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How to Stock Your Pantry for Healthier, Easier Meals

Updated on September 8, 2012
Just a few of my most-used pantry staples
Just a few of my most-used pantry staples

Until I learned the fine art of pantry stocking, I’d find myself at the grocery store four or more times per week, picking up whichever last-minute ingredients I needed for the evening meal. When I couldn’t make it to the supermarket, I relied on frozen pizza, boxed macaroni and cheese, and even the occasional bag of cookies for a quick (and guilt-inducing) dinner. But with a young family to feed and baby-weight to lose, I had to put these habits to rest. My solution: the well-stocked pantry, which I’ve gradually perfected as my cooking skills have improved. Having cooking staples on hand cuts down on those last-minute trips to the supermarket and calls to the nearest pizza joint, and gives your family endless meal options. Of course, these aren’t the only foods you’ll need; fresh fruits, veggies and meats are essential, but they require frequent restocking, so it's easy to be caught without them. I always keep these staples in my kitchen to whip up healthy flavorful meals, even when I haven’t been to the supermarket in a week.

Breads and Grains

Whole-grain tortillas

Plain dry bread crumbs

Pasta, both regular and whole-wheat varieties in an assortment of shapes, such as linguine, farfalle, rigatoni, capellini, penne, spaghetti and rotini

Rice, including brown, white and wild varieties

Whole-grain bread

Canned Goods

Beans, including black, kidney, pinto and cannellini

Low-sodium broth, both chicken and beef (vegetable stock is great if your family follows a vegetarian diet)

Diced tomatoes

Pizza sauce

Tomato paste

Crushed tomatoes

Tuna packed in water

Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce

Refrigerated Foods


Fat-free milk

Fat-free plain Greek yogurt

Shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Shredded mozzarella cheese

Low-fat sour cream

Parmesan cheese

Frozen Foods




Mixed vegetables


Chicken breasts

Lean ground beef

Lean ground turkey


Pureed winter squash

Unsweetened mixed berries

Unsweetened sliced peaches

Sauces and Condiments


Dijon mustard

Hot pepper sauce

Pasta sauce

Soy sauce

Teriyaki sauce





Sweet potatoes


Canola oil

Extra-virgin olive oil

Basic spices including basil, thyme, oregano, black pepper, paprika, chili powder and cumin

Spice blends such as lemon-pepper, Old Bay and grill seasoning


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