Now that we’re in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, most of us have been held at home under shelter-in-place orders. You most likely stocked up on essentials, including perishable and non-perishable foods to sustain you through the stay-at-home orders when all of this began, I know I did. Sans food hoarding, of course. But there is more to pantry staple foods then just pandemic survival. Shelf stable foods are awesome because they last longer, are more cost efficient, and are often more versatile.
Today I’m sharing healthy foods to you can stock in your pantry, even when fresh produce and meats are in short supply. Even if you aren’t able to use these tips during the situation we’re currently in, still, take note of these pantry staples to stock up on once this blows over, and the shelves are filled to the brim again!
Protein is essential to any healthy diet. When combined with carbohydrates it creates lasting satiety leaving you feeling fuller for longer. When looking for pantry safe proteins, look for canned meats such as tuna, salmon, chicken or sardines packed in water. It’s also a great idea to consider plant-based proteins such as canned or dried beans, as well as raw, unsalted nuts and seeds or all natural nut butters.
You can make tons of different things with canned or dried beans, such as
dips, soups, and stews. Beware, canned goods do tend to have more sodium due to the canning process, so try to find the ones marked “no sodium added” if they’re available or be sure to drain and rinse your canned goods before cooking.
Nut butters are also a delicious and heart healthy way to turn plain bread into a hearty treat or add a kick of nutty flavor to breakfast cereals, oatmeal, baked goods and more. So, stock up on your favorite nut butter! Be sure to look for all-natural butter with minimal ingredients. Some great tips are to look for the separation of oil at the top and check the ingredients list under the food label. Ideally you want to see something with one or two ingredients such as peanuts and spice blends.
Whole grains are packed with vitamins and fiber which keep your gut healthy and reduce your risk of developing high cholesterol. The recommendation is to make at least half of all your grains whole grains. When supplies of fresh whole grains are in short supply, look for alternate whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa, and whole-grain pasta, oats or buckwheat. These items can be used as the base for a meal such as spaghetti, alfredo, or even added to soups, stews, salads or made into a healthy breakfast or side dish to accompany fresh fruit or vegetables.
If fresh baked whole grain breads are available in your local grocer or you find a great deal at the bakery. Only keep what you will eat immediately in the pantry. You can store the rest in the freezer for up to three months. Avoid storing in the refrigerator as breads go stale when refrigerated, but maintain their integrity when frozen. In the refrigerator, the water evaporates from the bread making it dry and tough.
Pantry staples are more than just plain food items like meats and bread. In order to keep your meals tasty and healthy while creating a variety of flavor, it’s essential to keep items such as milk, broth, vinegar, and cooking oils on hand as well.
When choosing shelf stable milks it’s a great idea to look for canned or boxed almond, rice, oat, or coconut milks without added sweeteners. Dairy milks require refrigeration and may expire quickly. Keeping diary alternatives is a great idea because you can use them for cooking, baking, or just drinking plain.
Vinegar and oils are a great way to add flavor to salads, make marinades, tenderize tough meats, or even bake with. My favorite vinegar are red wine, balsamic, apple cider and rice vinegar. When shopping for oils look for olive, coconut, avocado
Grape seed, or sesame oils.
Broths are another great way to add healthy flavor to foods. You can use them for the base of soups, to cook rice or pastas in, or even use in place of cooking oils without sacrificing flavor. Be sure to look for broths labeled “no sodium added”.
All types of potatoes and hearty squashes can add a more filling component to any meal. And of course, there are cans of vegetables that you can use for a swift side dish or with your favorite broth base to make soup.
I believe when we think about “shelf-stable” or “pantry supplies” the first thing that comes to mind are canned goods such as fruits and vegetables. The average american only gets about 2.5 of the 5 recommended servings of fruits and vegetables per day. So, even when fresh produce is unavailable or in short supply it’s incredibly important to continue to make them a priority. When choosing canned vegetables, always look for veggies packed in water with no salt added or fruits packed in natural juices with no added sugars.
Some of my favorites are peaches, cherries, pineapples, green beans, roasted peppers, mushrooms, sweet potato and pumpkin purees, as well as canned crushed, whole, or chopped tomatoes. Canned tomatoes almost need their own category. From turning into a sauce for your pastas, adding a rich taste to soups, or even to make Shakshuka with the eggs you have on hand, they can be used to make plenty of meals. Check out [this] newsletter for a great Shakshuka recipe!
Flours, dried herbs and foods are cooking and baking staples. When shopping and planning to stock your pantry make sure you have the basic staples like whole wheat, almond, or cassava flour as well as baking powder, baking soda. You can bake just about anything with a little flour, water, and baking soda.
I also love to purchase dried coconut flakes and fruit to dress up my baked goods from time to time. They last forever and add a great flavor kick and texture to more than just cookies and bread.
Herbs and spices are a great way to add flavor to any dish without adding extra salt or fat. Plus, they’re often more potent then fresh herbs and spices meaning they will last longer and you will need less.
If you haven’t already taken advantage of grocery delivery to avoid the stores, apps like Instacart are great alternatives during this time. Some stores also offer curb side pick up where you can order groceries on-line and pick up onsite without ever going in-store.
If you need a little reminder, you can download my hand Pantry Essentials guide that covers all the items in this blog post and more. Just click the image below and you’ll be redirected.
Also, if you’d like to learn how to use these pantry staples in action, check out my Pantry Power Meal Plan. You can sign up for the free 3-Day trial today, no credit card required.
I hope your all staying safe and healthy during this uncertain time. I’m sending you all my thoughts and hugs.
Priscilla Askew is a Nutrition & Dietetic Technician, Registered. She loves all things related to health & fitness and blogs about her adventures in running, triathlon, and nutrition.