Today I’m going to let you in on one of my most important secrets to a healthy diet: keeping your pantry well stocked.
It sounds simple, but if you want to make sure you don’t just give up and eat some take away/a family sized block of chocolate/a whole cake/man, even that vase of flowers looks good at this point; you’ve got to be prepared.
I’d like to think that over the years, I’ve become somewhat of an expert at healthy cooking on a budget, due to being a student for such a long time (but I’m pretty sure my boyfriend thinks I’m just finding a little too much satisfaction in organising my pantry and need to find something else to do with my time). Either way, I’m a firm believer that keeping your pantry stocked means that when you don’t have money, don’t want to go to the shops or are having a bunch of people come over for dinner, you can still cook an impromptu meal that will be healthy, be affordable, and best of all, taste great!
These are the items I always have stocked in my pantry:
1. COCONUT CREAM/MILK
Not only does this sucker go great in smoothies, curries and laksas, but I use it to replace cream in dishes like stroganoff, that I can’t usually eat. It’s not exactly the same as cream, but it’s still very yummy and, if you get tricky like me, you can even learn how to whip it like regular cream and put it on desserts, like this here dairy-free trifle:
2. TINNED FISH
We buy large cans of tuna, small cans of flavoured tuna and plain cans of mackerel to always have on hand. Oily fish such as these guys are high in omega3 fatty acids, protein and zinc, but not always affordable when fresh, so we make sure we have some of the tinned variety.
Mackerel is my favourite, because it is higher in the GLA type omega3s which are the ones that are good for your brain. Plus, as the fish is smaller than tuna or salmon, it has less mercury, so it can be safely eaten more often. I love having it on pumpernickel toast, either as mini dairy-free pizzas, or with avocado and pepitas – yomm!
Tuna goes great in my tuna tacos (which, if you ask nicely, I may post the recipe for) and for those days when you are really poor, the flavoured tins are delicious on toast (even yummier with avocado and rocket!!).
Raw nuts are a great food to keep stocked in your pantry. They’re filled with oils, protein and minerals, and are a great snack on the go. I chop mine and put them in a muesli, grind them into a nut meal for baking, whiz them up with some water to make almond milk, or even to make nut “cheese”.
My favourites are cashews, almonds, pistachios, hazelnuts, walnuts and brazil nuts. Keep them in jars to protect their oils from damage – and to have your pantry look not only organised, but pretty (which is the most important thing 🙂 ).
It’s rare that I go a day without eating eggs; they are one of my very favourite foods. They are a good source of protein and fat soluble vitamins and are so, so versatile. You can have them boiled, poached, scrambled, baked, fried, as an omelette, in a quiche or frittata, you can bake with them, make mayonnaise, coddle them, have them sweet or savoury, they really are amazing!
Good quality eggs aren’t too expensive (even cheaper if you’ve got a friend with chooks!) and can easily be added to meals to provide protein. I love making a quick zucchini soup and popping poached eggs on top, adding a thin omelette to my brown fried rice, stir frying them with a bunch of vegies, adding boiled eggs and mayo to a gorgeous salad sandwich, or simply having them poached on avo toast and sprinkling over some raw dukkah.
I’ve added these guys to my pantry list because they are best used at room temperature and do stay fresh long enough to not need refrigeration.
Oh boy, I’m not sure if I can count the times that pulses have saved my life! They are the ultimate in healthy food for students (with much more protein and fibre than 2 minute noodles!) because they are so cheap and you can do just about anything with them and get a decent meal. They are also handy to have in your house so that you know you can easily cater for a large group on the cheap, especially vegetarians (what good is food if you can’t share it with the people you love).
Pulses include lentils, chickpeas, beans (the many varieties), barley and split peas, and are best bought dry and organic to avoid any nasties. However, this does mean you need to give them a good soak for at least 6 hours, preferably at least 24. This starts the sprouting process and activates the phytic acid in the legumes so that you don’t consume them when you eat the legume. Phytic acid is the phytochemical that causes flatulence when you eat legumes, but also binds itself to the minerals in your food so that they can’t be absorbed in your digestive tract, so best to get rid of as much of it as we can.
My favourite legume-based meals to make are Boston baked-beans, burritos, split pea soup, lentil burgers, felafel, hummus, dahl and veggie curries to name a few. The best thing about these meals are not only are they filling, but you don’t need many ingredients to make them (and again, they look so lovely all stacked up in containers in your pantry).
6. TINNED TOMATOES
This one is pretty simple. Tinned tomatoes can be used in soups, curries, Bolognese, casseroles, Mexican dishes, or simmered down to make a paste for pizzas. Get the best quality you can and they aren’t usually much more than $1 per can at their most expensive. They stack easy, last a long time and are packed with flavour, and the awesome antioxidant, lycopene, which provides protection from cancer.
WHAT do you stock your pantry with, just in case?
DO you share my fondness for a well-stocked and ordered store-cupboard?
HOW has this inspired you to plan ahead?