Some people are fantastically efficient at meal planning. I, however, am not. Who knows what we’re going to be in the mood to eat next Thursday night? I don’t!
Since that method doesn’t work for me, the next best thing is to keep my kitchen stocked with the ingredients I use most often when I cook – my staple items. On nights when I’m tired, or uninspired, rather than succumbing to take-out, I can always whip up a quick, nutritious dinner with these go-to, gotta have ingredients – a great solution for our waist lines and our wallets!
I do most of my grocery shopping every weekend, replenishing my staples (usually the meat and produce), and buying whatever else I want for the week.
Here’s my list:
Fresh Produce: I love fresh fruit and veggies! When I shop, I’d say my cart is 70% fresh, and 30% everything else. The items on this list are the things I have to have in my kitchen. In addition to these, I usually buy whatever else looks good, is in season, or what my girls are loving for a snack that week. I wash everything as soon as I get home so it’s ready to cook or eat.
I like to buy local, organic produce whenever possible. When both are not an option, there are a few factors that guide my choices. If an ingredient is on the Dirty Dozen, like strawberries, I will only choose organic. For ingredients not on this list, I try to prioritize local over organic. I’m not as adamant to buy organic when it comes to ingredients on the Clean 15, like avocados or those with a thick peel like bananas. choose between local and organic Depending on the ingredient,
- Sweet Potatoes
- Russet Potatoes
- Whole carrots
- Red peppers
- Portabella mushrooms
- Italian parsley
Meat: I stopped eating all meat and dairy in December 2017. My family still eats it a few times a week, so I am very particular of the quality of the meat they eat.
- Chicken breasts (Organic, pasture-raised)
- Chicken drumsticks (Organic, pasture-raised)
- Chicken Apple Sausage (Organic)
- Ground turkey breast (Organic)
- Sockeye Salmon (frozen fillets from Costco)
- Mahi mahi (frozen fillets from Costco)
- Shrimp (frozen, Gulf Coast)
Freezer: A couple years ago, I decided one freezer wasn’t enough. I needed two. So we bought a stand-up freezer that sits in our garage. This has been a great money-saver because we can buy in bulk, and keep the extra in the freezer.
- Frozen veggies: broccoli, green beans, peas, cauliflower rice, okra, butternut squash
- Frozen fruit: blueberries, strawberries, mango, bananas (I freeze our fresh bananas before they go bad – great for smoothies)
- Nuts: almonds and walnuts
- Excess fish and meat
Fridge: It takes some creativity, and what I remember from eighth grade geometry, to figure out how to cram everything in the fridge throughout the week. Usually by Friday, it has thinned out to mostly leftovers, and a little of this or that. Then the weekend rolls around, and we fill it up again!
- Almond or Cashew milk (organic)
- Eggs (local, pasture-raised, organic)
- Greek or Plain Whole Milk Yogurt (organic)
- Butter (Organic, Unsalted)
- Shredded and whole cheese (Organic, whole milk)
- Dijon mustard
- Peanut Butter
- Jarred items: capers, kalamata olives, artichoke hearts
Pantry: They say that when you grocery shop, you should avoid the center aisles, and stick to the perimeter… Well, this is all the aisle stuff. All things considering, I think it’s mostly pretty healthy.
- Extra virgin olive oil (Organic)
- Coconut oil (Organic)
- Balsamic vinegar
- Red wine vinegar (I keep it in the fridge)
- Vegetable broth
- Pasta: spaghetti, linguine, penne, elbows, fusilli, orzo
- Brown Basmati Rice
- Panko breadcrumbs
- Dried Lentils
- Cashew Nuts (organic, raw, unsalted)
- Pistachio Nuts
- Coconut Milk (organic)
- Canned beans: kidney, black, garbanzo, pinto
- Glass jarred tomatoes: diced, crushed, and paste
- Jarred tomato sauce (for when I really really really don’t feel like cooking)
- Flour (store in freezer)
- Honey (Raw, local, organic)
- Chia Seeds
- Taco Shells (organic)
- Himalayan Salt
- Black pepper
- Garlic powder
- Crushed red pepper flakes
- Garam masala
- Curry powder
- Vanilla extract
If you follow my blog and read my recipes, you will notice that most dinners consist of a combination of these ingredients. For instance, one of our go-to, easy dinners is roasted vegetables, grilled chicken breasts, roasted sweet potatoes, and okra, spinach and tomatoes.
The roasted vegetables, grilled chicken and sweet potatoes are marinated in olive oil, red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt, pepper, garlic powder, turmeric, cumin, and honey.
For the veggie side, I put a bag of frozen okra in a small pot with a jar of diced tomatoes, or fresh if they’re getting soft, a handful of fresh spinach, about a half a cup of veggie broth, and a couple dashes of balsamic vinegar. I brought it to a boil, and then let it simmer while everything else finished cooking. It’s an easy side that can be ready in less than ten minutes. You can serve it over rice, with beans, shrimp, or chicken, and it can be a meal in itself! We all love it.
Everything I used tonight is on this list. And there are countless alternatives for meals that can be made with this list.
I’d love to hear from you! What are your staple ingredients?