How to Build a Healthy Pantry on a Budget

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pantryHaving a well-stocked, healthy pantry can make the difference between making a quick and simple minestrone dinner or ordering a pizza. By the time it takes for the pizza to get to your door, you and your family could be sitting down to a warm, nutritious and hearty bowl of soup.

Here are some tips for building a budget-friendly pantry full of superfoods.

Beans and other legumes: Dried lentils cook up in less than 30 minutes and provide a great base for stews, soups, salads and curries. Canned beans are a quick protein to add to pastas and grains, as well as to blend into dips. Or, cook a large batch of dried beans and store in 2 cup portions in the freezer for up to 2 months.

Whole grains: Adding fiber and B vitamins, whole grains can be a filling side to fish, chicken or tofu. Quick-cooking varieties include oats, quinoa, millet and amaranth. Longer-cooking grains such as brown rice can be cooked and frozen for up to 2 months – just defrost and add to your recipe for a quick weeknight meal.

Dried spices and herbs: Nothing boosts the flavor or health benefits of a meal faster than the addition of dried spices and herbs. Store them in jars in a cool, dark place.

Canned tomatoes: Blend into soups, stir into stews, create a simple pasta sauce – canned tomatoes are probably one of the most versatile items you can have in your pantry. Because lycopene content increases when tomatoes are cooked, this is a healthy year-round option. Look for tomatoes with no salt or sugar added in BPA-free cans.

Sustainable canned fish: Canned sardines and wild-caught salmon are a source of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and vitamin D. I can eat a can of sardines all on their own. but you can also add them to soups, stews, salads or on whole grain bread.

Whole grain or gluten-free pasta: Probably one of the quickest meal-makers, whole grain pasta can be boosted by adding lycopene-rich tomato sauce, high fiber beans and plenty of herbs and spices. Taking full advantage of a well-stocked pantry.

Onions: A bag of onions will keep at room temperature (out of direct sunlight) for 1 to 2 months. Onions not only add tons of flavor to recipes, but also deliver potassium, vitamin C and fiber.

Non-dairy milks: Shelf-stable cartons of non-dairy milks can be kept in the pantry for months. Use to make oatmeal, smoothies, baked goods and homemade lattes. Canned coconut milk adds dairy-free richness to soups and curries, or it can be whipped into a fluffy dessert topping.

Nuts and seeds: Buy raw nuts and seeds in bulk for use in granola, baked goods and salads, or even make into homemade nut butter. Nuts and seeds contain monounsaturated fats, fiber, protein and minerals. Because they’re nutrient dense, a little goes a long way in a recipe, making them an economical option for the healthy home cook.

Photo from here, with thanks.

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January 2023