Did you know that American processed food consumption is up 25% in the last four weeks?! As if our diet quality wasn’t a struggle already, rest assured that you do NOT need to be hoarding foods with no expiration date and an ingredient list that reads from a chemistry textbook! If you’re preparing to hunker down with your family or have been using some new-found free time to clean out the kitchen cupboards, now is as good of time as any to take inventory of your pantry stockpile. You may have uncovered some hidden gems from the deep corners that you didn’t even know you had…and probably have not the faintest clue what to do with it. Instead of panic purchasing more items to only have them sit unused, let’s take this opportunity to ensure our kitchens are filled with healthy, multi-purpose, and quality items.
Wondering what we ideally should find in a well-stocked pantry? *SPOILER ALERT – it’s NOT Ramen noodles or anything containing powdered cheese.* Follow me on my virtual pantry tutorial!
The most popular category of pantry selections is often in the form of dry goods. Always have options on hand that are versitile and can be used in many different reciepes. We also want to aim for high quality, complex carbohydrates with high fiber content when possible! These options include:
- Rolled Oats. Whether you want a warm bowl of oatmeal for breakfast or to whip up a batch of homemade granola, rolled oats are a pantry staple.
- Rice (white or brown). Always have both white and brown rice on hand for an easy side dish at dinner. Rice is easy to season with your favorite spices and other condiments to take on any cuisine!
- Lentils. Lentils provide a solid serving of fiber and plant-based protein. Make a large pot of comforting lentil soup that doubles as leftovers!
- Quinoa. A quarter cup of cooked quinoa is delicious on a hearty salad at lunch!
- Gluten free flour blend. When the sweet tooth hits, ensure you have a gluten-free flour blend on hand that can be used 1:1 for your favorite baked goods!
- Coconut Sugar
- Baking Soda
- Baking Powder
Notice that pre-packaged, processed foods in a box did NOT make the cut. Avoid the noodles, rice mixes, or baked goods that are high in sodium, added sugars, preservatives. None of these do our immune systems any favors now or ever.
Crazies are hoarding canned goods like someone is going to shut off your electricity and suck every basic cooking skill out of your brain. A few canned good essentials are key in every pantry inventory, but let’s not go overboard. Always have the following on hand:
- Canned legumes. Chickpeas, black beans, navy beans…take your pick! This beats the laborous and time-consuming process of soaking your legumes / beans overnight…who thinks that far in advance? Simply drain, rinse and serve in your favorite dish – lots of fiber, too!
- Canned meats. Wild caught tuna and salmon are some staple protein sources that require zero cooking, and can be served immediately upon opening. Wild Planet is one of my favorite brands.
- Nut butter. Technically a jar not a can, but I digress. Whether you are a peanut butter fiend or prefer a more refined palate of almond or cashew butter, make sure your pantry has at least one jar of nut butter on hand. Yes…select the natural options with the oil layer on top. You can stir it. I believe in you.
Again, notice what purposely did NOT make this list. Just walk right on past the canned soups and canned veggies. These provide practically zero nutrient value by the time the canning process gets them to your plate. Use fresh or frozen produce instead!
SEASONINGS / SPICES
I know this whole ‘social distancing’ initiative is really putting the pressure on your cooking skills. But no great chef was made overnight, so practice makes perfect! And do you know what else helps? Seasonings and spices – lots of them!
- Salt & Pepper. Love a good sea salt and peppercorn grinder. I feel like freaking Gordon Ramsey.
- Seasoning Blends. Leave the creative combinations to the experts and buy some pre-mixed seasoning blends: lemon pepper, Italian, southwest chipotle, chili, etc. Trader Joe’s is the real MVP for seasoning blends – Everything But the Bagel and 21 Seasoning Salute will always be in my cupboards.
- Cooking Oils. Always saute and roast with oils that have a high smoke point, like coconut oil or ghee. Use extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil for cold dressings.
- Vinegar. Apple cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar, rice vinegar…you can conquer any Pinterest recipe with these on hand.
SNACKS & OTHER RANDOMS
When the snack attack hits, you’ll surely want some key items on hand to keep yourself from taking out your hanger on your loved ones cooped up with you!
- Protein Powder (whey or pea protein)
- Epic Bars
- Rx Bars
- Biltong Jerky
All of these options are high in protein, and provide a balanced snack to hold you over without the inevitable crash that most carbohydrate dense snacks, like chips, crackers, cookies, pretzels, etc, will cause.
So the next time you are filling your grocery delivery service cart, take a deep breath and remember that although we are in an uncertain time, don’t panic and hoard items found in the highly processed, boxed food aisle, or clear out the canned green beans. No one is taking away your stove, refrigerator, or even microwave. You will still be able to cook delicious and nutritious meals at home using a combination of fresh produce, frozen goods, and a pantry loaded with the essentials for a healthy, happy body!
Stay safe, friends!