I hate grocery shopping.

Remember that ice-breaker game where each person in the room has to share a little-known fact about themselves? Well, I’m usually not the sharing type, so my palms start to sweat at the mere thought of that game. But today, I am willingly revealing something about myself: I hate grocery shopping. I love food, nutrition, cooking, baking, and eating, but grocery shopping? I can’t stand it. So that means I’m always looking for ways to make grocery shopping easier, quicker, and more bearable. One way that I’ve found to help: keep a well-stocked pantry.

Having a well-stocked pantry has numerous benefits:

  • On busy nights when you haven’t pre-planned a meal, you can pull together a last-minute meal.
  • If you do have to go to the grocery store, it will only be for a few key ingredients, not for the entire ingredient list. That means 10 minutes in the grocery store, not 45.
  • You can pick up fresh ingredients from the farmers market and use simple preparation methods to enjoy a delicious dinner.
  • Meal planning is much easier & less stressful if you already have most or all of the basics. In fact, I believe keeping a well-stocked pantry is one of the keys to successful, regular meal planning.
  • Having ingredients on hand encourages cooking at home, and cooking at home on a regular basis, instead of going out to eat, is one of the best ways to improve your nutrition (and save money).
  • You can take advantage of sales or bulk purchases to stock up on pantry staples.

The following are my recommendations for what constitutes a well-stocked pantry. I expanded beyond “pantry” and included refrigerator/freezer items that are also helpful to have on hand. This list is obviously based on what I personally like to eat & cook, so your definition of a well-stocked pantry may be quite different. Finally, keep in mind that a healthy diet consists of plenty of whole, fresh foods — these staple items are meant to help prepare, enhance flavor, and complement all those fresh items.

  • Fats: Olive oil, canola oil, butter, sesame oil, coconut oil
  • Seasonings: Dried: salt, pepper, basil, parsley, thyme, rosemary, oregano, cinnamon, chili powder, cumin, salt-free spice blend (i.e. Penzey’s) Fresh: Garlic, ginger, onion
  • Baking goods: Whole wheat flour, all purpose flour, baking soda, baking powder, cornstarch, vanilla extract, brown sugar, white sugar, honey, molasses, applesauce
  • Canned beans: Black, pinto, garbanzo, white
  • Canned tomatoes: Sauce, paste, diced, stewed, pasta sauce
  • Grains: Brown rice, quinoa, oatmeal, bulgur, dried pasta

Other pantry staples:

  • Broth (veggie/chicken/beef)
  • Lemon juice
  • Vinegar (cider, balsamic, red wine, white)
  • Low-sodium soy sauce
  • Worchestershire sauce
  • Breadcrumbs
  • Salsa
  • Walnuts
  • Peanut butter
  • Canned tuna
  • Dijon mustard
  • Ketchup
  • Hot sauce
  • Bonus items: olives, pesto, roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts, canned green beans, flaxseed, sesame seeds


  • Ground turkey
  • Ground lean beef
  • Boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • Spinach, mixed vegetables, blueberries,  & mixed fruit

Perishables: Milk, eggs, Parmesan/feta/or goat cheese, bread

Keeping the above items in your pantry makes it easy to whip up recipes like these:

Herbed Chicken Parmesian (you can substitute 1 tsp or so of dried parsley for fresh, and you can use regular chicken breasts for chicken tenders — just cut each breast into 2 or 3 pieces and flatten first so they are of equal thickness)

Best Peanut Sauce Recipe (Good for use as a marinade, noodle sauce, satay dip, in a wrap, on a salad, or in Pad Thai)

Back-to-School time is a great time to get organized, so try stocking (and perhaps organizing) your pantry and fridge with these staples along with your own healthy favorites. Then enjoy impressing yourself and your family with some great home-cooked meals!

Happy Eating!


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