A well-stocked pantry means you can cook even without planning ahead. Make your pantry and freezer work for you to get healthy meals with little effort.
These days with all the demands we have on our time, we don’t have the luxury of grocery shopping daily to stay on top of our health. This is why to be able to cook a nutritious and satisfying meal on a whim, a well-stocked kitchen and a little bit of forward thinking and preparation is a necessity. These tips can help make your food shopping a breeze while still incorporating interesting flavours into a variety of satisfying meals.
First, start with cleaning out your entire kitchen. Get rid of anything in the fridge that has expired and take note of what you do have in your pantry. You would be surprised to find that there are a lot of great ingredients lurking in the back of the cupboard that you might have forgotten about.
Next, get to the supermarket and make sure you pick up the items on this list to stock up your pantry:
1. Pulses, Grains, and Legumes are your friends
Lentils, Beans, CousCous, Quinoa, Oats, Bulgur Wheat, Rice, Chickpeas, Polenta and more. These have a long shelf life if kept in airtight containers and can be the background or star of any meal.
- Sauté up some sausage, onions, carrots and add some chicken stock, spices and lentils and you’ll have a one pot meal filled to the brim with protein.
- In a food processor or blender whiz up a can of chickpeas with garlic, lemon juice, and olive oil and in just a few minutes you have a delicious hummus snack.
Try to add a pulse, grain or legume into at least one meal a day and you’ll see the difference it makes on your waistline.
2. Pastas and noodles make quick and simple meals
Just like the grains, pasta and noodles keep well in a pantry and can be used in a multitude of dishes.
- Put together a fusion style spaghetti by tossing together sautéed garlic, fresh basil, dried chilli, and ikan bilis – a sure fire treat.
- Boil up some chicken stock and some fresh vegetables of your choice and pair it with some udon noodles for a soupy delight.
- For a colourful salad pair tri colour fusilli with diced red and orange peppers, a can of water packed tuna, lemon juice, olive oil; fresh and satisfying.
3. Spices, oils, vinegars, and sauces give any meal an added kick
Spices are always worth having in any pantry as they give your food a major flavor boost without any added calories. Play around with them and create something unexpected.
- Add curry powder to yoghurt and diced leftover chicken and fold with a wrap for a tasty lunch.
- Sprinkle a bit of cardamom in your cookie batter for a spice surprise.
Oils and vinegars are also handy to have to whip up salad dressings, or to give a subtle flavour to many dishes.
Mix together good oil and vinegar or lemon juice, and combine with salt, pepper, maybe a little Dijon for an instant vinaigrette. Customize the flavours by adding ingredients such as shallots, garlic, spices, ginger, honey or more.
Sauces and pastes can be made ahead of time and stored in the fridge.
- Puree canned tomatoes and simmer with garlic and onion and some herbs; this can then be used as a basic pasta sauce or even as a pizza base.
- You can make all sorts of pestos to keep in jars in the fridge, which can be used as sandwich spreads or dips.
4. Nuts and dried fruit add a little flavour and texture to any dish
These are great to have on hand in any kitchen either as something to snack on or to just add a little oomph to your meal.
- Roast some cashews and almonds and toss them with honey, sesame oil, tamari, and some spices for a protein rich snack to have on hand.
- Add dried fruit or nuts to your salads or rice dishes to jazz them up.
- Fold some nuts or dried fruit into your cookie or cake batter and make it a little more exciting.
5. Let your freezer work for you
Apart from meat, ice, and maybe even ice cream, freezers are often underutilized. Your freezer holds a world of possibilities when it comes to nutritious meals and it saves you frequent trips to the store.
- When you have time on your hands make homemade burger patties by mixing ground meat with onions, garlic and spices and then freeze the patties. These will be ready to use whenever you need them and you won’t have to resort to store-bought patties ever again.
- Freeze baggies of diced fruit and blend with yoghurt and honey for a quick smoothie.
- When you make curries or stews make a larger portion and freeze half. That makes an easy dinner to reheat on another night.
- Pop a few fresh loaves of bread in the freezer so you’ll have bread on hand for any occasion.
Having a well-stocked kitchen just takes a little bit of planning and preparation and soon you’ll see that it’s easy to whip up a meal without thinking twice about your base ingredients.