If your New Year’s resolution has anything to do with healthier eating, the first place to start is your kitchen. We’re guessing you’ve already stocked up on fresh fruits and veggies (good job!), so the next step is making sure you have the meal staples on hand to throw together a quick, healthy dinner from your pantry. We’re focusing on the things that last a while, that can help build a meal, and that are easy to incorporate into a family friendly dinner, so here’s a list to get you started.
Pastas: Nothing makes for an easier meal than a quick pot of pasta. These will last for months (or longer) so stock up on long pasta like spaghetti or linguine, short noodles like elbows or penne, or some fun shapes like letters or bowties.
Tomato sauces: Jarred pizza or pasta sauces are the ultimate quick meal fix, but if you have a good selection of tomato sauce, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, you can easily make your own sauce in just a few extra minutes.
Beans: These are an excellent and inexpensive meat substitute. Even avowed carnivores are occasionally trying a meatless Monday, and beans are the ultimate protein alternative. Variety is key here–definitely experiment with dried beans, but don’t be afraid to get time-saving canned beans–kidney, great northern, garbanzo, pinto–and try them in soups or stews or main dishes.
Olive Oil: You’ll want two, actually—one for cooking and one as a condiment. A basic inexpensive variety will work well for sautees, and you can splurge on a nice extra virgin for the times when it won’t be heated. Olive oil is a great ingredient to use in homemade salad dressings, atop pastas, with breads. You know by now that olive oil is one of the healthy fats that are great for you skin, hair, and heart health, so stock up and use it liberally. Buy only what you can use in a few months, however, because freshness matters.
Nuts: Cashews, almonds, walnuts, pistachios, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, and peanuts are all filling, healthy, and tasty. Of course they’re good for snacks, but they can make guest appearances on salads (so much healthier than croutons), in stir fries, and to add crunch and nutrition to baked goods. Again, don’t buy the super extra value size unless you know you’ll use it quickly. Nuts can become rancid.
Spices: Dried spices are a great way to add flavor to any dish. They also help you avoid over-salting your food by adding strong tastes without the excess sodium. And, they’re wildly healthy and pack a powerful punch of healthy flavors. Check your cabinet for cinnamon, cayenne pepper, chili flakes, coriander, crushed red pepper, cumin, ground ginger, paprika, rosemary, thyme leaves, oregano, garlic salt, chili powder. They’ll all come in handy!
Oatmeal: This one gets a category of its own. It’s one of the easiest way to get a high-fiber whole grain breakfast, so get stocked up on traditional oats as well as the hugely popular steel-cut oats. Just a little more time than a bowl of cereal will give you a healthy breakfast that keeps you going all morning.
One more suggestion–when you’re stocking up with healthy staples, be ruthless with your purging. Get rid of the half bag of chocolate-covered-anything, the huge container of potato chips, the odd jar of preserves with a ’08 expiration date. Make room for clean shelves of healthy choices and suddenly meals become easier and healthier.
We know lots of you are world-class organizers–what are your best tips?