded coconut, coconut aminos, mustard, sesame seeds, tamari, vinegar, and seaweed.
FREEZER STAPLES AND HOW TO USE THEM
*Fruits such as bananas, berries, pineapple, and cherries are wonderful in smoothies, non-dairy ice creams, and stewed to top chia pudding, or oatmeal.
*Vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, zucchini, cauliflower, carrots, and peas are very handy for stir fry dishes, soups, stews, and pasta dishes among others.
*Bread and tortillas can be kept in the freezer and get you out of a jam but they do require some planning ahead as they will need to thaw or bake.
*Seafood such as salmon, halibut, cod, or shrimp can be used for dinner even straight out of the freezer if you use a pressure cooker! You can put together a delicious salmon and vegetable dinner in under 30 minutes with a pressure cooker.
*Veggie or animal-based burgers always handy to throw on the grill and eat with a bun or as part of a salad.
*Precooked grains and grain alternatives help you save on cooking time on busy nights! You may choose brown rice, quinoa, or cauliflower rice as a base for a quick nourishing bowl, a salad, or a stir fry for example.
*Frozen soup, frozen enchiladas, frozen casseroles, frozen marinara sauce… anything you can batch cook and save for busy nights.
*Pre-prepped smoothie bags that include a combination of fruits, greens, vegetables. You can pop them in the blender, add a liquid and a fat such as nut or seed butter, for a quick and easy breakfast or snack.
*Veggie scraps for broth. You may save veggie scraps during the week and store in the freezer. Then cook them with herbs and spices on the weekend to make broth for the week. Or, you may make some extra broth and also freeze it.
*Cookie dough. Yes, you can triple your favorite cookie recipe and save the dough in the freezer for later!
This was a thorough review! I hope you stayed with me until the end! And I hope this list inspires you to get started and get organized. Please remember you don’t need to do a complete overhaul of your pantry and your freezer in one full sweep. You can start by making a list of the most common items you tend to use in your favorite recipes and go from there.
PANTRY TO TABLE RECIPES TO KEEP IN YOUR BACK POCKET
*Pumpkin pie overnight oatmeal
*Pesto tuna and pea quinoa salad
*Lemon penne with broccoli
*Chickpea with sweet and spicy peanut sauce
NUTRITION FUN FOR THE KIDDOS
Following today’s topic, let’s get the kids involved in stocking the pantry and the freezer!
*Children can be in charge of keeping inventory of a number of pantry and freezer foods and adding them to the shopping list when these need to be restocked.
*Kids can also help organize the pantry and freezer space. For example, they can help sort beans, grains, and nuts into different types of containers and they can label them with tape and a marker. For the freezer they can get storage bins and label that for “frozen fruit”, “frozen vegetables”, or “prepackaged smoothie bags” for example.
*Matching activity for children: how well do you know your cooking vocabulary?