Healthy Staples

Staples for Stocking a Healthy Pantry

IMG_2170.jpg

sta·ple: an item you are so much better off having on hand for easy meal assembly any day of the week. What does your list of staples include?

I've shared those we keep constantly stocked in the refrigerator and the freezer, so here is the final set of the staples for stocking a healthy pantry.

Grains

  • Whole grain cereal
  • Granola
  • Oats
  • Quinoa
  • Brown Rice (we keep several varieties: instant, jasmine, basmati,etc.)
  • Whole-grain pasta
  • Corn taco shells, all-natural

Canned Protein

  • Chicken
  • Tuna
  • Salmon
  • Kidney beans
  • Garbanzo beans
  • Navy beans
  • Refried black beans

Canned Fruits & Vegetables

  • Diced tomatoes, no-salt added
  • Diced green chiles
  • Tomato sauce
  • Olives
  • Artichoke hearts
  • Sun-dried tomatoes
  • Red peppers
  • Bean sprouts
  • Corn
  • Pumpkin
  • Coconut milk

Nuts & Seeds 

  • Chia seeds
  • Hemp seeds
  • Flax seeds
  • Sliced almonds
  • Mixed nuts
  • Peanuts

Snack Foods

  • Whole-grain crackers
  • Applesauce
  • Squeeze pouches
  • LARA Bars
  • Organic popcorn
  • All-natural alphabet and/or animal cookies
  • Rice cakes, lightly salted

Dried fruit

  • Raisins
  • Dried cranberries
  • Figs
  • Apricots
  • Freeze-dried fruit like mangoes or blueberries

Baking Supplies

  • Gluten-free flour (since I require a GF diet)
  • Whole wheat flour
  • Corn meal
  • Almond meal
  • Coconut flour
  • Oat flour
  • Quinoa flour
  • Psyllium Husk
  • Gelatin, unsweetened
  • Yeast
  • Sweeteners: white sugar, brown sugar, coconut sugar, honey, maple syrup, agave, molasses
  • Cacao powder, unsweetened
  • Coconut flakes, unsweetened
  • Chocolate chips
  • Vanilla

Oils

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Canola oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Sesame oil

Dried Herbs & Spices

Sauces and Condiments

  • Soy sauce
  • Sriracha
  • Vinegars: balsamic, red wine, white wine, rice, apple cider, white
  • All-natural nut butters (before being opened)
  • Fruit preserves
  • Thai sauce
  • Tomato & Basil spaghetti sauce
  • Enchilada sauce

Beverages

  • Coconut water, unsweetened (unopened)
  • Almond milk, unsweetened (unopened)
  • Coffee grounds (unopened)
  • Tea
  • V8 Juice (unopened)
  • Whey protein powder, chocolate and vanilla

 

Staples for Stocking a Healthy Refrigerator

IMG_2075.jpg

If you open up my refrigerator on any given week, you can expect to see these staples in there just about Every. Single. Week. I'm not sure if it is sad and a good visual when grocery shopping for these staples, but I know these items on the shelves so well I could literally walk you through where each one sits on every shelf. Dairy

  • Organic whole milk (Trader Joe's)
  • Organic fat-free milk (Trader Joe's)
  • Almond milk, plain and unsweetened (Costco)
  • Organic whole milk yogurt, plain (Trader Joe's)
  • Nonfat Greek yogurt, plain (Costco)
  • Individual yogurt containers, low-sugar (Costco or Siggi's from another grocery store, if visiting)
  • A block of sharp cheddar cheese (Costco)
  • Cheese sticks and/or Babybel cheese rounds (Costco)
  • Sliced cheese for sandwiches (Costco)
  • Reduced-fat cream cheese (Trader Joe's)
  • Parmesan cheese (Costco)
  • Feta cheese (Costco)
  • Light, all-natural sour cream (Trader Joe's)
  • Real butter (Costco)

Vegetables

  • Leafy greens: spinach, kale, and spring mix are our go to (Costco)
  • Organic carrots (Trader Joe's)
  • Organic celery (Trader Joe's)
  • Organic bell peppers (Trader Joe's)
  • Mushrooms (Trader Joe's)
  • Organic cucumbers (Trader Joe's)
  • Sugar snap peas (Trader Joe's)
  • Organic potatoes and/or sweet potatoes (Trader Joe's)
  • Onions: red, white, and/or yellow (Trader Joe's)
  • Depending on the menu and season: Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, squash (winter or summer, depending on the season), corn on the cob, salad kits, etc. (Trader Joe's)

Fruits (kept on the kitchen counter or in the fridge)

  • Grapes (Costco)
  • Organic apples (Trader Joe's)
  • Oranges/satsumas (Trader Joe's)
  • Mangoes (Trader Joe's)
  • Pitted dates (Costco)
  • Avocados (Trader Joe's)
  • Organic cherry tomatoes (Trader Joe's)
  • Lemons (Trader Joe's)
  • Depending on the season: pomegranates, pears, melons, berries, etc. (Trader Joe's)

Grains

  • Whole grain sandwich bread (Costco)
  • Corn tortillas (Trader Joe's)
  • Whole grain tortillas (Trader Joe's)
  • Breakfast cookies or healthy muffins (homemade)

Meats, seafood, etc.

  • Meats thawing for the weekly menu (meat comes from Costco)
  • Smoked salmon (Trader Joe's)
  • All-natural deli meat (Costco)
  • Organic eggs (Costco)
  • Egg whites (Costco)
  • Frittata (homemade)

Condiments

  • Mustards: yellow, dijon, stone-ground (Trader Joe's)
  • All-natural mayo (Costco)
  • All-natural salad dressings (homemade or Trader Joe's)
  • Nut butters (Costco)
  • Jam (homemade or Trader Joe's)
  • Barbecue sauce (Costco)
  • Salsa (Costco)
  • Hummus (Costco)
  • Olives (Trader Joe's)

Other

  • Coconut water (Costco)
  • All-natural sparkling water (Trader Joe's)
  • Herbs (Trader Joe's)
  • Minced garlic (Costco)
  • Organic, all-natural beef and chicken bouillon base (Costco)

 

Staples for Stocking a Healthy Freezer

IMG_2180-1.jpg

Below are the items that we keep in our deep freezer often, if not always. Unless otherwise stated, all of the items listed we purchase at Costco due to a cost advantage and/or added convenience of buying these products in bulk. Meat/Seafood (each come vacuum-sealed in individual portions or packages perfect for small families)

  • Organic chicken breasts, thighs, and drumsticks
  • Lean ground turkey - unavailable in organic when bought bulk
  • Organic ground beef
  • Salmon fillets
  • White fish (not from Costco; my husband catches fresh)
  • Lobster tails
  • Salmon burgers (homemade or from Costco)
  • All-natural chicken burgers (homemade or from Costco)
  • All-natural meatballs (homemade or from Costco)

Starches and Whole Grains

  • Batch-cooked brown rice, Mexican rice, and fried rice (brown rice bought uncooked at Costco), then homemade)
  • Batch-cooked quinoa (quinoa bought uncooked at Costco, then homemade)
  • Whole-grain sandwich bread and sandwich thins
  • Gluten-free bread

Vegetables

  • Frozen broccoli
  • Frozen root vegetables (carrots, potatoes)
  • Frozen corn
  • Frozen peas
  • Frozen vegetable medley (purchased at Trader Joe's)

Fruit

  • Frozen organic berries
  • Frozen pineapple
  • Frozen organic cherries
  • Frozen organic mango

Dairy

  • Shredded mozzarella

Nuts and Seeds

  • Chia, hemp, and flax seeds
  • Raw almonds, cashews, and mixed nuts

Treats

  • Fruit sorbets
  • Popsicles (homemade)

Breakfast Foods

  • Shredded potatoes (purchased at Trader Joe's)
  • Leftover breakfast hash (homemade)
  • Egg whites (if unused before expiration date)
  • All-natural bacon, breakfast sausage, and Canadian bacon-ham

Marinades and Premade Meals (all homemade and then stored in the amounts needed for single-recipes using freezer-safe containers)

  • Batch-cook marinades like those used for: broccoli & beef, Asian salmon, orange and kung poa chicken
  • Sauces: pesto, spaghetti
  • Meats: ground turkey tacos, meatballs
  • Soups: chicken tortilla, enchilada, sausage-spinach-white bean
  • Chilis: turkey pumpkin, butternut squash, quinoa chili

Tips and Tricks for Keeping a Well-Stocked Freezer

IMG_1678.jpg

Beyond the basic staples for a healthy freezer, read below for more in-depth tips and tricks for keeping a well-stocked freezer. Although I believe a deep freezer is ideal for more efficient meal prep, optimizing your freezer space no matter how big or small it is, can create a real time-, money-, and sanity-saver. Meat/Seafood

  • Vacuum sealed chicken cuts, ground turkey/beef, and fish fillets in portion sizes that work for you to quickly pull out and thaw for your family.
  • Pre-cut chicken breasts for recipes that call for diced up chicken, then divide it up into freezer-lock containers in the amount needed. This eliminates the mess of raw chicken each time you make those meals.
  • Pre-make family favorites like taco meat or spaghetti bolognese rather than making each batch individually.
  • Keep salmon, turkey, chicken, and burger patties for easy, on-hand items to put on the grill for lunch, dinner, or the unexpected dinner guest.
  • Freeze extra turkey or ham after the holidays to use in a future meal.

Starches and Whole Grains

  • Plain brown rice or quinoa, as well as recipes for items like Mexican and fried rices, can all be batch-cooked and then divided into freezer-safe containers in the amount needed. This eliminates having to use instant products or boil and prepare each time these items are on the menu.
  • Extra sandwich bread, English muffins, hamburger/hotdog buns, or dinner rolls can be stored to prevent from spoiling in between being eaten.

Vegetables

  • Frozen vegetables like: peas, corn, broccoli, and root vegetables (carrots, potatoes) can be used for easy side options
  • Frozen spinach (or freezing any extra fresh spinach) can be added later to everything from smoothies to dips to one-pot pasta recipes
  • Fresh vegetables that may otherwise spoil can be preserved by freezing first
  • Seasonal produce can be flash-frozen and then enjoyed year round
  • Leftover vegetables or pre-cut veggies that went uneaten can all be frozen and combined later as a hodge lodge for items like vegetable minestrone soup.

Fruit

  • Smoothie ingredients like berries, bananas, pineapple, cherries, and mangoes make yummy blends for breakfast or an afternoon snack
  • Frozen bananas make a great base for "nice"-cream on the nights you crave something sweet
  • Pre-cut frozen peaches, cherries, and berries make it easy to throw together a crisp or cobbler on nights you need to make a simple dessert.
  • Uneaten applesauce, canned fruits, and canned pumpkin all freeze well when opened and left unused. Transfer to freezer-safe containers before storing.

Dairy

  • Freeze excess milks and creams that are called for in the occasional recipe but don't get entirely used up. Date and label the amount on a freezer-safe container, then thaw and use in future recipes when buttermilk, whipping cream, half and half, etc are called for.
  • Buy cheese in bulk to save. Pre-shred and save for use on items like build your own pizza, lasagna, homemade macaroni and cheese, etc.
  • Freeze ice cube trays with your preferred dairy or non-dairy milk alternative to add in place of ice for cold coffee drinks.
  • Make your own frozen yogurt and keep in a freezer-safe container to have as a healthy dessert option on hand.

Nuts and Seeds

  • Buy nuts and seeds in bulk and store larger, unused portions in freezer so they last longer.
  • Keep chia, hemp, and flax seeds near your smoothie ingredients for an easy, healthy addition.

Treats

  • Make homemade popsicles and keep frozen. Enjoy as a healthier and less-expensive alternative to store bought varieties all summer long.
  • Freeze batches of cookie dough in individual portions so cookies can be baked individually or in small amounts.
  • Divide up larger servings of pre-cooked items like cookie bars and cakes and freeze to enjoy at later times. This helps lessen the temptation of having a whole batch calling your name from the counter!
  • Make extra crisp/cobbler topping and divide into freezer-safe containers. This can be added on top of any fruit at a later time when you need to prepare a super quick and easy dessert option.

Breakfast Foods

  • Keep shredded potatoes on hand, or prep and pre-roast extra potato hash to lessen the prep time for future frittatas.
  • Store unused cartons of egg whites in freezer to prevent from spoiling.
  • Make extras of whole-grain pancakes, waffles, and french toast to easily toast up on busy mornings.
  • Keep muffins and breakfast cookies in freezer for grab and go breakfast options that are quick to reheat.
  • Save on all-natural breakfast meats by buying items like bacon, sausage, and ham on sale or in bulk. Store in smaller portion sizes to pull out and use as needed.

Herbs and Marinades

  • Batch-cook marinades for recipes your family frequently eats. Store in the amounts needed for single-recipes using freezer-safe containers.
  • Cut up and keep extra herbs in a freezer-safe container to add to upcoming recipes.
  • Blend extra herbs with olive oil, then freezer in an ice cube tray for a flavorful addition that can be used later on.

Premade Meals

  • Prep extra batches of family favorites, then date and label in freezer-safe containers. These can then be cooked up quickly with little to no prep time necessary.
    • Oven-favorites: BBQ chicken, pesto chicken, Asian salmon, fruit cobbler
    • Stove-top favorites: Thai chicken curry with vegetables, spaghetti, ground turkey tacos
    • Crock-pot favorites: chilis, soups, broccoli & beef
  • Keep healthy options on hand for items you won't always be able to make homemade (like all-natural meatballs, salmon burgers, or premade pizza crusts)

Top Reasons to Have a Deep Freezer

IMG_2182.jpg

When it comes to meal planning and prep, storing healthy staples in our deep freezer is one of the biggest tricks I utilize to make sure we always have healthy meals on hand. We found our first deep freezer to be a worthwhile investment when I was nursing our first daughter and storing up the extra breast milk. During this season as new parents, our deep freezer also provided us with the space for several make-ahead freezer meals that every new mom needs. For these reasons alone, even a smaller chest-sized deep freezer is something I would encourage all young families to at least consider investing in one early on.

Now that we moved out to "the country" and are 20 minutes from a grocery store and 30 minutes from a Costco, we have upgraded to a full-size deep freezer. This has caused me to realize that although I love grocery shopping in a geeky way, buying the same exact staples each week used to drive me crazy.

It took unnecessary time to plan and shop for, and it positioned me to purchase whatever items I could find despite them being a good deal or not. Paying too much for healthy food when I don't have to is another thing that drives me crazy, so thankfully keeping a properly stocked freezer has minimized how often that happens.

Now, I consider these the top reasons to have a deep freezer:

  1. Buy in bulk or when items are on sale and save.
  2. Shop less frequently for staple items my family eats frequently.
  3. Tote my toddler through the grocery store in a less-stressed and more-efficient fashion.
  4. Batch cook quick and easy make-ahead meals.
  5. Have a meal ready in minutes any night of the week, while requiring no major meal prep or planning.

Optimizing your freezer space, no matter how big or small it is, can create a real time-, money-, and sanity-saver. Consider how keeping an ample freezer stock of these freezer staples may benefit your family's food supply.