Kitchen Essentials

Staples You Should Have in the Kitchen

 

My husband and I have certain goods stored in our pantry and in our fridge weekly. It’s nice having easy access to many good dinners just because we have certain key ingredients we can get our hands on without going to the store every time. Here is a list of the staples in my household, and in my opinion, what needs to constantly be stocked in a home for healthy eating:

 

Pantry Staples

 

Brown Rice

You can make many dishes just by having rice. Brown rice is a whole grain packed with good-for-you nutrients to help keep you full longer and sustain energy. I enjoy adding rice to dishes, especially low-dense soups. I always make about one to two cups of rice for the week for my husband and me, depending on what is on the menu that needs something more than just vegetables. The best thing about cooked rice is that it freezes well. Sometimes, I almost think it tastes better out of the freezer and defrosted. We pair brown rice with beans often. We love black beans and rice in a burrito, because who doesn’t love burritos?!

 

Lentils

Green lentils tend to be in bulk in our household. Lentils are a good source of protein and great alternative to meat. I love my taco “meat” lentils. They are packed with flavor and have me not missing the beef in a taco. (Click here for the recipe made by Veggie Primer; it will blow your mind). I also love how easy it is to boil some lentils and add it to rice with spices of your choice. Add an avocado and you are set for a delicious, easy meal. I use lentils as an alternative to meat in soup. It seems to be a usual in our house to have at least one soup per week. When you are burnt out on beans, lentils helps make a soup heartier and less bland.

 

Grounded Flax Seed

Flax seeds are a good source of omega-3s. I have chronic dry-eye and love that I can help myself the all natural way by adding a tablespoon or more of this goodness in a dish. Flax seeds do not have a potent flavor that changes the taste of any dish. I love that I can add some easily to my smoothies, baked goods, granola bars or casseroles. I also use flax seeds as an alternative to eggs in some dishes. At times, when I cook a paleo dish, the recipe calls for four to five eggs. I like saving my eggs for savory breakfasts, so I use flax seeds to take it’s place. You just use one tablespoon of grounded flax seeds to 2.5 tablespoons of water. You let it sit for five minutes while you mix together your dry ingredients then add it to the mixture. It surprisingly thickens and helps create a batter just like eggs! It’s a life-changer and I hope helps since pasture-raised eggs can be expensive.

 

Honey

Honey is a better sweetener than your average cane sugar. I love honey and love the nutritious content it possesses. Did you know, honey helps your allergies? I’ve noticed a huge difference when I added honey to my balanced diet. It might be coincidence but I’ll take it. Oklahoma is known for it’s crazy allergies. Honey helps hold together granola bars and other baked goods too! It’s perfect on top of waffles, toast or a muffin. If you use honey, make sure you use one tablespoon for every 3 tablespoons of cane sugar. Honey has a sweeter flavor than sugar and can make a baked good sweeter, the more you add. Do what tastes right to you but don’t over do it because, let’s face it, honey can be a penny-pusher if you use it daily.

 

Nuts and Nut Butters

Almond butter and peanut butter are always in our pantry. We love adding a spoonful of almond butter to our banana bread, waffle or pancake. It adds more flavor and ups the protein. Peanut butter is my go to addition with an apple. I eat apples almost daily and peanut butter gives it a better flavor and helps with the nutritional value of the snack. It keeps me full longer and stops me from snacking more throughout the afternoon before dinner. Being a runner, peanut butter and almond butter are good adds to your daily eating habits. I never exceed two tablespoons of nut butter in a day due to the fat content. It helps with weight-loss but also helps with energy for the day. Nuts are always good to have on hand when making a simple granola bar and wanting something different than just the average peanut butter and oats. Be creative. That’s a big lesson in recipe building. Sometimes, I sub sunflower seeds for nut butters and make my own roasted sunflower butter. Super simple and great taste that helps you not get burnt out on that daily spoonful of almond or peanut butter. It also is a better combo in a granola bar when you use assorted nuts and pumpkin seeds. (Soon, you will see a fabulous granola bar recipe that changed my husband’s view on store-bought bars).

 

Oats

Oats are a good source of fiber and super easy to create dishes in minutes. I love a good oatmeal with some nut butter, banana and dates. My husband and I make a lot of oat granola bars or oatmeal pancakes. It tends to be two dishes we make often, so having the oats at hand is really beneficial. I love that I can easily create a dish or a solid baked good without the density of flour. Oats are a good source of whole grain and give you powerful energy for the rest of the day. Of course, you will need a snack after eating oatmeal. It goes through me within three hours. That’s why I try and make sure my husband and I have a snack ready for the morning before lunch. You don’t want to catch yourself eating a bag of chips after having such a healthy start to your day with some oats!

 

Bananas

Best source of potassium is in bananas. It helps with aches and pains after a long run. It helps with the tightness of muscles and the energy level when you wake up realizing you need to start your day. It is also a good alternative to butter in some baked goods and increases heart health! I eat a banana every morning and have gotten my husband in that habit as well. I’m still hungry after a banana but it gives me more of a kick-start in my metabolism for my breakfast ahead. It’s the perfect combination, banana and nut butter with a breakfast item of your choice. If it is a running day, I’ll eat a banana thirty minutes before my run, then afterwards eat my breakfast. I don’t worry about the carbs or calories in a banana because I know it is a good way to start my day of nutrition.

 

Olive Oil

I use this like there’s no tomorrow! I sauté veggies in it. I grease my pans with it. I could go on and on about it’s good fat content that helps prevents my vegetables from burning or sticking to the pan. I also use it over butter. Don’t get me wrong, eggs and butter are a match-made in heaven. But olive oil is good for the healthy dinners or snacks that need a source of oil to give it good quality. I use it over coconut oil as well.

 

Spices

They accumulate over time when a dish needs a certain spice here or there. I have a full spice drawer and have the spices I use the most in the front or on top of my countertop. Dried herbs are easy additions and create big flavor without spending multiple dollars on fresh herbs that tend to go bad in three days in the fridge. I also add cinnamon to everything….and yes, I’m not exaggerating. It’s a good boost for weight-loss but also a good boost in flavor. You can even add it to your chili or other savory foods for a kick in flavor. I promise, it does not make it taste sweet and will only amaze you of the difference in flavor it makes!

 

Refrigerator Staples

 

Eggs

My husband and I are lucky to have a family that is tight-knit and hard-working. One part of our family has a farm that has cows, pigs, goats, horses (the list could go on and is ever-growing)…and chickens! It’s awesome how chickens actually will let you hold them and love on them. They also make a ton of eggs per week. We always have eggs in our fridge, especially when it is the season for laying eggs. They get almost three-dozen eggs per day during the spring and fall. That’s a lot. Farm-fresh eggs taste so different from store-bought. We love the way it makes you feel better about your body when you eat from a farm over a company. The local farmer’s market has fresh eggs and can be about five dollars, which is cheaper than buying from a store. Make eggs an essential item in your fridge. Weekends will have better meals with having a good source of protein without the bacon (or add bacon to it for a double wham of protein because who cares about the grease? It’s the weekend).

 

Milk

Milk is always in the fridge. It has protein and calcium to help our muscles and bones grow stronger for the long runs ahead. I love eating healthy baked goods with a glass of milk at hand for a great addition to the nutritional value of the meal. My husband and I rarely eat cereal since it’s mainly processed, but we do enjoy having milk as a breakfast drink. It will help start your day feeling amazing and even gives a little energy, which is a bonus to our coffee.

 

Tortillas

Tortillas are always stocked in our refrigerator. They last longer that way and are a good alternative to a slice of bread. We enjoy making egg burritos after a long run or eating wraps for lunch. You feel satisfied and healthier when it comes to knowing you are putting some healthy carbohydrates in your body. We even will make tostadas or baked chimichangas if we want something different than just your average soft burrito. Just brush some olive oil on top of the burrito and stick it in a 400-degree oven and bake for 20-25 minutes or until brown. Yummy goodness will be at your fingertips in no time and will change your mind on that cold wrap.

 

Dates

We use dates a lot and I always buy them at the store. They are a great alternative to raisins in dishes as well as a holding item in a granola bite or baked item. It’s better than using oil to get items to stay together when you blend them with one to two tablespoons of water. Add a little honey to the date, and the sweetness exponentially increases. I enjoy using dates as an energy source on my long runs. I usually chop them up in bite size pieces and place them in sandwich bags. One to two dates is usually enough during a 12-15 mile run. It gives you the boost and less of the sugar than your average energy chews.

 

I hope this helps in making sure you are pantry and fridge-ready for some meal prepping goodness! I know it has helped me overall when it comes to my grocery shopping. I save money and am able to get the other items necessary to make a well-balanced meal. Enjoy the luxury of the “grab-and-go” when it comes to meal-prep time. You never will have to make that quick run to the store again if you keep yourself stocked and loaded in the kitchen!