Healthy Up Your Pantry

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Having a well stocked pantry is the best way to create meals on the fly. If you have all your staples on hand, you can make masterpieces with the fresh veggies you bring home from the farmer’s market. Plus, it’s much easier to get your family to eat healthy when you already have a pantry full of wholesome food.



Flours are a necessity in any pantry. You never know when you might find some time to make some homemade bread or brownies. The one flour to leave out, or at least use sparingly, is bleached white flour. Use unbleached white or white whole wheat flour in its place. White whole wheat is made from a different variety of wheat that is softer and is lighter in color, but it still has all the good nutrition of whole wheat. Whole wheat flour is great and you can mix it with unbleached in recipes to add more fiber. Whole wheat pastry flour is a must for making healthy cookies and muffins that taste great too. It’s a little expensive, but cheaper than buying ready made baked goods and much better for your family. It’s a much finer grind than regular whole wheat and it creates a more delicate baked good.


I like to keep a variety of milk substitutes on hand like rice, soy, and almond milk. You can get unsweetened ones, even in vanilla and chocolate. These are great for using in soups, baked goods, even hot chocolate. But most of all the shelf stable containers last for a year or more. When you can’t get to the store for milk or you have lactose intolerant guests, you can rely on these.


Grains go beyond the typical white rice we see in restaurants all the time. Switch brown rice for white. I find that long grain brown rice has a texture closer to white. That means it’s easier to slip into your kids’ meals without a fuss. Whole wheat couscous is actually a pasta but goes great under stews. Quinoa is another fabulous grain to add to your menus. It cooks faster than rice and is a complete protein all by itself. Make sure to rinse it before cooking. It has a bitter covering that comes off easily in water, but is inedible with it. Some brands are rinsed already, but I always wash it just in case.

Everyone has made a last minute pasta dinner. Add some extra zing to yours by substituting whole wheat angel hair for your usual spaghetti. If you cook whole wheat pasta a little longer it will be closer to the texture that your family is used to. Whole wheat orzo is great to use when you just don’t have time to cook rice. It’s perfect in soup, under main dishes, really any place you would normally use rice. Brown rice pasta is a great substitute for gluten-free families. There are other whole grain pastas, even some that have lentils. Give those a try too.


Bottled pasta sauce can be healthy if you make sure to look at labels. Lean towards organic, low fat, low sodium sauces. A good rule of thumb is don’t buy food that has ingredients you can’t pronounce. If you keep canned tomatoes and tomato paste on hand you can make your own sauce in minutes.


Dry beans of all kinds are super cheap to buy and store indefinitely. It’s certainly easier to pop open a can, but you can make a batch of dry beans and freeze them in can sized portions. If you’re on a tight budget, beans are the perfect meat substitute. Red beans and rice, dal, chili, white beans over pasta – the possibilities are truly endless. Almost every cuisine has a few dishes that are based on beans.


Buy organic canned goods whenever you can. Canned organic veggies are becoming more common place and less expensive. Keep an eye out for sales and stock up when things are cheaper. It’s important to rotate the older cans forward or you’ll end up with expired dates. Make sure to have half a dozen cans of assorted beans on hand all the time. They are great to add nutrition to salads and soups. Just give them a rinse before you use them to get rid of the extra salt. You can make an on the spot pantry chili. Corn, green beans, pureed pumpkin and butternut squash are all great to have on hand. I like to put the squash puree in soups and casseroles, even mac and cheese. After all what they don’t know may just get them to eat better!



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