If you’re like me, long-term meal planning is typically something reserved for party planning only. Although I make my weekly shopping list, which may even include some specialty items from a recipe I’ve wanted to try, I tend to go for the same staple items and whatever is in season at the Farmer’s Market. By the end of the week I find myself standing in front of an open pantry, searching for inspiration to utilize the remaining produce in my fridge.
At this point I am always grateful for the following “must-have” pantry items. With these items on-hand, delicious and healthy meal options are only minutes away. No need call in take-out or dig out that frozen pizza in the back of your freezer.
Here’s a list of pantry necessities that can lead to a multitude of yummy, healthful family meals.
Cranberries, Raisins, Dates, Blueberries, Apricots, etc.
Keep a stash of any one or more of these dried fruits in your pantry to add to salads, rice dishes, homemade trail-mix/energy bars/recovery bars, chicken salad and more.
Health Benefits: Great sources of fiber and vitamins.
Nuts & Seeds
Almonds, Walnuts, Pine Nuts, Sunflower Seeds, Pumpkin Seeds, Flaxseed, etc.
As with dried fruits, nuts and seeds add texture and flavor to salads, grain dishes, and snacks. They’re also great additions to sweet treats and desserts, like Raw Brownies!
Health Benefits: Excellent source of protein and nutrients as well as providing heart-healthy unsaturated fats.
Quinoa, Brown Rice, Steel-Cut Oats, etc
Whole grains provide a filling and delicious base to any meal. Cook grains in large batches and use throughout the week in salads, soups and side dishes such as this Quinoa and Green Bean Salad.
Health Benefits: Whole grains are made up of complex carbohydrates. These complex carbohydrates give our bodies the FUEL we need, the energy that most of our body systems need to function.
Beans & Legumes
Black Beans, Chickpeas, Lentils, Kidney Beans, etc.
I like to buy these items in bulk (dried) and prepare large batches at the beginning of the week. They can be an excellent side or as part of any main dish. Beans and lentils lend themselves to a variety of flavors and uses—Get creative and see how other cultures utilize these power foods! Beans and legumes are must-have items for vegans, who rely more heavily on them for adequate daily protein intake. Check out our featured recipe for Lentil Dal.
Health Benefits: Loaded with protein, fiber and minerals.
Organic Dark Chocolate Chips or Organic Raw Cocoa Nibs
These little morsels of rich, deliciousness have saved me from over-indulging my sweet-tooth many a time. When purchasing the chocolate chips, be sure they are organic with NO added sugar. As a satisfying addition to trail-mix, or melted to make these yummy Chocolate Apricot Nut-Bars, dark chocolate chips are a crave-curing go-to. For an even healthier alternative, try using organic raw cocoa nibs. This superfood can be used just as chocolate chips are!
Health Benefits: Rich in antioxidants, organic dark chocolate helps protect and repair your cells from damage by free radicals. Organic raw cocoa nibs are full of antioxidants as well as flavonoids, amino acids and magnesium helping improve mood, reduce anxiety, increase energy levels and reduce symptoms of PMS.
These are the absolute essentials that I keep my pantry stocked with regularly. When you’re either feeling creative, or just desperate, having a well stocked pantry can make all the difference in the world.
For more advice on Building a Natural Foods Pantry, 101Cookbooks.com has some great tips.