OK this was a tough one, because I always keep A TON of food stocked in my pantry, but in the end I tried to focus on the most convenient ways to always have lots of protein, healthy fats and fiber options on deck (even if I haven’t been to the grocery store in 2 weeks and my fridge is empty – totally hypothetical though because this is not something that happens to me all the time….).
When I start to run low on food and it’s tough to the get the grocery store, I’m tempted to go for the less healthy options I have lying around or to just order take-out. But when my pantry is stocked well, I have absolutely no excuse to eat like crap. I can always come up with something to eat that PHFF balanced and delicious, even if it’s weird (potato, chicken, tomato and cheese bowls, anyone?).
Quick, protein-packed and full of omega-3s, canned tuna is thee shit when it comes to having a perfectly stocked pantry. Mix with half Greek yogurt and half mayo, a little Dijon and chopped pickles and celery and eat with crackers, over greens or if you’re me, just straight out of a Tupperware bowl because that’s usually where I’m at in life.
That’s right. I’m about to confess my love of canned chicken to you. Some people are super weirded out by it – why? What you got against chicken in a can? Honestly, canned tuna is way weirder if you think about it. There’s plenty of brands that literally just contain chicken breast, water and salt so just check the ingredient list and avoid anything with weird additives. This organic brand is great, but if it’s too pricey, this Costco brand is one of my favorites, too.
3. Nut butters
I mean, obviously. Peanut butter really is one of everyone’s favorite foods, isn’t it? It’s also full of protein and fiber and it’s CHEAP, but rotate some other fun nut butters in for variety and nutrition. Cashew butter is my personal favorite because it’s so creamy and mild tasting, but it does have the least amount of fiber out of any other nut and it tends to be pricey. Almond butter is also a great option you can find at most grocery stores, and MaraNatha and Justin’s has some insane flavors that you should check out if you haven’t already.
4. Canned tomatoes
I LIVE for canned tomatoes. Ok, no, I live for nachos, Bloody Mary’s on a patio in Georgia in September and Packer football, but canned tomatoes are clutch. They’re one of those vegetables that are just about as rich in nutrients as the fresh version (they actually contain more lycopene, a cancer fighting antioxidant, than fresh) and they’re perfect for soups, like Spicy Sausage Kale Soup or Italian Vegetable Soup, chili, salsa, Simple Tomato Basil Sauce – anything! Keep whole, diced and pureed tomatoes on hand at all times, and throw in a couple cans of Rotel as well for your salsas and enchiladas.
5. Parboiled Rice
You’re gonna love me for this one. What if I told you that I recommend parboiled rice over brown rice? How pumped would you be? Unless you’re a weirdo who actually enjoys brown rice (congrats, but don’t lie to yourself) over white rice, keep reading. Parboiled rice is a resistant starch, making it great for our digestive health by stimulating the good bacteria in our gut. The trick is to make the rice and then let it cool completely to activate the resistant starch, making it the perfect addition to your weekly meal prep.
6. Coconut oil
Unless you’ve been living in a giant suck hole, you know coconut oil is one of the healthiest fats you can be cooking with. It’s full of medium chain triglycerides (MCT), meaning it doesn’t require bile acids for digestion so it’s super easy to digest and is a great fuel source for our bodies. I love the flavor coconut oil gives my eggs in the morning, and I use it on roasted vegetables, too.
Ghee is just another name for clarified butter – you know, the stuff you drink when you go to a seafood restaurant and order crab legs (oh, that’s just me? You don’t drink butter?). Organic Valley is my favorite brand, but you can typically find ghee in any grocery store these days. It’s shelf stable, and doesn’t need to go in the fridge. I prefer it over butter, when cooking, because it has a high smoke point and is great for sautéing veggies and browning meat.
8. Canned potatoes
Here’s another one you may think is weird or have never eaten before, but don’t knock it til you try it. Canned potatoes (regular or sweet) are a great way to get in some starchy carbs/fiber quickly. They tend to be less “starchy” tasting and a bit softer than regular potatoes. I love them when I’m just throwing together a quick, PHFF balanced “bowl”. One of my favorite lunches of all time is ground turkey, canned potatoes, steamed broccoli, melted mozzarella and salsa verde (random, but do it!). Note – check the ingredients on your canned sweet potatoes and make sure there isn’t any any added sugar.
Vinegars are truly one of the most versatile ingredients you can have in your pantry, which is why it made the list despite not being an actual “food”. You can up the flavor profile of so many dishes, even something as simple as tuna salad, with a splash of vinegar. I like balsamic for roasted veggies, rice wine for anything Asian or for my herby yogurt ranch dip and red wine or apple cider for vinaigrettes.
10. Coconut milk
Don’t think of coconut milk as an exotic ingredient – we’re past that. It’s a staple as far as I’m concerned. It’s a great addition to quick stir-fries, smoothies, Creamy Coconut Tomato Soup and is essential when your half and half goes bad and you find yourself without cream for your coffee. Or, even better, make it your go-to coffee creamer. Just check the ingredients and make sure there isn’t any added sugar or a ton of additives. Aroy-D is my favorite brand.
Honorable mentions – good quality coffee and kosher salt. Drink coffee and always season your food.
What am I missing here? What are your favorite pantry staples?