Learn how to stock your pantry to make healthy meals quick and easy! If you’re wondering what to buy to easily make healthy recipes with what you have on hand, keep reading.
Where to buy healthy groceries
You can shop for healthy food at any supermarket or farmer’s market. You don’t have to shop at Whole Foods, or gourmet or specialty stores for healthy food.
I shop at Publix and Kroger, Trader Joe’s, Sprouts, neighborhood and international farmers markets, and Whole Foods for certain things.
In this guide, I will call out anything that may be more difficult to find at your standard supermarket but I aim to make these items as accessible as possible.
How to use this guide
To have a well-stocked pantry, you’ll only need a few items from each category.
- Don’t try to buy everything.
- Choose the ones that best fit your taste, budget and storage space.
- Buy generic most often. With the exception of some sauces and condiments, you can usually get the same health and nutrition benefits from private-label foods. This is especially true when shopping at places like Sprouts and Trader Joe’s.
Tips to organize your pantry
Use the First in First Out (FIFO) method. Take a second to arrange canned goods, grains, and other foods according to the best by date or when purchased.
Look at the date for canned goods and other packaged foods. Put the ones expiring sooner at the front of the pantry. If you typically buy grains and dry beans from bulk bins, place the new stock behind the ones you already have on the shelf.
This same method works for foods in the refrigerator. Place the yogurt, milk or cheeses that will expire first in the front. This FIFO method helps prevent waste and saves money.
Dry beans, peas, and lentils
Beans, peas, and lentils are excellent plant-based protein options packed with fiber and other important nutrients like magnesium! They are inexpensive and have a long shelf life. I recommend stocking a variety of shelf-stable pulses so that you’ll always have options.
Here are a few of my favorites:
- Red lentils, black lentils, green lentils
- Garbanzo or chickpeas
- Pinto beans
- Black beans
- Navy beans
- Black-eyed peas
- Kidney beans
- All-purpose and white whole wheat flour
- Almond flour and almond meal
- Peanut flour
- Chickpea flour
- Tapioca flour
Go for whole grains when possible. But know that you can stock a variety of grains. Here are a few to include
- Rice (white, brown, red, black rice)
- Pasta – all kinds
Fruits and vegetables
There are only a few pantry stable fruits and vegetables. Try keeping some of these on hand.
- Garlic, onions, shallots
- Sweet potatoes and white potatoes
- Winter squash (spaghetti squash, acorn, butternut, etc.)
- Dried fruit like mango, apricot, and freeze-dried berries
Nuts and Seeds
Buy unsalted, raw nuts and seeds most often. These will last longer than the ones that have already been cooked in any way. If you will be eating them faster, then roasted ones are fine.
- Walnuts, Almonds, Pistachios, Pecans
- Chia seeds
- Pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
- Sunflower seeds
- Hemp seeds
- Sesame seeds
- Peanut butter, almond and other nut butter, tahini, other seed butter
STORAGE TIP: I’m listing nuts and seeds as pantry staples but ideally these will be stored in the refrigerator or freezer for longer storage. Peanut and almond butter are fine at room temperature before opening.
- Avocado oil – use for high heat cooking
- Extra virgin olive oil – use for salads, dressings, non-heat recipes
- Toasted sesame oil – add depth of flavor to Asian-inspired recipes
STORAGE TIP: Refrigerate fragile oils like toasted sesame oil, walnut oil, and your best extra virgin olive oil to extend shelf life. Oils go rancid quickly on the shelf and especially if stored in a warm place like over the stove!
- Apple cider vinegar – suggest raw, unfiltered
- Red wine or balsamic vinegar
- White or champagne vinegar
- Rice vinegar for Asian-inspired dishes
Stock a combination of canned, jarred, and pouched foods.
- Canned chickpeas, white beans, kidney beans, etc.
- Crushed tomatoes
- Fire-roasted tomatoes
- Tomato paste
- Coconut milk and coconut cream
- Marinara sauce
TIP: Choose BPA free canned foods. And look for those with low or no salt added. If no-salt-added vegetables or beans are not available, no problem. You can rinse foods like beans, peas, green beans and corn to remove up to 40% of the sodium.
- Use canned white beans to create a creamy sauce or to thicken soups without cream.
- Use these ideas for leftover pumpkin to use up the last of the can.
Best canned fish to buy
Canned protein can turn some people off. But it’s perfectly fine and a great way to make easy, protein-packed lunches and snacks. I grew up eating salmon patties made from canned salmon and chunk light tuna salad with chopped eggs and mayo.
But you can make lots of recipes if you keep a few canned staples onhand. Start with these essential canned fish options:
- Boneless, skinless wild Alaskan salmon
- Tuna: Yellowtail, Chunk light, Skipjack
Sauces and Condiments
Packaged sauces can make creating a healthy meal very easy. I like to stock these sauces:
- Soy sauce – use it to make this easy stir fry!
- Tamari – Essential for gluten-free households.
- Coconut aminos
- Worchestershire sauce
- Anchovy paste
- Sriracha, chili paste, or hot pepper sauce (hot sauce)
- Mustard: Plain, Dijon, Brown, Spicy
Spices and seasonings
When making healthy meals, seasoning is essential. No bland, boiled vegetables please!
There’s no way to list all of the spices and seasonings to have on hand. This depends a lot on your personal tastes. BUT I think every kitchen should have these standard dry herbs spices on hand:
- Salt (kosher, Pink Himalayan, smoked, etc.)
- Black Peppercorns (in a mill for fresh cracked black pepper)
- Garlic powder
- Onion powder
- Chile powder (I like to keep ancho and chipotle varieties)
- Cayenne pepper
- Paprika (smoked and sweet)
Other fun spices: seafood seasoning, cardamom, curry powders (Indian, Jamaican, etc.), steak seasoning blend, turmeric, Chinese 5 spice, harissa powder, and everything bagel seasoning
TIP: Store dry spices away from the light and heat – in a pantry or cupboard away from the stove.
It’s common to see spices next to the stove. Don’t do that. Though it’s a convenient spot, storing spices near the stove can lead to caking (from moisture) and to the spices losing flavor quicker.
Tea and coffee
- Assorted loose-leaf or bagged green, black, and herbal teas
- Coffee or mushroom coffee
Superfoods and supplements
- Dried tart cherries, blueberries, cranberries
- Beet root powder
- Unsweetened cacao
- Ground flaxseed
- Nutritional yeast
- Unsweetened cocoa powder
- Golden milk powder
Treats and extras
- Sparkling water
- Maple syrup
- Coconut sugar
- Date syrup
- Prepared sauces (be sure to check the label for ingredients)
What more would you add to the list?
Remember that you don’t have to stock every single one of these foods. But to have a well-stocked pantry, these are some of my favorites to have on hand for quick, easy and healthy meals.