When you’re unable to make a grocery run, it can be hard to put together healthy and delicious meals. However, eating healthy can still be simple and tasty if you have a few key essentials in your kitchen. These essential ingredients can be used to either substitute like-for-like ingredients in a recipe or to throw something together after a long day of work.
The three categories of essentials are dry goods, refrigerated items, and spices. Whether you found an awesome dinner recipe everyone in your family can agree on or you’re trying to modify one that just doesn’t fit everyone’s taste (or your pantry inventory), these essentials can easily be substituted and repurposed for any meal you’re trying to make.
Do yourself a favor and take a quick look at what you already have on hand from these categories. After reviewing these essentials, make a list of what you’re missing. That way, when you can squeeze in a trip to the store, you have a grocery list ready.
When it comes to dry goods, the following are super simple ingredients that are commonly used in most nutritious recipes. To make your life easier, it helps to ensure you have most or all of these available because it’s often difficult to find alternatives.
Stock up on…
- olive oil
- mustard and Worcestershire sauce
- bottles of vinegar
- tomato products (diced, paste, and sauce)
- canned beans
- vegetable and/or chicken stock
If possible, look for whole-wheat and low-sodium versions of these products. That way, you’re already starting with healthy ingredients no matter the recipe.
Now, to fill that refrigerator!
Try to pick up…
- frozen fruits and vegetables (such as broccoli, peas, corn, berries, etc.)
- parmesan cheese
Vegetables and fruits can often be substituted for each other (like fruits in a smoothie or vegetables in a stirfry), so grab what best suits your family’s taste.
As yummy as whole ingredients can be all on their own, any meal can be spiced up!
Grab these versatile spices to stock your pantry
- salt and pepper
- chili powder
- garlic powder
- onion powder
No matter the style or cuisine of dish, these staples will add that kick to make nutritious meals flavorful too. Here’s a quick tip: fresh spices are the best spices! Rub them in the palm of your freshly cleaned hand to release the oils and add an even more intense flavor.
Simple Starter Dishes with these Ingredients
It can be daunting to see a list of healthy items and not know where to start! So, here’s a quick and easy recipe to get started.
If your family is ready for a change from normal scrambled eggs, it’s beyond easy to turn them into a quiche—or even your own homemade mayonnaise (1 large egg, 2 teaspoons of lemon juice, a pinch of salt, and ¼ cup of canola oil. Whisk everything but the oil until well-combined, then stream in the oil until the mixture thickens).
If you’re looking for an easy dessert recipe that can also pass for a healthy snack, take nuts and dried fruit and turn them into delicious Banana Oatmeal Cookies to satisfy your sweet tooth!
So next time the dinner (or breakfast, lunch, or snack) dilemma rolls around and hungry mouths are searching for food, remember: you have everything you need to whip up something nutritious, tasty, and sure to satisfy every palate around the table!
By: Chef Gary Appelsies, MS
Director of Healthy Eating
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