14 Pantry Essentials for Homemade Meals

by Annie on September 11, 2008 · 3 comments

in Eating Healthy


Photo by Belinda Hankins Miller

We will always have to eat.  It is better to eat food prepared at home is lower in fat and calories than take out or restaurant meals.

Here are the top 14 pantry essentials that we should stocked for making a delicious and healthy dinner:

1.  Broths (fat free, reduced sodium beef and chicken, vegetable, and tomato) for sauteing and cooking with rice and grains, as well as for creating simple soups.

2.  Dried foods (fruits, tomatoes, mushrooms) to add to grain or rice pilafs.

3.  Canned beans (all kinds: black, white, pink, pinto, kidney, lima) for pureeing and using as spreads, tossing into salads, and making vegetarian chili.  Beans add protein and fiber to any dish.  Rinse well to remove some of the excess sodium.  Try mashing and mixing them with brown rice and seasonings for homemade veggie burgers.

4.  Whole grains (couscous, oatmeal, quick cooking barley) and rice (pilaf mixes, brown, white, jasmine).  Add a few seasonings for a side dish or layer them with meats and vegetables in a baking dish.

5.  Canned fish (salmon, smoked oysters, tuna) for sandwiches, salads, and pasta.

6.  Nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts) to add to pilafs and to top vegetables such as green beans.  Refrigerate or freeze nuts once opened.  Chop finely and add to bread crumbs as a coating for fish or chicken.  Toss into salads or stir into cooked rice for extra protein.  But do not get carried away – nuts are high in calories.

7.  Seasonings and condiments (assorted dried herbs and spices, ethnic seasoning mixes, mustard, chutneys) to add exotic flavor to simple foods such as rice and cheese dishes, casseroles and stews.

8.  Whole wheat pasta (assorted shapes and sizes, including small pasta for soups).  This makes a quick and filling meal.

9.  Tomato products (canned tomatoes, sauces, purees, or pastes) for sauces, pizza toppings, soups, and stews.  Stir into rice or other grains.  Or just heat and serve stewed tomatoes over pasta.

10. Sliced olives and jalapenos.  Stir into chili, pack into burritos, or toss into pasta sauces.  They add lots of flavor and need no preparation.

11. Oils (olive, canola, or corn oils) and vinegars (white, cider, red and white balsamic, or fruit flavored vinegars such as raspberry) for cooking an salad dressing.

12. Marinated artichoke hearts.  They add flavor to everything from appetizers to pizzas.  Use the marinade to flavor rice and pasta salads, to saute vegetables, or to season meat, fish, or vegetables for grilling.

13. Evaporated fat-free milk.  An instant substitute for heavy cream in soups, casseroles, or sauces.

14. Spice blends.  Some favorites to try: fines herbes (a mixture of tarragon, chervil, and savory), lemon pepper, or Cajun spices.

Do not forget fresh staples such as lemons, limes, ginger, and garlic.

Until next time and thanks for stopping by Small Steps to Health.

PS.  What else do you keep in stock that helps with making instant meals?

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Sagan September 13, 2008 at 6:53 pm

Wow, this list is fantastic! I’d love to try making some veggie burgers out of chickpeas, brown rice (or quinoa?) and seasonings. And tomato products are great; they’re always needed for bases of so many recipes. Hadn’t thought of the evaporated milk idea though!

Will definitely be copying out this list and using it frequently:)

Sagans last blog post..Limitations

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John's Weight Loss Blog September 15, 2008 at 2:41 am

That’s a great list, and pretty much is the staple of our pantry too – although I have not thought to use evaporated milk like that – good idea! Also don’t have the artichoke hearts.

We try to eat fresh veg but having a few cans of corn in the pantry has saved us during many a quick meal…

John’s Weight Loss Blogs last blog post..Losing Weight is Hard

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asithi September 16, 2008 at 8:32 am

@John and @Sagan – thanks for the comments. Love canned veggies and frozen ones too towards the end of the week when we run out of fresh produce.

My mom is from the old country. So she goes grocery shopping every other day or so at the local Chinese grocery stores in Chinatown. To her fresh produce and meat is of the utmost importance.

Since I am out in the suburbs (where driving is a necessity), I find that I can only manage to grocery shop once a week. So by the end of the week, I am out of fresh produce and is reduce to using frozen or canned veggies.

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