With many of us spending more time working or with our families at home at the moment, I thought I’d share the foods in my pantry and ways I’m making the most out of these staples.
By no means is my pantry perfect – in fact, I don’t advocate perfection, but more often than not, having a well-stocked pantry (without over stocking) becomes a no-brainer when it comes to preparing healthy, but speedy meals and snacks.
Before writing this post, I did a little pantry makeover over the Easter long weekend. Here are some tips to help you whip your pantry into shape.
- Rearrange. Peering into the depths of your cupboard can be scary. There are probably items in there that you haven’t touched in months, maybe years. If an item is still within its use-by or best-before date, get creative and come up with some recipes where you can put it to good use (more on that later). As for the rest of the items, rearrange any temptations – chips or biscuits – that can throw off your diet. Out of sight, out of mind!
- Get organised. A little structure goes a long way. Group your pantry into an organised ecosystem that makes things easy to find (and stay on top of). Categorise things like snacks, wholegrains, lunch box fillers, spices, baking goods, and cereals. Don’t be afraid to tip food into clear-view jars, snap-lock bags or Tupperware and label clearly to gain a little more order.
- Take inventory. Now that you’ve achieved some order, continue to build upon the essential foundations and re-stock as you need to make a variety of dishes that can be adapted using whatever fresh produce you have available.
My Pantry Staples
Wholegrains: Choosing wholegrains will give you the most fibre (for gut health) and phytonutrients (vital nutrients that protect against chronic disease). Wholegrains also provide a nutritious and filling base for most meals.
- Quinoa – swap out rice dishes with quinoa for variety.
- Brown rice, basmati rice, ramen buckwheat noodles – Use rice in paellas, risotto and as a simple base for stir-fries and chili con carne. As the cooler weather kicks in add some instant buckwheat noodles to soups for a more satiating meal.
- Cous cous. Add to roasted vegetables with some currants and slivered almonds for a tastier side salad or lunch.
- Barley – try using in a risotto or adding to soups for a boost of fibre.
- Spelt pasta. I love the nutty flavour and is great in pasta salads. Cooked, then cooled pasta increases the resistance starch– a type of fibre that acts as a prebiotic feeding the ‘good’ bacteria in the gut
- Rolled oats. Apart from a warm bowl porridge or DIY granola, rolled oats can be blitzed in a food processor to make oat flour and used to make muffins, brownies and crumbing for fish and schnitzel.
Breakfast Cereals. As with wholegrains, choose high-fibre breakfast varieties. Look for ‘whole’ or ‘wholegrain’ in the first few ingredients and aim for at least 7g of fibre per 100g.
Flour. No pantry is complete without flour. Unleash your inner master chef and get baking while in isolation. Experiment with a variety of flour options based on different grains
- Wholemeal/Spelt/Oat flour – swap out white flour for higher fibre options e.g. muffins and banana bread.
- Almond Meal – gluten free and great substitute for flourless cakes.
- Buckwheat – great in pancakes instead of traditional self-raising.
Beans and Legumes. A budget-friendly way to beef up the protein in salads and stretch out a mince dish or casserole. They also happen to be very ‘in’ at the moment, with ‘plant protein’ the buzzwords in food and nutrition circles.
- Dried and canned lentils – make a dhal, make vegie patties or swap out mince-meat for a lentil Bolognese or lentil ‘sausage’ rolls.
- Canned beans. Pop on wholegrain toast, add to soups, casseroles, salads, Mexican or Italian dishes, or used in brownies (e.g. black beans) – they really are that versatile. Think baked, kidney, borlotti, black, Four Bean Mix.
- Chickpeas – whip up your hummus or add directly to salads or roasted veg. I’ve even tried hummus added as a pasta sauce.
Nuts and Seeds. Like fruit and vegetables, aim to eat nuts every day. Try a handful for a snack, spread on toast, wholegrain crackers or chopped fruit or veg, sprinkled over breakfast cereals, smoothies or stir-fries, ground into a delicious pesto or add to your energy balls.
- Nut butters
- Pine nuts
Canned tomatoes. These cost-effective, long lasting pantry item is a Mediterranean staple and used for many pasta dishes and casseroles, as well as soups and curries. Canned tomatoes also provide an excellent source of lycopene, which is linked to heart health.
Cooking oils. Whether you’re baking, frying, sautéing or drizzling, you can opt for a variety of oils for different taste, however my personal favourite is extra virgin olive oil. Rich in heart-healthy fats and plant polyphenols.
Fish. As well as being incredibly versatile, canned fish packs a nutritious punch offering the all-important omega-3 fatty acids and ready-to-eat protein. Toss into pasta, baked dishes or top wholegrain crackers for a well-rounded snack.
Snacks. When done right, a healthy stash of nourishing snacks can help to stabilise blood sugar levels, combat energy slumps and take the edge off your hunger so you don’t overeat at the next meal.
- Wholegrain crackers
- Raw nuts
- Dried fruit (medjool dates, apricots, figs, raisins, currants)
- Roasted beans/legumes e.g. Fava beans.
- Baking powder
- Cacao Powder
- Dried herbs and spices
- Medjool dates
- Honey/maple syrup
- Desiccated/flaked coconut
How is your pantry shaping up?