Guide To Stocking A Pantry For Healthy Cooking
What’s the point of the well stocked pantry? The whole point of having a well stocked pantry is that you can have items on hand to make wonderfully delicious yet more nutritious meals at the drop of a hat.
Everything we do in life revolves around supplies. Cooking is really no different. I believe healthy cooking is an art form or expression of creativity. In order to do it well, you need the right tools. The well stocked pantry enables you to do that.
It helps you plan meals more easily and saves time (and gas) with those extra trips to get ingredients for dishes you want to prepare.
Having a well stocked pantry can also help you eat a more balanced diet and encourage you to stay away from fast foods, takeout, junk foods and useless calories.
Using the items in your healthy cooking pantry can also help satisfy cravings for foods you want but know you “shouldn’t” have. By making them in a healthier way, you can have them in moderation and add them periodically to your diet.
One important thing to consider is that while you are striving to create your healthy cooking pantry, make sure you read the labels.
I personally try to use as much low sodium or organic product as I possibly can without going turbo over it. I find Trader Joe’s has a lot of organic products and I love their products. However, I have to say at times, I grow a little frustrated with the fact that their products have so much sodium.
Let's take a look at what you might find in a well stocked pantry for healthy cooking.
FLAVORFUL AND SPICY PANTRY ITEMS
- Balsamic – use in salad dressings or to make a reduction
- Red Wine – use in salad dressings or as suggested in recipes
- White Wine – use in salad dressings or as suggested in recipes
- Rice – sprinkle on veggies like steamed cauliflower or broccoli for unique taste
- Apple Cider- (organic) use in dressings or use as digestive aid
- Extra virgin olive oil – use for cooking and salad dressings
- Canola oil – use for cooking and baking
- Oils like walnut oil or coconut oil – use for greasing muffin pans or stir fry
- Spray olive oil or canola oil – use instead of frying
- Butter – unsalted preferably though sometimes salted is needed for recipes
- All vegetable shortening (small quantity) – use for piecrusts if required
Flavorings and Condiments
- Low-sodium soy sauce – use to brush on fish or use in stir frys or marinades
- Hoisin sauce, fish sauce, mirin, oyster sauce or curry paste – use in Asian or Indian dishes, stir fry
- Kalamata olives, black olives or green olives – use in Mediterranean dishes or as an appetizer
- Dijon mustard – use on sandwiches, in recipes
- Mustard – use on sandwiches or in recipes as called for
- Capers – use in dishes such as chicken picatta or other recipes
- Ketchup – use on sandwiches or in recipes as called for
- BBQ sauce – use for the grill or use in recipes as called for
- Worcestershire sauce – use a few drops in stews or marinades
- Pure maple syrup – use for breakfasts but also use for flavoring or marinades
- Pickles – sweet and dill - use on sandwiches or in salads
- Horseradish - use for sandwiches or in recipes
- Nonfat or low fat mayonnaise (substitute Greek yogurt for part)
Spices and Herbs - remember the ratio – usually 3:1 fresh versus dried - so 1 teaspoon dried but 3 teaspoons fresh.
Garlic – fresh and/or dried though fresh has more flavor – can substitute jarred
Onions – fresh or dried
Green onions – fresh if you can
Kosher salt – it has less sodium in it than regular salt
Black pepper – peppercorns if you like
White pepper – optional but neat to have for white sauces – or peppercorns
Fresh ginger – use grated in stir fry or other dishes – a little piece goes a ways
Anchovy paste if you like it for recipes like Caesar salad or pastas
Spices for Healthy Cooking
Italian Seasoning Blend
No Salt Seasoning Blend
Various meat/fish rubs
Red Pepper Flakes
Watch the video I created on Youtube showing the different items in a well stocked pantry. These are just ideas that work for me in my effort to make almost everything from scratch and still enjoy food. Remember that healthy cooking doesn't have to be boring!
BAKING ITEMS FOR THE PANTRY
- Granulated sugar or raw sugar
- Powdered sugar
- Brown sugar - use in recipes or in marinades
- Honey - great in marinades
- Unsweetened cocoa powder, natural or Dutch processed
- Unsweetened chocolate - use as a dusting or in recipes
- Semisweet chocolate (chips or otherwise)
- Graham crackers or graham cracker crumbs
- Evaporated milk – low fat or nonfat
- Sweetened condensed milk - low fat
- Powdered milk – use for making breads
- Yeast – slow rising and/or quick rising
- Whole wheat flour
- Whole wheat pastry flour
- Unbleached all purpose flour
- Cake flour
- Oat flour (this is actually ground rolled oats)
- Assorted bread flours if you bake breads
- Oat Bran
- Wheat Bran
- Flax seeds
- Wheat berries and other types of baking additives if you make bread
- Rolled oats and/or quick cooking oats
- Steel cut oats - great for cereal but also used in baking
- Stone ground cornmeal
- Panko bread crumbs
- Dried breadcrumbs (make your own from leftover breads)
- Baking Soda - always test for freshness
- Baking Powder - always test for freshness
- Real vanilla and/or vanilla beans
- Almond extract
- Extracts or oils based on what you cook – for instance hard candy requires oils like cinnamon oil
Great Nuts to Have on Hand
Dry Roasted Unsalted Peanuts
Staple Dried Fruits
Dried Cranberries or Craisins
Shredded unsweetened coconut
Unsalted Raw Sunflower Seeds
Natural Peanut Butter
CANNED AND BOTTLED ITEMS
- Canned tomatoes – low sodium or unsalted
- Tomato paste – low sodium or unsalted
- Tomato sauce – low sodium or unsalted
- Sundried tomatoes - dry pack
- Reduced sodium chicken broth, beef broth or vegetable broth
- Clam juice
- Lite coconut milk – use for curries or soups
- Canned beans – cannellini, great northern, garbanzo, black beans, kidney beans
- Canned tuna - low sodium
- Canned salmon - low sodium
- Canned fruit – in fruit juice - no syrup
- Canned vegetables – unsalted
- Salsa - low sodium - or buy fresh or make your own
LEGUMES AND GRAINS
- Assorted brown rice or wheat pastas and noodles
- Brown rice and/or instant brown rice
- Wild rice or wild rice blend
- Pearl barley and/or quick cooking barley
- Dried beans like cranberry, kidney, pinto, garbanzo, great northern
- Lentils – red, yellow and green
- Split peas
HEALTHY COOKING FRIDGE ITEMS
Though not technically the "pantry" for healthy cooking it is necessary to stock your fridge and freezer with some must have items as well. Here's my short list:
- Nonfat milk or soymilk – or almond milk
- Nonfat plain yogurt or Greek yogurt
- Nonfat sour cream
- Low fat whipping cream
- Neufachtel cheese
- Parmesan cheese or Romano cheese – brick to grate
- Other brick cheeses as desired
- Cheddar cheese or jack cheese - low fat/low sodium
- Swiss or Havarti cheese - low fat/low sodium
- Cage free large eggs
- Egg substitute or egg whites
- Orange juice or other fruit juice - fresh, not from concentrate
- Dry white wine or nonalcoholic wine for cooking
- Water packed tofu
- Butter – unsalted and salted
- Low fat buttermilk or powdered buttermilk
- Green onions
TIPS ON STOCKING YOUR PANTRY
Does it sound like a lot of stuff to have in a pantry? I suppose on some levels it does. However, if you think about how many meals you can make from all these items over the course of 6 months or a year, it's amazing how much money you would save. Add to that the bonus of eating healthier, more additive-free meals and you have a winning situation.
Remember that as often as you can, opt for fresh. Buy fruits and veggies when they're in season and can, freeze or dry them yourself using for instance a food dehydrator. The same goes with herbs. I usually grow at least 6 different kinds of herbs and then freeze them for the winter months when fresh isn't available.
Most of all, stock your pantry for healthy cooking with the idea in mind that you will use it often and that you'll enjoy your culinary works of art. Like any other project, without the right tools readily at hand, it's harder to create something. Stocking your pantry with healthy food items allows you the freedom to create great things every day.
For some ideas on using some of the items in your pantry, fridge and freezer, check out some of my ideas on healthy cooking.
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