What do you always have in hand in the fridge or the cupboard? Do you stash some Lean Cuisines in the door of your freezer just in case there’s nothing else to make? Do you live off of Mac and Cheese and Ramen noodles? Do you have a secret stash of cookies or candy bars when you crave something sweet? Or do you load up on fresh fruits and veggies so you can whip up something healthy instead?
Today I’m going to share with you what I always have on hand so that I both never go hungry, and always (okay, okay, most of the time) eat right.
The fridge can be a dangerous place for food, especially if you buy way too much food at the beginning of the week—only to let it sit there and rot. I try not to over-stuff my fridge. That way I’m not wasting money. Yet I fill it up plenty so I don’t go hungry. Here’s what I stock in there:
- Skim milk. A lot of people don’t like milk. On top of that, a lot of people are lactose intolerant. But I am neither of those. I always have milk on hand. It goes well in cereal, it is added to a lot of dishes that call for “cream”, it’s delicious, and it’s got lots of calcium. But don’t buy a gallon if you aren’t going to drink it all–milk is expensive!
- Fresh fruit. I vary up the fresh fruit that I buy each week. Sometimes I’ll buy a bag of grapes if they’re on sale, a couple of kiwis, a bag of clementines or apples, etc. That way if I crave something sweet, I can maybe convince myself to reach for a fruit instead of that tempting bag of chocolate chips.
- Fresh vegetables. I always buy what I need for my dinners during the week, but sometimes I’ll throw in a few extra zucchinis or tomatoes. When you don’t feel like cooking, veggies are great to throw in a bowl of pasta or in a salad.
- Hummus. My god. I’m addicted to the stuff. Some brand is usually on sale every week. I spread it on everything–crackers, sandwiches, vegetables. Oh so good.
- V8. I don’t drink this, but Chris is addicted to it. And hey, it’s better to be addicted to a vegetable drink low in sugar than soda.
- Condiments. The usual butter, mayo, mustard, ketchup, dressings, jelly, vinegars, soy sauce–you name it. That’s all that’s in the door of my fridge!
- Deli Meat. Honestly, I get what’s on sale and has the lowest sodium content.
- Sliced cheese. For my sandwiches.
- Shredded cheese. I usually keep some pre-shredded cheese on hand. You can sprinkle them over pastas or casseroles for a quick topping.
- Eggs. Please never let your fridge get egg-less. They are so versatile! fried, poached, over easy, scrambled, or huge omelets.
- Leftovers! I put an exclamation mark on this one because leftovers are key when you are out of things to make. But be careful to label them with the date they were put in there. You don’t want to be eating leftovers from a month ago…
For many, the freezer is a place to stock up on frozen dinners. For me, that’s a big no. Frozen meals are often packed with sodium, and a lot of the healthier ones like Lean Cuisine have such small portions–they don’t do you much good. Sure, put a few in there for emergencies, but don’t rely on them. Here’s what I have in my freezer:
- Boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Most recipes that call for chicken list this as the main ingredient. So I usually keep about a pound of this in the freezer. It can be thawed in the microwave or on the counter.
- Ground turkey. Again, like the chicken, this can be used in a lot of recipes. I usually keep a pound of this on hand as well.
- Turkey/Chicken/Beef patties. Burgers are always an essential for Saturday nights when you don’t feel like spending the money to go out. Just create a masterpiece burger in your kitchen!
- Frozen veggies. Sometimes you run out of fresh ones! These are great to serve on the side of most dishes, and unlike canned vegetables, there’s no sodium content in these.
Ah, the cupboard. I don’t actually have an abundant amount of cupboard space for my food. I don’t go overboard here, but I always have enough stuff lying around…
- Whole wheat/multi-grain bread. I’m not even sure who buys white bread anymore.
- Whole wheat pasta. I have boxes of pasta on hand–shells, rotini, spaghetti, angel hair, whatever kind you like.
- Canned soup. The reduced sodium kind. Soup isn’t that great for you, but I use Cream of Mushroom for several of my staple recipes, so I always have some of that. I also have tomato soup on hand because it’s my favorite
- Canned beans. To be honest, I’m too lazy to soak beans. So I opt for canned beans. I always have these: black beans, kidney beans, and chickpeas.
- Tuna. I use canned tuna for casseroles and grilled tuna sandwiches..yumm.
- Tomato sauce.
- Chicken/beef broth or bouillon cubes. Essential for many recipes.
- Whole wheat crackers. Like Triscuits or Wheat Thins. Sometimes if another brand is on sale, I’ll buy some Kashi and what not. I pack these for snacks and for hummus dipping.
- Cheez-its. Well, not everything can be healthy.
- Olive oil.
- Brown rice. I buy Minute brown rice, but standard is good to have around too.
- Multi-grain Cheerios. This is my breakfast every day. Someday I’ll probably switch over to a more fiberful morning meal. But right now, I can still enjoy my Cheerios…
- Peanut butter. I don’t know how many times I’ve run out of deli meat and opted for the good ol’ PB+J. I like to buy the natural kind.
- Baking supplies. Flour, sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder, shortening, the works. Since I like to bake, I don’t keep cookies around in the cupboard.
- Fat free, sugar free pudding. For something sweet (when I’m not baking up a storm)
- Granola bars. I buy Chewy granola bars–mainly for the price.
- Spices. I love spices. There are so many and so many different ones that go into recipes. But for the basics: salt, pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, chili powder, curry, oregano, red pepper flakes, Italian seasoning, lemon pepper seasoning. Of course, your basics might be different than mine. But I use those ones a lot.
The best thing about my kitchen? It’s cheap–but still healthy. I never stroll down the organic aisle and pay for overpriced food. Is it better for you? Maybe? But I eat my fruits and veggies. I get my protein. And I do it all without weird shakes, protein bars or extra supplements–which is cheaper and more satisfying.
So am I forgetting something? Too much info? How do you stock your kitchen? What do you absolutely always have to have on hand?
Let me know! I’m curious.