Last week I shared my go-to strategies for feeding myself and my family of four. One of the most important ways to set yourself up for success is to stock a healthy pantry and fridge.
By keeping the unhealthy food out of the house and stocking lots of yummy, healthy options you and your family will be much more likely to succeed in the healthy eating camp.
Although we can’t always control what we are exposed to out in the world, we can commit to keeping our home a healthy sanctuary. So what does a healthy pantry look like? Let’s break it down into categories.
This is where the magic happens. Without a yummy assortment of cooking ingredients it’s difficult to pull together tasty or interesting meals.
Here are the ingredients I always keep on hand:
- Healthy Oils: extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, ghee
- Spices: sea salt, black peppercorns, turmeric, cumin, curry mix, ginger, cinnamon, paprika, saffron, Herbs de Provence, etc. The more variety the better here. This will naturally build up as you experiment with different recipes and start collecting different spices. But don’t buy too much. Ideally you should use up and replace your spices every 3-6 months for maximum freshness and potency.
- Liquids: unsweetened coconut milk, unsweetened almond milk, vegetable broth, chicken broth
- Vinegar: balsamic, apple cider, other vinegars that you enjoy
- Other: canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, honey, maple syrup, assorted teas, dried fruit
These are some basic staples that will always allow you to throw something together. You’ll never be stuck with “nothing to make”.
- Starches: rice (brown, wild, white…), oats, quinoa, polenta, couscous, barley, farro, whole grain pasta, whole grain bread, or other grains that you enjoy
- Proteins: beans (garbanzo, black, kidney, etc), lentils, raw nuts (almonds, walnuts, pistachios, etc), raw seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, chia, etc), nut butter, canned fish (tuna, salmon, sardines)
Notice I’m not listing out traditional snack foods here (crackers, rice cakes, chips, bars, cereal, etc). This doesn’t mean you can’t include some of these foods too but they’re not critical to a well-stocked pantry and personally I try to limit how much of those foods I keep on hand.
I generally need to go to the store about two times a week to keep my fridge stocked with fresh foods. And of course what’s in my fridge at any given time will vary based on what meals I have planned for the week and what’s in season. But there are some foods that are always on my list and always in the fridge.
- Fruit: bananas, avocados, lemons, plus other fruit that’s in season (apples, pears, oranges, peaches, berries, etc)
- Veggies: garlic, onions, fresh ginger root, fresh turmeric root, carrots, radishes, bell pepper, cucumber, lettuce, spinach, plus other veggies that are in season and on my meal plan for the week
- Proteins: eggs, plain yogurt (lately this has been sheep-milk but we mix it up), cheese (this could vary between feta, parmesan, comte, goat cheese, etc)
- Other: grass-fed butter, condiments (mustard, mayo, ketchup), hummus, sauerkraut, pickles, pesto, tortillas (corn or whole grain), salad dressing (I always have homemade salad dressing in a jar and ready to go)
Depending on how big your freezer is, this will determine how many back-ups you can keep on hand. For the past few years I’ve had a relatively small freezer and this has dramatically impacted what I can store. Here’s what I’d suggest though if you have the space.
- frozen fruits (for smoothies)
- frozen veggies
- homemade bone broth
- some back-up animal proteins (this usually means grass-fed beef and sausages for us but you may also want to have some chicken or fish in there)
- pizza dough
- leftovers (whenever you have the opportunity to make an extra portion of something, do it and then store it in the freezer — soup, chili, quiche, lasagna, etc)
On The Counter
I make an effort to not leave too many foods out in the open because ultimately it just encourages us to snack even when we’re not hungry. But I always have fruit out and a bowl of nuts. I like to keep whole walnuts or almonds out with a nutcracker so that you actually have to work a bit for the nut and it doesn’t become a mindless snack. This way if someone in the family does get hungry in between meals there’s always something healthy easily available.
Take Home Message
In the next post I will share some easy back-up meal ideas that you can turn to if you have the above foods on hand. Personally my goal is to feed my family healthy, balanced, home-cooked meals as often as possible with as little processed foods as I can get away with. This doesn’t mean we never go out to eat, we do! But it’s always a planned meal out, never the back-up option. When you stock a healthy pantry and fridge you will always have easy, healthy meals at the ready.