What’s in Your Pantry?

Lately, it’s been a challenge getting groceries from supermarkets, but many of us already have a mini grocery store in our home…our pantry!  

Having a well-stocked pantry makes it easier to cook meals at home, especially when we’re out of fresh ingredients. There is no magic number of items you should have in your pantry, however, it’s important to stock foods and beverages you will actually consume. Here are my suggestions for ‘must-have’ pantry foods:

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  • Protein Sources: canned fish or poultry, beans, seeds and nuts, peanut or other nut butters, powdered or evaporated milk, grated cheese.
  • Canned Goods: fruit (in 100% juice), vegetables, beans (black, kidney beans, etc.). When available, buy low sodium canned vegetables, soups, and sauces. Drain beans well (removes starch) and vegetables (removes salt).
  • Grain Products: pasta (preferably whole wheat), rice (choose brown), oatmeal, flour, bread crumbs, mac and cheese, biscuit mix.                                      
  • Dried fruits: raisins, apricots, apples.
  • Flavorings-Spices & Condiments: salt & pepper, Italian seasoning, chili powder, cumin, cinnamon, paprika, ketchup, mustard & mayo. 

If you’re missing some of these items, use this list to stock your pantry. Remember to replenish pantry items. Practice the FIFO rule or ‘First In, First Out’ meaning use the older items first.    

You may be wondering how to combine ‘pantry’ foods to make a tasty meal. With a little practice and a ‘trial and error’ approach, you can create delicious and easy meals. Here’s my five-step approach for creating pantry meals without recipes.

Photo by Katerina Holmes on Pexels.com
  • First, start with a base such as rice, pasta or baked potatoes. 
  • Second, add a protein such as canned chicken or fish or choose one from the list I provided above. If you prefer a more plant-based diet, beans, nuts and seeds, soy-based foods or quinoa are great protein options. 
  • Third, choose one or two vegetables with different colors, textures and nutritional value. Carrots and spinach, peas and mushrooms, or tomatoes and green beans are great combinations.
  • Fourth, to pull it all together, add a sauce or gravy, broth, canned milk or salad dressing. These foods add moisture too. 
  • Fifth, add a punch of flavor with some herbs or spices.

As a Registered Dietitian, I’m always thinking about nutrition, so I finish off my meal by combining fruit and dairy for a delicious Greek yogurt parfait. By following this five-step approach, you can create a delicious and nutritious meal that meets the USDA’s MyPlate recommendations. 

If you prefer creating ‘pantry meals’ using recipes, try Meal Hero, a website tool that allows you to enter food items you want to use and then provides easy meal recipes. You can also filter recipes by the number of ingredients and cook time.

Use these tips and resources and get creative in the kitchen by finding ways to use foods you already have. You’ll cut back on food waste and save money too!

Bon Appetit! 

Resources: 

Master Pantry list: https://www.myfrugalhome.com/free-printable-pantry-master-list/

Meal Hero: https://fridgetotable.com/

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