In order to integrate easy, healthy, and inexpensive in your everyday life, stocking your kitchen with these staples will make your life so much simpler. That way, there’s no need to go to the grocery store every day and you won’t have to stress about what ingredient(s) you’re missing from some crazy recipe.
Before I begin, I must start with my favorite tip of all time: Frozen is your best friend! I hate throwing away food, and I also hate having to plan what I have to make because I have to eat a certain food before it goes bad. Many of my recipes are based off non-perishable foods that can be thrown together whenever I feel like it.
That being said, here are a few items you’ll always find in my kitchen (in no particular order):
- Frozen chicken tenders – I find chicken tenders much easier than chicken breasts. They’re smaller, so they thaw faster (though I actually cook these from frozen!), and I can choose exactly how much I want to eat (sometimes I don’t want a whole chicken breast). Or, more commonly, I know I can eat 2-3 and my boyfriend, Clinton, can eat 4-5. So rather than make one chicken breast each, I can portion out exactly how many tenders I want.
- Frozen tilapia – just as easy as the chicken tenders, but it helps change things up. Also, I’ve found that tilapia is one of the more forgiving frozen fishes.
- Bags of frozen veggies – I LOVE those steamable bags of veggies. They cook in 5 minutes and are a great, easy, healthy side dish to any meal. My favorites are broccoli, green beans, and corn, but any will do just fine!
- Milk – Obviously, milk is a necessary perishable item. It’s a great base ingredient to many meals; and, let’s face it, who doesn’t enjoy a glass of fresh milk? It’s so good for you! I prefer nonfat organic milk. Yes, organic. Not only is it healthier for you (no antibiotics in it, for example), but it also lasts longer than non-organic milk. So even though it’s slightly more expensive, it’s one of those things where I think you’re getting more bang for your buck with organic.
- Egg whites– That’s right, a carton of egg whites. I hate cracking eggs (not a fan of the mess), and egg whites are healthier anyway. So I’ve definitely changed to cartons of egg whites. So much easier.
- Margarine – Tubs of “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter,” “Smart Balance,” or whatever. It’s healthier than butter, and it’s so much easier to take a scoop out of a tub rather than slice off butter on the butter tray.
- Lemon juice – Though I’d prefer real lemons, a large jar of lemon juice is always, always in my fridge. It’s a great, easy way to add some taste to your food without adding any calories
- Greek yogurt – Okay so you don’t have to have this, but it’s probably my favorite snack. It’s so healthy for you because it’s really high in protein, and it’s really easy to mix things in to have a quick and delicious snack.
- Garlic – I keep a jar of already chopped garlic in my fridge. That way, I never have to peal, crush, and chop the garlic. I just take a scoop out as needed! And it lasts in your fridge forever.
- Parmesan cheese
- Bisquick – I make waffles or pancakes every weekend (way easier than you think!), and I also use it in my dinners, too.
- Olive oil and cooking spray – I rarely use olive oil to grease a pan (that’s what the healthier cooking spray is for), but I still use it in a lot of dishes.
- Balsamic vinegar and white wine vinegar
- Sugar, brown sugar, and fake sugar– I prefer Truvia, but it can be expensive if you use a lot. Splenda is also great for when you need a larger amount.
- Soy sauce– I prefer the low sodium kind so I can control how much salt I have in my meals.
- Cooking sherry – Okay that’s kind of a lie. I don’t like the actual cooking sherry you find with other condiments. I go for the good stuff, the real cream sherry in the alcohol aisles.
- Spices: powdered garlic, garlic salt, powdered ginger, cinnamon, lemon pepper, vanilla extract, salt, and pepper – These are all essential. I also like to keep a chicken spice blend, chili powder, cumin, dry mustard, and paprika on hand, but I don’t use them as frequently as the others.
- White rice, brown rice (or wild rice), and quinoa – the best place to buy quinoa is Costco, you can buy it much cheaper and in bulk.
- Peanut butter – often along with my other favorite – Nutella! The PB is necessary, but the Nutella is for fun.
- Low-calorie, whole wheat sliced bread
- Pasta – usually linguine, I just like how it holds sauce best. But for a treat, I LOVE tortellini.
- Pasta sauce – any kind of basic red will do. I’ll show you how to build on it to make your own healthy “homemade” sauce.
That’s it! It’s pretty basic stuff, really. And if I include any other “random” ingredient in a dish, it’s one that doesn’t go bad quickly. Sure, dried herbs aren’t as tasty as fresh herbs (as an example), but they’re much more practical. The idea is to keep things simple. And if you like the dish with the “random” ingredient (like capers that don’t go bad for a really, really long time), then you can certainly make the same dish again a couple weeks later and just change up the side dishes or main dish if you’d like.
Now, take your list to the market and stock up. Or if you want to acquire these items as we go, that’s fine too! But believe me, you’ll end up saving a lot of time and money no matter how you go at it.