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Nutrition

Keep these Meal Prep Staples Stocked in Your Pantry

September 13 2019

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Having a well-stocked pantry makes cooking far easier. A well-balanced pantry should be loaded with staples that can work in a variety of recipes or turn into standalone meals in a pinch. 

Though it can seem overwhelming to think about stocking the entire pantry use this simple list to cover all the basics that a home cook may need.

Staple Grains

Grains are one of the most important staples to have in a pantry. They can be cooked into side dishes for big meals, or a person can make a simple, hearty meal with a bowl of grains and a few spices. 

A few common favorite grain styles are rice, quinoa, and barley. Home cooks should also consider products made from grains. For example, bread crumbs are ideal for everything from creating meatballs to making a crunchy coating for shrimp tacos. Things like whole wheat pasta or couscous are endlessly versatile while whole-grain wraps are perfect for light meals and snacks.

Beans for the Pantry

With their careful balance of protein and carbohydrates, beans make for very satisfying meals. A blend of kidney beans and black beans can go well in chili while garbanzo beans are tasty in a curry. Cooked and chilled beans are also the perfect accompaniment to be tossed into a salad. 

Beans have almost all essential amino acids, so they are particularly useful for vegetarians and vegans who need more protein. This healthy pantry staple also helps people get their daily intake of iron, fiber, magnesium, and phosphorous. Their ability to be reheated without losing flavor makes them ideal for meal prep recipes or frozen meals. 

When shopping for beans, keep in mind that dried beans keep longer and are more cost effective. However, it is also a good idea to have some pre cooked canned beans for quick meals on busy workdays. 

Spices for the Pantry

Of course, no list of cooking staples is complete without spices. Spices are what transform blank piles of ingredients into full-flavored meals. The spices that a home chef should pick will depend on what sort of cuisine a person is planning on cooking. 

A few key essentials include salt, pepper, powdered onion, powdered garlic, cumin, paprika, basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, cayenne and cinnamon. Those who cook more varied meals may want to add some options like coriander, turmeric, fennel, nutmeg, cardamom, allspice, caraway, and mustard seeds.

Staple Condiments

Condiments are another essential way of adding flavor to foods. Use oils like olive oil and canola oil for cooking, and products like avocado oil are ideal for cold applications such as salads. 

A whole range of different kinds of vinegar should also be included on a pantry list. Apple cider vinegar is a good all-purpose vinegar while balsamic, rice, and red wine vinegars can add their unique flavors to certain recipes. Those who have any sort of favorite salad dressing or barbecue sauce may also want to include it as part of their pantry staples because they can often be used in a wide variety of recipes. 

A few other common condiments used in recipes include maple syrup, mustard, honey, mayonnaise, coconut oil, and peanut butter. Those who like experimenting with foods from different cultures may want some condiments like hoisin sauce, Thai curry paste, gochujang, and sambal oelek because these simple sauces add the key flavor to many cultural dishes.

Oats for the Pantry

Oats deserve a category all by themselves just because of how useful and fast they are. With a little hot water, people can make a filling and satisfying breakfast in just a few moments. Those who are not a fan of hot cereal can blend oats up in smoothies to create a fiber-rich drink that will keep them feeling full for hours. 

A simple handful of oats mixed with honey and baked for a little while transforms into a tasty granola or trail mix. Oats even have plenty of applications in savory dishes. People who follow traditional meatloaf and meatball recipes often use oats as one of the binding ingredients in these meals.

Pantry Nuts and Seeds

There are countless applications for nuts and seeds, and these pantry staples can last for quite a while in between uses. Of course, a handful provides an easy snack packed with healthy fats for a person on the go, but they are also ideal for cooking. 

Almonds and cashews are a couple of the most versatile options since they can be ground up in curries, slivered and roasted as a topping, or made into dairy-free milk. More flavor-packed options like pine nuts can be used in pesto sauces, and tasty sesame seeds are perfect for a bibimbap bowl.

Keep Dried Fruit in the Pantry

This pantry essential is useful for people who love the taste of fruit but hate how quickly fresh fruit spoils after it is brought home from the store. In many cases, dried fruit is even more convenient than fresh fruit since it tends to already be divided up into bite-size pieces. 

A handful can be turned into a quick snack at any time. People can toss a few pieces on their morning oatmeal or sprinkle some in a muffin batter. With their concentrated sweetness, dried fruits can be easily ground up and used instead of sugar for healthy recipes. 

Dried fruit is particularly necessary for those who cook a lot of Indian and Northern African meals. The most common dried fruit options are raisins, apples, and apricots, but consider stocking up on some more unusual and tasty options like peaches, pineapples, dates, and figs

Add Chia Seeds to the List

As the richest plant-based source of healthy omega 3 fatty acids, chia seeds are a great vegan staple. Mix them into smoothies and juices to thicken up a beverage, or turn them into a tasty chia seed pudding. 

Though chia seeds are most commonly used in sweet things like puddings and baked goods, they can also be easily added to savory foods. With a light, neutral flavor, these little seeds add texture and nutrition when people sprinkle them over a stir fry or some roasted vegetables.

Staple Baking Goods

Nothing is more frustrating than going to bake muffins or whip up pancakes and realize the pantry is completely out of goods for baking. For a traditional kitchen, classic baking ingredients tend to be simply flour, sugar, baking powder, and baking soda. However, those interested in healthy options may want to add in some essentials like almond meal, sugar-free coconut flakes, rice flour, and stevia powder. 

Be sure to include flaxseed in any vegan pantry. This helpful ingredient has a binding property similar to eggs. In fact, it is useful even in non-vegan households since it can replace eggs in a recipe and does not spoil as quickly as refrigerated animal products. 

Canned Goods to Keep in the Pantry

In general, it is a good idea to have some canned goods on hand. Since these goods are already precooked, they can be added to recipes without requiring lengthy cooking times. 

Canned tomatoes are one of the most important staples thanks to the fact that a little tomato puree can be turned into pizza sauce, curry bases, shepherd's pie gravy, tomato soup, and more. Be sure to include some canned meats like tuna and canned beans for a protein-rich addition to any meal. A final category of canned goods to look for is flavorful things like coconut milk or chili sauces. These help to add a lot of taste to recipes.

Broth Is a Pantry Essential

Of course, making one's own broth from whole meats and vegetables or even kitchen scraps is the healthiest option, but many people are far too busy to spend hours boiling bones. In these circumstances, boxed or canned broth can be a huge time saver. 

The list of uses for broth is almost endless. A little splash of broth creates a rich gravy, or a big container of it can be used as the base for countless stews and soups. Vegetable broth can be a substitute for milk in savory dishes, and it is also useful for adding flavor to risotto and other cooked grains. This quick pantry addition can literally save a home cook hours of time.

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