Top 10 Pantry Staples

McKenzie Jones | April 8, 2020

It’s a common misconception that putting made-from-scratch meals on the table has to be time-consuming or complicated. Meal prep can be relatively easy (and, hopefully, enjoyable!) with a few shelf-stable ingredients on-hand.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Olive oil is a monounsaturated fat that is incredibly versatile and good for your heart. It makes a great staple cooking oil – due to its high smoke point (410 F) – to keep in your kitchen for everything from frying an egg to roasting veggies to baking salmon.

EVOO is also perfect for making your own delicious dressings, like tasty honey mustard or balsamic vinaigrette, in seconds!

Low Sodium Broth

Prepared stocks have come a long way! Keep chicken, beef, or vegetable stock on hand for making soups, poaching vegetables and meats, and making sauces.

These also come in handy when whipping up your own soups! Use veggies you have on hand and broth to blend up the perfect soup. Here are some of our favorites!

Frozen Fruit and Vegetables

While not technically in your pantry, frozen produce – from berries to corn to spinach – is one of the best things you can stock up on from your grocery store. They’re affordable, convenient, and just as nutritious, if not more so, than their fresh counterparts.

Nuts

Nuts, like almonds, peanuts, cashews, and walnuts, are not only a satisfying snack, but they can be stretched and used multiple ways in the kitchen! They’re great by themselves (added to salads or side dishes, for example) or used to make nut butter or nut milk. Add a scoop of your favorite nut butter to your blender when whipping up a smoothie, or experiment with them in savory dishes. A simple peanut butter sauce adds bold flavor to a classic stir-fry. Nut milk can be used in baking, cooking, smoothies, or an elevated homemade latte.

Seeds

Seeds, like flax, chia, hemp, pumpkin, or sunflower, may be tiny, but these plant proteins offer a mighty dose of health-promoting nutrients. Sprinkle seeds atop salads, yogurt, or a smoothie bowl to reap their many benefits. When it comes to nuts and seeds – and all plant foods, in general – they all offer benefits. So, if you’re watching your wallet, you can get the least expensive ones and still feel good about what you’re putting in your body.

In addition to nutrition, seeds’ special properties help keep these bite-sized snacks together – try sesame or carrot cake bites.

Beans

Popular beans include pinto, black, and garbanzo. Canned beans offer you a hefty nutrition bang for your calorie buck. They’re packed with protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. They’re a great addition to salads, side dishes, and soups, or can be used to make a quick dip. Just be sure to drain and rinse them prior to use, which has been shown to reduce the sodium content by 41 percent.

Whole Grains

Carbohydrate-rich foods often get a bad rap, but intake of whole grains, like quinoa, brown rice, and oats, is actually linked with better health and longevity. Add cooked grains into stews, use as a base for stir-fries, sprinkle into casseroles, serve as a side dish, or enjoy on the sweeter side for breakfast.

Canned Tomatoes

Tomatoes are a precious source of lycopene, an antioxidant that has been shown to help protect us from several chronic diseases. Since ripe, fresh tomatoes are perishable and not always available, canned tomatoes are a good substitute. An added bonus? Lycopene becomes more bioavailable to your body after processing, so canned tomatoes offer even more nutritional benefits than their fresh counterparts.

Try making this versatile marinara for a quick pizza or pasta sauce.

Potatoes

The most popular American vegetable, the humble potato is incredibly versatile in the kitchen and offers fiber, potassium, vitamin C, and vitamin B6. Bake them, steam them, roast them, sauté them, or mash them as a side dish. You can also add them to soups and casseroles. The options are endless!

Serve them with our Perfect Pesto or Homemade BBQ Sauce

Dried Fruits

Pantry favorites include apricots, raisins, cranberries, or dates. Not only is dried fruit a nutrient-rich snack, it can be used to naturally sweeten recipes and other foods while also contributing fiber and anti-inflammatory benefits to your day. Top a warm bowl of oatmeal with raisins, add a pitted date to your favorite smoothie blend, incorporate dried cranberries into a green salad, or stir chopped, dried apricots into a plain bowl of yogurt.

Not just for snacking, dried fruits are great for making your favorite jams in a pinch. Try our jam hack by pulsing your favorites together. Make an easy Cranberry Fig Jam for toast, crackers, or your charcuterie board.

Having these ingredients on hand will make preparing meals more convenient without sacrificing the nutrients your body needs. What’s your must-have pantry item?


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McKenzie Jones

McKenzie is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, nutrition writer and communicator, who truly loves meeting and connecting with people. Grounded in science with an integrative and holistic approach, she aims to make the world a healthier, happier place by helping people feel their best from the inside out and encouraging others to restore a judgment-free relationship with food. McKenzie has been a contributing editor for the award-winning publicationEnvironmental Nutrition and her numerous articles, nutrition tips, and recipes can be found in publications such as The Chicago Tribune, Today’s Dietitian, Food and Nutrition Magazine, and more.

McKenzie graduated magna cum laude from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo with a degree in Nutrition and completed her dietetic internship at Bastyr University in Seattle. She is a member of the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and a member of the dietetic practice group, Dietitians in Integrative and Functional Medicine. When she’s not dishing out nutrition tidbits, you can find McKenzie cooking in her sunny kitchen, hiking along with her favorite Southern California trails, or packing her bags and heading out for her next adventure.

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