So you want to start cooking more healthy, real foods for your family? That’s wonderful! If you are going to turn this “goal”, “resolution”, or “distant dream” into a reality, you need to plan for success. Hands down, the most important part of being successful in reaching your goal of healthier food for your family is going to be having a well-stocked pantry. Life became infinitely easier for me once my pantry got to the level it is at today.
Before, I would have a vague idea of wanting to cook something healthy. I’d consult my cookbooks or Mr. Google and search for a recipe. Numerous recipes would get shot down because I’d inevitably be missing something. Sullen and defeated, I’d return to the same, boring chicken, rice, and sauteed vegetable routine and have an unsatisfying meal.
Once in a while, though, I’d find a recipe I really wanted to try, and I’d go out and buy the missing ingredient. Then I’d make it a point to use that ingredient in other recipes. Then, I decided I could keep doing that. One by one, I added more healthy ingredients to my pantry.
It was a learning process. I’d often come across ingredients that I was clueless about. I’d do some research and add it to my grocery list. Eventually, these once-scary ingredients became staples. A transformation took place and my pantry became a place that I could go to and find ingredients I needed to make flavorful, healthy meals for my family.
You can do the same thing I did. It takes time, so if you have only a few or none of these ingredients in your pantry, don’t get discouraged! Choose one or two a week that you want to add and eventually you’ll have a well-stocked healthy pantry.
If you came to my house right now, here are some of the staple items you’d find gracing my cupboards, refrigerator, and freezer.
Nuts and Seeds
natural peanut butter
pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
tahini (ground sesame paste)
Beans and Legumes
stone ground mustard
apple cider vinegar
red wine vinegar
reduced sodium organic tamari (a fermented soy product with more amino acids than regular soy sauce; wheat-free)
mellow white miso
organic real butter
extra virgin olive oil (first cold pressed)
pure maple syrup
unsweetened cocoa powder
unsweetened baker’s chocolate squares
pure vanilla extract
white whole wheat flour
whole wheat pastry flour
brown rice flour
I won’t name all of my spices as I have a lot, but here are the ones I go to most frequently.
crushed red pepper
Especially important for us during the winter when we can’t get certain produce items in season.
Other Staple Items
arrowroot (a natural, plant-based thickener that I use instead of corn starch)
organic eggs from a local farm
plain organic yogurt
fresh, in season produce
I know that I am not finished with building my healthy pantry; I will continue to find more healthy ingredients to add that will help me in my mission of serving real food to my family. How have you done with building a well-stocked, healthy pantry? What essential items is my pantry missing?