Stock Your Pantry & Save: Part One

The modern American cook is geared toward making quick meals for themselves and/or their family. The simplicity of getting quick, easy foods is the focus of our fast paced society. Yet, the first step in the right direction is to have healthy, nutritious foods and recipe staples available to you. This will help eliminate the last-minute trips to the grocery store (and save you money too!). By having a good selection of staple foods at home, you can put together a meal that is more nutritious, lower calorie and less expensive—and in less time than it would take to order a pizza or drive somewhere for fast food.

Here are some of our basics for the pantry, refrigerator and freezer:

Tomatoes/ tomato sauce: Many dishes, from casserole to chili, call for canned tomatoes.

Beans (black beans, kidney beans, garbanzo, refried etc.): Add beans to salads, stews, casseroles, chili, and Mexican entrees.

Canned chicken and fish: Choose water-packed canned meat and fish, which have less added fat. These are great in casseroles, soups, and as a filling for sandwiches.

Whole wheat or whole grain blend pasta: Add to entrees, soups, and stews.

Brown rice: Add to Asian dishes, soups, and stews, or as a whole grain side dish.

Whole grain breakfast cereal: Use for a healthy breakfast or snack. Cereal also serves as a crunchy topping for yogurt or fruit.

Nuts: Nuts are rich in desirable fatty acids and phytochemicals. Enjoying an ounce a day is considered a healthful food habit. Enjoy nuts as a snack, or sprinkle over cereal, yogurt, fish, or casserole dishes.

Shellfish, cooked and deveined, or raw: No boiling or deveining is necessary when you use frozen cooked shellfish that is ready to add to your recipes. Add cooked shellfish to seafood salads, green salads, pasta dishes, chowders, casseroles, and Mexican or Asian-style entrees. Or defrost raw shrimp and stir-fry.

Grilled fish fillets in assorted flavors: Prepare as an entree, or make a fish fillet sandwich. But avoid frozen fried fish.

Lean turkey burgers or 9 percent-fat beef burgers: These convenient products, pre-pressed and spiced, make lean burgers possible with a moment’s notice.

Chicken or lean meat, individually frozen: These days you can buy frozen pieces of chicken or lean meat that can be thawed out one at a time. Keep them on hand as an ingredient in another dish or as your main course.

Vegetables: Vegetables work well fresh or straight from the freezer. Frozen vegetables can be microwaved and served as a side dish, or added to an assortment of dishes, such as stews, casseroles, chowder, chili, quiche, and stir-fries.

Fruits: Fruits such as berries, cherries, and peaches spoil quickly in the refrigerator. Keep a few bags of fruit in the freezer, and add some to your meals and snacks. Add frozen fruit as an ingredient to smoothies, pancakes, muffins, nut breads, and any fruit dessert. You can also use fruit as a topping to French toast, waffles, yogurt, and hot or cold cereal.

Potatoes (mashed, diced, and shredded): America’s favorite starchy vegetable is available in many forms in the freezer section – diced, shredded, or ready to be steamed and mashed. Enjoy mashed potatoes as a side dish or as an ingredient in dishes such as shepherd’s pie or casseroles.

French fries: Buy frozen French fries with less than 4 grams of fat per 3-ounce serving, and bake them until crispy. Baked French fries can be a welcome side dish for many popular entrees.

Invest some time toward health and prepare yourself by stocking your pantry and fridge with foods that are packed with nutrients. This can save you time and money by avoiding the one-item shopping trips. This can help you keep money in your wallet, as well as make it easier for you to eat smart.

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