As life gets busy and unexpected situations arise, it’s a good idea to have a well-stocked pantry and freezer so you can be prepared to feed yourself and your family. With a little creativity and little effort, you can turn your pantry staples into tasty and nutritious meals.
It is best to keep about two weeks of canned goods and other pantry staples on hand, in case you are unable to get to the grocery store, and to plan meals that use common ingredients. Here are some suggestions for nutrient-dense and shelf-stable foods that will keep you and your family fed and content for several days.
Canned and jarred goods are great to stock up on as they have a long shelf life and can be used in many recipes.
- Varieties of beans and legumes including black beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, lentils, and chickpeas contain plant protein and fiber, to keep you full.
- Canned vegetables such as corn, peas, carrots and tomatoes are great additions to soups and stews. Tomatoes contain the antioxidant lycopene, which may help support our immune health. Combine these canned vegetables with canned beans to make Classic Minestrone Soup, Chipotle-Quinoa Chili, and Butterflied Chicken Breast and Bean Salad. Frozen vegetables are also an option to make sure you get plenty of plants in your diet. You can also make your own chopped onions and garlic to freeze for use at a later time.
- Canned or jarred fruits with no sugar added or packed in 100% fruit juice are good to have for several important nutrients. Options such as applesauce, grapefruit, peaches, pears, or pineapple will help you get some vitamin C and fiber, important to maintain and support your immune and digestive systems. If you drink juice, look for shelf-stable 100% fruit juice. Frozen fruits are also a great option, especially for making smoothies.
- Jarred or canned fish like tuna, salmon, anchovies and sardines supply protein and omega-3 fatty acids, which may support heart health. Pick up several cans as they have a long shelf life.
- Stocks, broths, and soups come in cans, cartons or cubes and have a long shelf life. Look for the lower sodium versions and add them to soups, sauces and stews to enhance flavors.
- Look for shelf-stable nut butters to keep on hand to add more protein to snacks or meals the whole family will enjoy. Nuts, like Planters Slivered Almonds are also a great addition to chicken, fish, or salads. Nuts have a shorter shelf life, so keep them in the refrigerator or freezer or buy smaller containers to keep in the pantry.
Other shelf-stable foods are important to provide needed nutrition and variety.
- Another way to keep fruit on hand is dried fruit. It can be added to cereals, baked goods, yogurt or eaten by itself as a small snack.
- Rice, cereals, and whole grains such as quinoa, bulgur, oats, faro, or barley can be cooked in large batches and kept in the refrigerator to be added to salads, stews, and soups for the week. If kept in an air-tight container in a cool pantry, rice and whole grains can be kept for up to 6 months and up to 1 year in the freezer. Whole grains offer many health benefits and, when combined with beans, can provide a complete plant-based protein.
- Pasta comes in all shapes and sizes and in types suitable for many different diets, such as vegan, gluten-free, and whole grain. Pasta is a great pantry staple to keep on hand to ensure you will have tasty and balanced meals. Kraft Macaroni and Cheese products are shelf-stable and the kids will be happy you stocked up on them! Cooked pasta can be eaten hot or cold, from soups to salads, such as in Rotini and Spicy Chicken in Tomato Sauce and Capellini-Caprese Salad. Or try Cheesy Italian Chicken Mac and Super Baked Pizza Mac for a better-for-you spin using Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.
- Salad Dressings and condiments are shelf-stable foods before they are opened. Once opened, refrigeration will be needed. Condiments like mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup, relish, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, barbecue sauce and steak sauce are great tools to boost flavors, expand meal variety and make your food customizable. Look for mayonnaise and salad dressing that have heart healthy fats, such as olive oil, canola oil, or soybean oil.
- Baking supplies and spices are important to make food and life more interesting and fun. Make sure your baking soda and baking powder are up to date and keep your flour in an airtight container. Be sure to explore some tasty Healthy Living dessert ideas.
- Beware of boredom snacking while at home. Make sure to have some healthier snack and cracker choices, like popcorn and whole grain crackers and pretzels on hand. Go for some dark chocolate or dried fruit instead of candy or other sweets. Think about buying or making portion-controlled containers of your favorite snacks.
So, there you have it! These pantry staples will get you through busy times when you work late, have special requests, don’t feel well, or just do not want to go to the store. Enjoy!