Ever wonder how some people throw together a meal in minutes as if it were no big deal? Want to know the secret?
Your pantry. That’s it. It’s all about your pantry (and your fridge, I guess).
Keeping a few key things in your kitchen – and restocking them as soon as they get low – is all you need to do to keep the healthy meals coming every night. Once you get your staples in place, just buy fresh fruit, veggies, and meat on an as-needed basis and you’re good to go. Easiest thing ever.
Here are 7 things I keep in my kitchen at all times. If you’re starting from zero, don’t worry; just work on one category at a time. Soon you’ll have a pantry that inspires creativity instead of crisis!
- Beans – Beans are a key pantry staple in my house. I like black beans, garbanzo beans, lentils, and adzuki beans. Kidney and navy beans are also versatile options. And here’s a secret: If you don’t have time to soak dried beans, canned beans are perfectly fine! Look for no salt added varieties to keep sodium content under control; and buy organic when you can. Eden Organics is a great option not only because of their organic and no salt added options but also because the lining of their cans is BPA-free.
- Grains – Oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa, and millet are my favorites. Whole grains open up your meal possibilities more than anything else. Pilafs, hot breakfast cereals, rice and beans, soups and stews…the list goes on. I keep my grains in the refrigerator to extend their shelf life since it can take me a while to use up those big bags.
- Nuts and seeds – Great to throw in oatmeal for an energy-packed start to your day, on salads or sautéed greens for a little crunch, or in your bag for an on-the-go snack. I’m a fan of almonds, cashews, walnuts, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, and pine nuts.
- Spices – My spice rack is always stocked with common spices like cinnamon, cumin, sea salt, black pepper, oregano, basil, rosemary, thyme, coriander, bay leaf, curry, turmeric, fennel, and sage. Quality spices are pricey; so if your spice rack is bare, pick up one or two varieties each time you shop. Your spice collection will soon be a vibrant mix of colors and flavors. Remember to keep spices away from heat and moisture, both of which can sap them of their potency and flavor. (Tip for fresh ginger lovers like me: Peel a ginger root; cut it into 1 – 2 inch pieces; store in the freezer in an airtight bag. Grate right into dishes or shave off a few pieces to steep in hot water for ginger tea.)
- Condiments – I always have red wine vinegar, umeboshi vinegar, Tamari soy sauce, salsa, Balsamic vinegar, sesame oil, and hot sauce. Pick your favorites and use them to spice up or change the flavor of your favorite vegetable, grain, or bean dishes.
- Frozen foods – Frozen fruit – for smoothies - and broccoli – for days when I can’t pick up fresh greens – are staples in my freezer. Other veggies that are good frozen: corn, edamame, green beans, and peas. (Stay away from frozen spinach if you ever want to enjoy spinach. Ick!)
- Miscellaneous – Vegetable bouillon cubes, dried fruit, nut butters, fruit spreads, lemon juice, fresh garlic…all good things to keep around.
What are you waiting for?! Go stock up!
Tell me in the comments what you’ll buy this week to start building a great pantry!
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