I have a secret. I don’t meal plan. Even so, I always have something in my pantry to whip up a quick, healthy meal. The secret is simple: have a baseline of things you can use to create meals from, spices and seasonings to make them taste good. With a few simple, pantry staples you too can have everything you need to whip up a healthy meal in no time, even if you haven’t had time to hit the market.
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Rice is an essential. It’s the perfect side-dish to nearly any meal, and can be used in everything from soups to casseroles. You can add flavors and sauces to keep things interesting, and it fits with any cuisine. Plus it’s cheap, healthy, and is something you can buy in bulk and keep on hand without fear of it going bad. What type of rice? Well I’m a fan of brown rice for general use, however, after spending 3+ years in Asia sticky rice is now the go to rice in this house. Wild rice is perfect to add some variety to your foods, and short grain is a must for making risotto. Jasmine is the perfect accompaniment to Indian food and stick rice goes with most Asian dishes. Just stay away from the instant stuff 😉
Like rice, pasta has many different uses. From salads to soups, to side dishes to main dishes, pasta is a versatile pantry staple. Plus pasta comes in all different shapes and varieties and variations.
In particular my go to spices are:
- Smoked paprika
Spices go a long way to creating rich, flavorful meals without adding extra salt or fat that often comes from pre-made spice blends and sauces.
There are some veggies I always have on hand. These include onions, carrots, lettuce, potatoes, mixed frozen veggies, and frozen spinach. The frozen veggies are perfect to add into soups or casseroles/quiches and you don’t have to worry about them going bad. I prefer them to canned because they have better texture, plus they are flash frozen at the peak of ripeness. They are also really cheap, especially if you find a good sale. Onions are a must for flavoring pretty much everything from soups to gravies and salads.
I may not always eat them plain, but eggs are an excellent addition to many different recipes from soups to baked goods. They provide a good source of protein and can be used in a million different ways from egg based dishes like quiches, and custards to baked goods.
Tomato sauce, along with tomato puree and tomato paste, are another jack of all trades. From making your own pasta sauce, to adding flavor to soups & stews, or homemade pizza; tomato sauce is always in my pantry.
Making your own biscuits and pizza dough is easy, and cheap. I make a big batch of pizza dough then have enough for 3 meals. I freeze them and pull them out as needed. No need to buy pizza dough from the store! Flour is a necessity that can do everything from thicken sauces to make delicious baked goods. My pantry is always stocked with King Arthur Flour, not only is it local (to me as a Vermonter), but it’s amazing quality and their recipes can’t be beat.
This is one of my favorite pantry staples. A few dabs of hot sauce makes everything better, with very little added calories depending on what kind you get. I love hot sauce on my eggs, in soups, or well…pretty much anything!
Looking for something amazing? Vermont Maple Sriracha. It’s amazing. I love it. Put it on ALL THE THINGS.
Olive Oil/Coconut Oil
These are my two favorite oils. They both add wonderful flavor to your dish. If you aren’t a huge fan of the coconut flavor of coconut oil shop around, I’ve found different brands are more or less “coconutty” depending on how it’s processed. More refined coconut oil tends to have less flavor. I use both for cooking and baking.
Look, butter makes everything taste better. It’s just a fact. I use it in baking and cooking. It’s a must for homemade biscuits, and cookies. I prefer it to using shortening for baking.
Chicken/beef/veggie stock or broth is another must have. It makes making soups and gravies easy. I find that vegetable stock is a good middle ground for either beef or chicken stock uses, so if you only want to have on on hand choose that. It goes with everything. Homemade is undeniably best, but if you don’t have time for that then bullion or pre-made stock is a good alternative.
By keeping your pantry well stocked with essential items, you can save time and money prepping your meals. Pantry items like these, serve as the base upon which you can plan your meals, knowing you already have the essential ingredients.