Must-Have Healthy Pantry Ingredients

10 healthy ingredients you can’t live without

There is nothing more aggravating than opening the pantry, fridge or freezer and not finding THE THING you need right then! Nobody wants to be cooking healthy meals and then have to stop to run to the store. How many times has that happened?! It is the most annoying thing ever.

To live a real food life, it’s important to have a plan and to keep some essentials stocked at all times. Here are my top 10 healthy foods to eat everyday!

Olive Oil

This is such a healthy oil – so good for you and full of healthy fats. If you are looking to have a heart healthy diet – this is THE OIL to have on hand.

This is used to cook in nearly every single meal of the day and even some snacks. It is our go-to oil and we really can’t be without it. We don’t use another oil, and the only other substitute in our house is butter.

Pure Vanilla Extract

This is an essential because it is an ingredient in many of our staple items. This is a way to healthy flavor a meal. No more artificial flavors, just real flavor.

It’s important to use a pure extract vs. imitation. The cost is very similar in many brands today between the two. The imitations have additives and chemicals to make up for the flavor from the real one. And with the cost being nearly identical – why not go for the pure?

100% Maple Syrup

This is another essential that we use as a sweetener over using sugar. So this is something we have to have on hand. It is a part of our morning cup of coffee (mixed with our creamer), it is a drizzle on plain yogurt at times, and more! This is another one that you want to buy the pure version and not go with another “syrup.” Other syrups are high fructose corn syrup and metabolize very differently than maple syrup. Maple syrup is one of the best choices for sweeteners because your body metabolizes the sugar in a healthier way compared to other fructose bases!

Raw Honey

This is another natural sweetener option to maple and is also processed well in the body. This is great in our energy bites, our home made granola bars, and sometimes as a drizzle on nuts. If you can buy local raw honey that is even better. The location helps your body’s immune system in exposure to local pollen. Another great reason to shop local.

It does matter with this one as well of raw versus not. You want to choose something that is unprocessed (i.e. raw) and has the great components still left in it from the honey and bees themselves.

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Whole Wheat Flour

A huge huge staple is whole wheat flour. We make our own breads, buns, biscuits and more. You can’t make a real foods bread without it or a similar whole wheat. We use and stock both a white whole wheat (great for pizza crust) and a regular whole wheat – great for biscuits and breads. Sometimes I do a 50/50 combination of both. This can also be used as a thickening agent in soups and other meals.

Spices

I could have been more specific here but it would put me over the top 10 I stated in my headline ;-). I have a few favorites I will share here that go into nearly every single meal or dressing we put together. We absolutely love:
Pink Himalayan salt or sea salt
Black peppercorn
Garlic Powder
Onion Powder
Dill
Basil
Oregano
Parsley
Chili Powder
Cumin
Paprika
Cinnamon
Nutmeg
Allspice

And so many more but those are our favorites for meals across the week every week!

Spices are ESSENTIAL to real foods cooking. These are what MAKE the meals. Without the right spices your meals can be bland, especially until you get the hang of how food flavors blend and where to get those flavors from. Balancing out components is tricky and takes experience and time – so we use spices to make up that gap and beyond! Any vegetable can be marinated in olive oil and then sprinkled with Italian spices from above and taste AMAZING!

Brown Rice

This is one of our healthy carbs and one that we use most often in our house. This is tolerable for my husband who is gluten sensitive so we use it in place of most noodles a lot of the time. It is a great real foods carb you can mix into most dishes. It is also agreeable to our 8 year old son – which is always a win!

One thing to remember when cooking brown rice, versus white, it will take a few extra minutes and a little extra moisture. So keep that in mind with timing and batch cooking brown rice is always an easy way to save time!

Active Dry Yeast

This might be like a what? In the top 10? Well it is because it’s necessary in most of the breads and buns I make at home. If you are going to make any type of bakery product, you will likely need this. The biscuit I make goes without it but every other bread needs it. It can be stored in your fridge and live for quite awhile. Or you can buy just enough packs at a time. But if you decide to start making weekly bread – you will want to buy a jar and store it in your fridge vs. in the packs in the pantry.

Nuts

These are a part of snacks, and many of our combined and homemade snacks like our energy bites, and can be made into the homemade granola as well. We also use these as part of pestos, toppers on salads, mixed in with dishes and more.

Nuts are a great way to get protein and healthy fats into your diet, and are part of the Blue Zones recommended foods to live to be 100! Want to learn more about that – check out this article!

Baking Powder

Last but not least is that baking powder. Although this is used much less frequently I tried to think of the ingredients that I used every single week i key staples of our day and this was one again for the bread we do. It is so important that you choose an aluminum FREE baking powder. Check your ingredients to see what is in there. If you don’t know what it is – look it up – Google is your friend. If it is labelled as being use by the food industry and it’s not a plant and it has a chemical structure shown – that’s a no!

One Last Thing on Budget…

If you are wondering about our budget and what we spend – and how we make these items work (and many more) that’s great. We spend between $150-200 a week in groceries. This is primarily organic items, but does include some standard items where organic isn’t needed or doesn’t apply. It is choosing all clean food items, including 100% and pures, and raws. We have two adults and one eight year old boy. This is a complete budget amount – and sometimes includes extras like toiletries etc.

Our meals are primarily fruit and vegetable based with some meats, and depending on your geographic location your cost for fruits and vegetables will vary. We are in the Northeast and winters are long and we don’t have a lot of fresh local foods year round. We have a great market, but in terms of seasonal growing, it’s pretty sparse in the winter up here. We will pay a bit more for those types of items because of that. One thing I wanted to point out – the idea of organic items or 100% pure costing MUCH more than the standard is starting to thankfully become outdated. There are still some exceptions to the rule (especially with meats), but standard items on the shelf and in produce are becoming more reasonably priced and sometimes it’s only cents difference now. Take a look and really compare before making your decisions.

Don’t forget – grab your COMPLETE Pantry Essentials Checklist to give you an idea what you need in your pantry to start real food cooking!

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healthy eating

If you are looking for a cost-effective, simple way to cook family meals – and you are ready to ditch boxed items and packaged food – this is for you! This program walks you through, step by step, transitioning from processed foods to real food cooking, at home, on a budget! Learn more here.

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