Thursday, April 18, 2013

How to Stock Your Fridge and Pantry: The Must-Haves

I'm issuing you a kitchen spring-cleaning challenge!

Over the next three weeks, I'll be leading you through spring cleaning and stocking a healthy kitchen. We'll start with the cleaning next week (so you have a little time to get mentally prepared!). For now, let's talk about healthy foods to keep on hand in your home. Surrounding yourself with healthy food, and very few items that aren't so healthy, will help you make positive food choices.

For starters, watch this brief video of my recent segment on Great Day St. Louis. Then take a look at the lists below for more on the must-haves that should be in your fridge, freezer and pantry.

 

Let's start with the essentials for your refrigerator. These items should make your grocery list every week:
  • Fat-free (skim) or low-fat (1%) milk
  • Fat-free or low-fat yogurt
    • Plain, non-fat Greek yogurt: Use it to mix with fruit or muesli and to replace sour cream
    • Flavored or fruited yogurts, if you would like
  • Reduced-fat cheeses
  • Natural peanut butter and almond butter
  • Lots of fruits and vegetables! Only purchase what you can eat during one week.
  • Lean meats
  • Eggs
  • Lemon and lime juice (great for salad dressings and marinades)
  • Dijon mustard (for spicing up sandwiches and making salad dressing)
  • Butter and non-hydrogenated tub margarine (I pick Land O'Lakes Light Butter or Smart Balance Light)
  • Whole grain breads and tortillas (I keep them in the fridge so they last longer)

Utilize your freezer to stock supplies for quick meals and to save leftovers. Always keep:
  • Lots of fruits and vegetables! (Notice a common theme?) Buy plain frozen types without sauces and added sugars.
  • Lean meats and fish, packed in portion-controlled containers or bags. For example, if you're feeding a family of four, freeze four chicken breasts together in a package so they're easy to thaw.
  • Whole grain products, like bagels, english muffins and waffles (they keep longer in the freezer, but you can toast them quickly in the morning)

The pantry is your powerhouse! There are so many essentials you can keep stocked in your pantry without risking spoilage and wasted money. Pantry staples are also items that can be used in a variety of meals.
  • Whole wheat pastas (pick several different types of noodles: spaghetti, linguini, penne, rotini and lasagna)
  • Brown rice and wild rice
  • Other whole grains: whole wheat cous cous, bulgur, quinoa
  • Whole grain cereals (I like oatmeal, Shredded Wheat, Wheat Chex, Bran Flakes and Grape Nuts best)
  • Whole grain crackers (I like Triscuits and Ak-Mak from Trader Joe's)
  • Low-sodium canned beans (keep different varieties: black, garbanzo, pinto, kidney and cannellini)
  • Canned meats: chicken breast, salmon and tuna
  • Low-sodium canned vegetables, especially tomatoes
  • Canned fruit, packed in juice or water
  • Dried fruits, unsweetened
  • Nuts (choose several: walnuts, almonds, pepitas, peanuts, flax)
  • Popcorn kernels
  • Baking essentials: whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, sugar, brown sugar, corn meal

Lastly, the spice cabinet will help you maximize the flavor in all those yummy, healthy foods!
  • Keep many spices on hand. My often-used favorites include: Kosher salt, black pepper, crushed red pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, dill, parsley, basil, oregano, paprika, cinnamon and nutmeg.
  • Olive oil (extra virgin and infused varieties) and canola oil
  • Vinegars (red wine, rice, white wine, etc.)
  • Baking essentials: baking powder, baking soda and cocoa powder

Your first step in this spring cleaning challenge is to take stock of what you have by comparing to the list above. Start thinking about what you're missing and what you currently have that doesn't fit (didn't notice cookies on that list, did you?). Next week we'll work on the cleaning part of the equation, but if you're ready for a head start, download my "Well-Stocked Kitchen" grocery list. It's only $5 from the GoodFood Store and you can print it an unlimited number of times--for all your grocery trips!

Start your kitchen spring-cleaning challenge this weekend and you'll be finished and ready-to-go by the first of May! Watch for part two next week.