Last year, in the midst of COVID-19 shutdowns, it was more important than ever to be smart to make the most of your grocery shopping, budget and strategy. As the supply chain got caught up with demand, you may have had to pick and choose which items to stock up on. Now that supplies are not as much of a concern, there is still a benefit to stocking essential supplies (toilet paper included) when you see a big sale. When it comes to home cooking, it can be cost-saving and convenient to have healthy pantry staples on hand at all times. That’s why we’ve put together these four important pantry essentials (and recipe suggestions) for the next time you are out shopping or planning a home grocery delivery.
Simply put, pasta is the perfect product for your pantry. Like rice, a few boxes can go a long way in terms of storage and variety—from staples like spaghetti to fun options like farfalle, also known as bow tie pasta. Also like rice, you can go brown instead of white. Healthier pasta options include whole wheat, or even pasta packed with veggie ingredients from edamame spaghetti to veggie rotini. If you have a protein, a veggie and a sauce (or a combination of the three), you can take your noodles to new heights. That’s usually why most pantries include a few jars of pasta sauce. After all, sauce and noodles can leave you and your family full after a meal. Have frozen or fresh spinach on hand? That goes nicely with some pasta and just a little olive oil — another pantry staple. With pasta, you can get creative and, after a couple weeks of pure pantry dining, creativity will be key to keeping you excited about your meal. If you’re stuck on what recipe will stick with your pasta, try one of these.
Raw or canned, beans boast the protein and fiber necessary to make a well-balanced meal. They’re also a low-fat, low-calorie food that keeps for months and months so you can add them to your diet and menu as you see — and stay — fit. Beans and legumes are even proven to help maintain lower body fat and promote weight loss. So, while you’re staying home and staying safe right now, you might call on beans to help you stay in shape, too. That’s not to mention, your heart might benefit too, as many beans can reduce bad cholesterol in your body. But enough about beans and their benefits. What can you do with them? Well, for starters, you can use beans for soups, sides, salads and more. Bon Appétit offers 86 recipes (yes, 86!) that you can try, based on the groceries you have in your pantry, freezer or fridge.
Okay, let’s talk about oats. By now, you’re probably privy to the numerous health benefits of dry oats. After all, just one cup contains about a third of suggested daily fiber in women and a fifth of suggested fiber in men, which is about 7.5 grams. Oats are also heart smart, and a solid ally in weight loss and management. You may be thinking, ‘What am I supposed to do with oats every day without getting bored of eating them?’ If you’re worried about oats and how advantageous they are to your home food pantry, think about it this way: Just as pasta, beans and rice, oats are very inexpensive and they take up very little room in your pantry so you can pack away more items. That aside, there’s an abundance of fun meals you can make with your dry oats — virtually dozens. Food Network offers this quick list of 50.
If COVID-19 restrictions taught you that you actually prefer to limit your frequency and time spent at the grocery store, consider adding other pantry, fridge or freezer inventory to your shopping list. Other great staple options include frozen or canned fruits and vegetables, canned or packaged proteins like tuna fish, and dried items like fruit or mixed nuts. But with the big four — rice, pasta, beans and oats — you’ll certainly be off to a great start when stocking that pantry with healthy, hearty foods that will go the distance for both you and your family.