How to Stock a Healthy, Low-Calorie Pantry
Having a well-stocked pantry is always a good idea. And filling it with good-for-you foods is even smarter. In fact, maintaining a pantry can be one of your best tools for eating a healthier diet.
Without some preparation, though, cooking nutritious and delicious meals can cost you extra time and money. By utilizing some lower-calorie packaged ingredients and making a menu plan, you'll be equipping yourself for diet success!
To make sure your pantry will work to its full potential, you need to do three things: prep the space, set up a good shopping strategy, and purchase the right staples.
- Even if you don't have a separate closet, you'll need to carve out some kind of dedicated space, preferably in or very near your kitchen. Some people use their basement, some their dining room. Wherever it ends up being, give yourself at least 2 shelves worth of area.
- Next, make your new pantry welcoming. Clear out any unrelated items or outdated containers, and clean the surface and walls. If you're handy with a brush, put a new coat of paint or finish on to brighten it up. Also, line shelves with contact paper so spills can be easily wiped up.
- Decide how you want to organize your pantry. Put similar foods (i.e. grains like pasta and rice) together. Label the different sections for easy access: some white tape along a shelf edge or gathering foods into small baskets or trays will quickly bring order This will make gathering recipe ingredients and quicker and help you in creating a shopping list.
1. Before you go shopping, make a meal plan or even a list of low-calorie dishes to make for a given week. Break down each recipe into it's main ingredients to see what you'll need, both for the pantry and for the fridge.
Do this for each day of the week, or each dish, and you'll have the shopping list for stocking your pantry.
SAMPLE MEAL PLAN & LIST
B-fast: Oatmeal, walnuts, sliced fruit
Lunch: Tuna sandwich, carrots, fruit salad
Dinner: Black beans & rice, salad
Canned black beans
Snack: grain crackers & cheese
Dessert: Yogurt & granola
Packaged granola or container of homemade
2. Think of how foods can do "double duty". For instance, you can use oats as a breakfast cereal, as a healthy boost to a chocolate chip cookie recipe, or even to make granola.
3. During your week, keep a list of pantry foods you use often. Writing this down will help you track when and how you utilize an ingredient. You'll also see how quickly you go through a container, to prevent running out.
4. As you shop, jot down which stores carry the brands you like and which offer better prices on items you think you'll buy a lot. This will make your grocery store trips more efficient and will save you money over time.
5. Use sales as an opportunity to stock up some extra packages of things you need. If you have the room, picking up additional items on sale is another way to keep costs down. You might even come up with some new ideas for using that ingredient!
- check labels for low-sodium and low-sugar varieties of items whenever possible - you'll cut down on calories and preservatives.
- buy foods that have a higher grain and fiber content to keep you feeling satisfied longer.
- branch out and try new things once you set your routine - buckwheat flour maybe, or jasmine rice.
- buy everything at once - you probably won't have the storage room or the budget for that.
- buy anything you don't think you'll use, even if it's on sale.
Unbleached white and wheat flour gluten-free if needed
Baking powder without aluminum (like Rumford brand)
Unsweetened cocoa powder
Honey (local if possible)
White and brown sugar or substitute (Truvia or Agave nectar are natural alternatives)
No or low-salt, plain (not dry roasted)
Peanuts, walnuts, almonds
Note: try making your own nut butter to cut down on preservatives, sugar and salt.
Whole grain pasta (short like rotini or penne, and long like spaghetti)
Cereals like Kashi or Fiber One
Granola bars (at least 4% fiber)
Whole wheat pretzels
Blue corn tortilla chips
Grain cracker (like Back to Nature brand)
Beans (green beans as well as black, kidney, cannellini, and chick peas)
Chilis (green, jalapenos)
Varieties packed in fruit juice as opposed to syrup
Packed in water, not oil
Avoid animal fats
Canola or vegetable
Extra Virgin Olive
Dried spices (black and red pepper, parsley, cumin, oregano)
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