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Healthy Pantry Staples: 3 Meal Planning & Shopping Tips

Some people may have limited access to fresh produce or foods due to limited mobility. Some may also be buying groceries less frequently due to recommendations to stay home as much as they can. These factors do not mean that your health and ability to eat nutritious foods should be compromised. There are many pantry staples you can keep on hand to help make a balanced meal.

Here are some tips to keep a healthy pantry at home:

Tip #1: Make a Plan

A pen rests on a notepad with a grocery shopping list

Before going to the grocery store, plan out one to two weeks in advance what you will have for your meals (depending on how frequently you go to the grocery store). This can help you from overbuying fresh foods that may go bad before you are able to eat them, and can help you to ensure you have what you need for each meal. This will also lead to less stress when grocery shopping, and allow you to inventory and utilize those foods you already have at home. 

Tip #2: Healthy Grocery Shopping – Plan Meals That Use Pantry Staples

Rows of Goyabrand pantry staples like beans, coconut milk, etc sit on a shelf

While grocery shopping, try planning meals that incorporate shelf-stable products. Keeping pantry staples well-stocked at home can help with meal planning especially for that second or even third week after your last health grocery shopping trip. These types of foods can include:

  • Dried or canned beans 
  • Canned vegetables 
  • Whole grain rice 
  • Oats 
  • Canned fish (such as tuna). 

It is important to remember when buying canned products to look for “No added salt” or “Low Sodium” labels to reduce the amount of added salt in your diet. Nuts or nut butters and dried or canned fruits are also good shelf-stable products to have. Some of these healthy pantry staples include:

  • Pistachios
  • Almonds
  • Walnuts
  • Cashews 
  • Pecans 

When buying canned fruits, look for it to say “canned in 100% fruit juice”, as opposed to “canned in syrup.”Items canned in 100% fruit juice will have less sugar, making it a much healthier pantry staple.

Frozen foods are also great pantry staples to incorporate and are a good way to reduce meal prep time (less peeling and chopping!). When buying frozen vegetables, try to avoid vegetables that have been frozen with a sauce, as this will typically add extra salt to the food. Look for frozen vegetables with no sauce or seasonings, and then add your own spices while cooking. Frozen fruit can be a great addition to oatmeal or smoothies.

Fresh fruits and vegetables don’t have to be totally out of the picture. When buying fresh fruits or vegetables, try to limit your purchase to what you know you will be able to eat before the food spoils. Rely on your meal planning for healthy grocery shopping to help reduce food waste and to stick to only what you need. However, if you do notice that the foods will go bad before you are able to eat them, try to freeze the food. Chopping up your fresh fruits and veggies and throwing them in the freezer is another way to ensure that you have pantry staples on-hand.

When meal planning, try to also incorporate a source of protein with your meals. This can include: 

  • Lean meats
  • Chicken
  • Fish 
  • Tofu 
  • Beans

Tip #3: Stay in Your Routine

A bowl of broccoli soup with kidney beans, kale, and fresh broccoli

One of the biggest challenges with being at home all day is losing a routine. Although you may plan your meals well, mindless eating from a lack of routine may still occur. Trying to follow a regular meal schedule (as you would if you were going about your normal routine) can help to alleviate the constant cycle of eating. Check out these great resources for more tips on staying in a mindful eating routine.

At Iora Primary Care, we recognize that a patient’s health goes far beyond the doctor’s office. Our teams focus on all aspects of patients’ health, from exercise and mental health to diet and nutrition. For healthy eating at home, be sure to follow our great list of tips for healthy grocery shopping. Before going out to the store, make a plan, and be sure that plan involves implementing health pantry staples. Along with healthy meals, be sure to stick to a good eating routine to stay mindful of what you eat.

Now that we’ve covered some strategies for meal planning and shopping for healthy pantry staples, check out some of our favorite protein-rich recipes to add to your plate.   


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