A well-stocked pantry is one of the most important tools for cooking quick and easy meals. Having specific ingredients on hand can form the base of your meal without having to buy those ingredients every time you go to cook. Knowing you automatically have dry goods in your pantry takes one step out of grocery shopping and can save tons of time!
I present to you my top 10 pantry staples.
These are foods I always have in my pantry and in my opinion, are essential to making quick and healthy meals. Basically, I can’t live without these 10 foods. The fun begins once you stock up on these. You can learn to get creative with ingredients you already have around; mix and match them with other fresh ingredients.
1. Olive oil
Any quick sauté or roast of vegetables, meat, or fish needs olive oil. Olive oil is one of the healthiest oils to cook with and is reasonably priced (I buy a 1 liter bottle from $10 from Fairway Market in New York City).
2. Brown rice/farro/Israeli couscous
Or any grain you like! Grains are easy to cook and can form the base of a quick and filling meal. Make big batches for the week and add a protein and vegetable for lunch and dinner.
Pasta is definitely one of my go-to easy dinners. Add veggies, a protein, and any jarred tomato sauce or pesto.
If you’re an oatmeal eater, you obviously need oats around. Overnight oats are my breakfast every day so I go through one container every couple of weeks! Baked oatmeal is also an awesome breakfast or use oats in place of breadcrumbs in burgers or meatballs.
Now if you’re not an oatmeal person or need some variety, cereal is another go to option. I recommend keep one or two different high fiber cereals around for quick breakfasts with milk or to top yogurt and fruit.
6. Whole wheat bread
The uses for bread are endless. Peanut butter and toast or peanut butter and jelly for breakfast, pre or post workout snacks, or grilled cheeses for lunch or dinner. You just need a few fresh ingredients or other pantry staples (coming up!) to make a filling and satisfying snack or meal.
7. Peanut butter
You can’t have PB&J without the PB, right? I keep peanut butter or almond butter in my pantry for quick pre-workout toasts, which might also be one of my favorite foods! Nut butters are so versatile too. Add them to yogurt or overnight oats, mix into smoothies and make quick peanut sauces for stir fries.
8. Soy sauce
Soy sauce is always good to keep around to boost the flavor in your meals. A little bit goes a long way and it can be used plain or added into a delicious stir fry sauce. I buy low sodium soy sauce and love the flavor it gives to a quick cauliflower fried rice!
9. Canned tomatoes
So many uses for canned tomatoes, where do I even start! Toss over pasta, use as a base for a homemade tomato sauce or enchilada sauce, or pour in a pan to start a quick shakshuka. Canned tomatoes are inexpensive and so easy to use!
I keep at least two kinds of nuts in my pantry at all times. They are easy and portable high protein snacks, give a delicious crunch to top cereal or yogurt, and are satiating healthy fats for salads. Almonds and walnuts are my favorite, but I love cashews too!
What pantry staples do you always keep around? Do we have some of the same or different? I would love to hear your feedback!
Rebecca Elbaum is a registered dietitian in New York City. She specializes in weight management and diabetes. For more recipes and nutrition tips, visit her website at rebeccaelbaum.com and follow her on Instagram @food.for.medicine where she shares recipes designed specifically for busy medical residents.