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How to Stock a Healthy, Low-Calorie Pantry

Updated on September 19, 2012
Stock your pantry with foods that will help you create healthy meals each day.
Stock your pantry with foods that will help you create healthy meals each day. | Source

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.

Start your pantry with a clean empty set of shelves.
Start your pantry with a clean empty set of shelves. | Source

The Space

  • 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 Clear out any unrelated items or outdated containers, and clean the surface and walls.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.

The Strategy

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.


Pantry List
Fridge List
B-fast: Oatmeal, walnuts, sliced fruit
Fresh fruit
Lunch: Tuna sandwich, carrots, fruit salad
Canned tuna
Dinner: Black beans & rice, salad
Canned black beans
Salad greens
Snack: grain crackers & cheese
Grain crackers
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!

The Staples


- 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.

Baking ingredients:

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.

Pasta and rice round out any lunch or dinner.
Pasta and rice round out any lunch or dinner. | Source


Brown rice

Whole grain pasta (short like rotini or penne, and long like spaghetti)


Breakfast Foods:

Cereals like Kashi or Fiber One

Granola bars (at least 4% fiber)


Snack foods:

Whole wheat pretzels

Blue corn tortilla chips

Grain cracker (like Back to Nature brand)

Use canned tomatoes for marinara sauce, and in stews and chili.
Use canned tomatoes for marinara sauce, and in stews and chili. | Source




Beans (green beans as well as black, kidney, cannellini, and chick peas)

Water Chestnuts

Bamboo shoots

Chilis (green, jalapenos)


Varieties packed in fruit juice as opposed to syrup



Mandarin Oranges




Packed in water, not oil





Olive oil adds richness to dressings and marinades.
Olive oil adds richness to dressings and marinades. | Source


Avoid animal fats

Canola or vegetable

Extra Virgin Olive





White wine

Red wine



Chicken bouillon

Dried spices (black and red pepper, parsley, cumin, oregano)


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    • Heather63 profile image

      Heather Adams 5 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      Hi kitkat - I'm glad the hub gave you some ideas! Stay warm!

    • kitkat1141 profile image

      kitkat1141 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Thank you for this. I am about to restock my pantry, and will keep this hub in mind!

    • Heather63 profile image

      Heather Adams 5 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      Thanks so much - Wow, you do have your hands full! When my kids were little (and about 2 years apart), it was a challenge to keep focused , even with a list!

    • iheartkafka profile image

      iheartkafka 5 years ago

      I always try to organize my shopping list in a similar way and find it very helpful (I'm usually grocery shopping with my 16 month twins and know I have limited time!)...this was definitely a useful hub!

    • profile image

      Heather63 5 years ago

      For years I grocery shopped without much of a list or a plan. All the money I probably wasted! I would do the same as you - just grab. And sometimes I still find myself at the checkout line with things in my cart I hadn't planned on picking up. There's always room for improvement, huh?!!

    • VirginiaLynne profile image

      Virginia Kearney 5 years ago from United States

      I really like this idea of having staple foods that are low calorie available and ready to go. You are so right that having a plan for what to eat, and then having all those foods in the pantry will lead to better eating habits. If it isn't quick and easy, I know I tend to eat the wrong thing!

    • Heather63 profile image

      Heather Adams 5 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      Hey Helen, I'm glad you got some ideas to help you! I wish you all the best in your new situation with your Dad - I'm sure it's a bit of a challenge.

    • Seeker7 profile image

      Helen Murphy Howell 5 years ago from Fife, Scotland

      This is a great hub and one that is very useful to me at the moment. I'm at home now looking after Dad and I really need to re-vamp and try and get the best out of the kitchen as the space is not being used to its best advantage.

      I've also put on a couple of pounds so I'm looking for low calorie healthy options. I think the simple meal plan you have given and re-organising the pantry is the best advice I can get right now. Many thanks for this great hub! Voted up + shared!