In Part 1 of this series, I outlined the five reasons I no longer use prepackaged food. Here is the link if you haven’t read it yet. What the boxed food industry doesn’t want you to know! Part 1 Now that I hopefully have convinced you to give it a try, here are a few tips on where you can start.
I feel that one of the most important parts of eating well is to have all the ingredients that you can at your fingertips. Try to keep a good variety of staples in your pantry. Even if at first you just pick up a few extra things while at the grocery store, pretty soon you will have a well stocked pantry. Don’t go out and buy it all at once. Chances are, you have a lot of these items and just don’t know what to make with them.
Make your own pantry list with the things that your family likes to eat, and go from there. Below is a list of idea’s for getting your pantry cupboard more fully stocked. This is not at all a comprehensive list, and obviously I am not vegetarian nor vegan, but I make most of my meals with these pantry staples and then fresh ingredients. Yes, there are some cans and jars of things, sometimes time is a factor, and a few shortcuts will help.
If staple ingredients are too deep in your pantry for easy use, get some canisters and put them within easy reach. I buy 20 lbs. of flour at a time for around $10. Costco and Sam’s club have great prices on bulk oils, sugars, nuts and spices.
Here’s some ideas for staples from my pantry:
- Flours-white and whole wheat, or whole grains to be ground
- baking powder and baking soda
- corn starch
- Sugars-white, powdered and brown, agave nectar, honey, (the kinds of sugars you use)
- pecans, walnuts, whole or sliced almonds
- dried cranberries, raisins or cherries
- chocolate chips
- Dried pasta 4 or 5 favorite varieties
- A few bottles of my favorite pasta sauce
- cans of evaporated and sweetened condensed milk
- cans of chopped tomatoes some with basil and garlic
- cans of tomato sauce/tomato paste
- cans of cream of mushroom/cream of chicken soup
- a few cans of fruit- pineapple, peaches, mandarin oranges
- cornmeal or popcorn to grind to make cornmeal
- a bag of potatoes
- whole cloves of garlic
- onions, sweet, red, brown
- a few bottles of favorite salad dressings
- Oils- olive / canola/ coconut
- Vinegars- white, red or white wine, apple cider
- bottles/cans of hot sauce
- Cans of Green chile
- Tuna fish
- Peanut butter
- Canned pumpkin
- Coconut cream/ milk
- Broth or dried bouillon
- Tomato soup
- rice- white, brown, basmati
- hominy white
- beans -dried and canned; refried, black, pinto etc.
- crispy Asian noodles
- breakfast cereal
- Seasonings and dried herbs
Here’s a few for the refrigerator:
- eggs/ egg whites
- milk and buttermilk
- Almond/ coconut milk
- Sour cream
- Cream cheese
- can of whipped cream
- fresh salsa
- deli meat, sliced
- yeast (I keep mine in the fridge to help it last longer)
- Cheese (we like Colby jack, mozzarella, parmesan, feta, cottage, goat cheese)
- Corn and flour tortillas
- lemon juice
- Assorted fruits like grapes and berries that need refrigeration.
- Veggies like lettuces, spinach, carrots, celery, zucchini, green onions
And a few ideas for the freezer:
- Buy certain fresh fruits and veggies on sale and freeze them yourself. It is so much cheaper to buy berries and wash and freeze, than to buy them from the freezer section of the store. It will literally take you minutes and is one step closer to healthy. I love to buy blueberries and strawberries for smoothies or muffins. I also buy veggies like bell peppers and onions, cut them up and freeze them for easy use. Our favorite is buying green chile by the gunnysack when the Farmer’s Market is roasting in the late summer, and putting them right into freezer bags and then into the freezer. Then when you need fresh green chile, you thaw, pull the peelings right off, chop and use! (Of course this is a Southwest kind of option.)
- Meat that you find on sale, ground meat, roasts, steaks, sausage, bacon, chicken breasts, pork loin chops, etc..
- Peeled fresh ginger (this stays fresh so amazingly and makes it easy to grate!)
- Red chile paste
- frozen corn, broccoli, cauliflower, etc.
- ice cream (most important item of ALL!) 😉
The key to cooking is to have the ingredients on hand and ready to go. How many wonderful things can you make if you put your dollars into real and fresh ingredients? Here are just a few idea to get you thinking!
Fruit and yogurt smoothies, pumpkin muffins, waffles with strawberries and whipped cream, blueberry pancakes, eggs dishes, breakfast casseroles, peanut butter toast, egg and sausage English muffins, hash browns, Scrambled eggs and homemade bread toast, cut up fruit and banana bread, German pancakes and biscuits and gravy.
Bean burritos, grilled ham and cheese sandwiches with tomato soup, salads with chopped deli meat, egg salad, chicken salad with celery/grapes and pecans, cottage cheese with fruit, tuna or deli meat sandwiches, quesadillas with fresh salsa, salad with fresh greens and dried cherries/ goat cheese and walnuts, turkey wrap with lettuce/cheese and ranch.
School lunches, it totally depends on if your kids can heat up some food from home, but my boys love to take food left over from last night’s dinner in a microwaveable container. Also many of the options above can be made and taken and eaten cold. Cut up fruit and veggies, boiled eggs and to go yogurts are easy to grab for kids. I have always encouraged my kids to make their own lunches for school with my help, then they take what they will eat ( I hope) and they are invested in the time that they took to make it, they have been less likely to just throw that sandwich in the trash.
Taco salad, spaghetti with meatballs with homemade garlic knots, chicken pasta with alfredo sauce and broccoli, cheese and grilled onion enchiladas with red sauce, homemade chicken noodle soup and crackers, Chinese stir-fry, Hawaiian haystacks with pineapple/chicken/green onions/crispy Asian noodles, pork green chile meat burritos, chili beans with ground meat and cornbread, Asian chopped salad, scalloped potatoes and ham, posole, chicken corn chowder, beef stroganoff, beef stew, homemade refried beans and Mexican rice, chicken Stanley with basmati rice, tacos, tostadas, homemade pizzas with ham and pineapple/pepperoni or anything you like!
How do I make all these wonderful meals, you ask? Well, stick around, and sign up for e-mail updates, there will be many delicious ideas in store for you! In fact if you sign up for email updates, I will send you extra recipes that go with this series! (No one else will get these, just our exclusive email list!)
In parts 3 and 4 of this series, I will be giving you some recipe substitutions for the box mixes we have come to rely on. I know some of you are saying, now what, I have all this stuff in my pantry!! Now these aren’t just substitutions, they will be super delicious recipes! When you taste them you will wonder how you ever got along eating dehydrated fake food.