A well-stocked pantry?

Published 9:59 am Wednesday, April 15, 2020

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Due to the pandemic, many college students are back at home, children are being home-schooled and our families eating all meals and snacks at home. It makes all of us wonder: how well stocked is my pantry, really?

If you stepped into a grocery store this week you felt the panic among consumers. Perhaps, we do need knowledge and skills regarding having a the well-stocked pantry. A well-stocked pantry is key to saving you time and money regardless of the situation. No more last-minute trips to the store to grab an ingredient you missed. And no more spending an extra $10 on something you just couldn’t pass up while you were there! Normally, checking your pantry and stocking up when items are on a sale is key to saving money. Most items are on sale every seven weeks, so buying only what you would consume from sale to sale is a tip from the pros. Follow these tips to keep ingredients for quick and healthy meals on hand.

  1. Hold on to whole grains. Fill your pantry with whole grain pasta, brown rice, quinoa, rolled oats and other whole-grain favorites. Stock up when you find a good sale. Or, buy in bulk. Bulk bins often have better unit prices than packaged grains.
  2. Bet on beans. Canned or dried beans add bulk to soups, salads and pastas. Swap in beans in place of half the meat in tacos or other dishes. They are less expensive and lower in saturated fats. Look for low-sodium or no-salt-added when buying canned. Lentils are great choice as they cook quickly. Another tip to reduce digestive gas is to soak the dried beans in water 48 hours before cooking. Simply place the dried beans in a pot or bowl and cover with two inches of water. Change the water every 12 hours.
  3. Don’t forget fruits and veggies. Canned produce was picked at its peak, so it’s full of great nutrients. Serve canned fruits or applesauce (no sugar added or canned in their own juice) as quick snacks. Canned corn or green beans make quick and easy side dishes. Canned tomatoes can be used in pastas, soups, casseroles and many other meals.
  4. Feature fish. Another item you may not think of buying canned is fish. But canned fish is a great secret for getting more heart-healthy fish into your diet in an affordable way. Use canned tuna or salmon to add protein to salads, casseroles and pasta.
  5. Nosh on nuts. Nuts and dried fruit make great pantry items. Throw together a few to create a homemade trail mix for an easy snack. Add to hot cereals, baked goods or yogurt to pack a punch. Throw onto salad or sautéed greens to add sweetness and crunch.
  6. Think outside the cereal bowl. Stock up on whole grain, low-sugar cereals when you find a good sale. Add to trail mix for a healthy snack. Or, crush and use as a crispy coating for meat, poultry and fish to oven bake instead of frying. Another staple are whole wheat crackers, as you may crush them and use them in a dredge for oven fried chicken or fish.
  7. Fill your pantry with flavor. Vinegars and other condiments, such as Dijon mustard, are great for quick, homemade salad dressings. Or, use them to make a flavorful marinade for proteins or vegetables. Apple cider, red wine, rice and balsamic vinegars are all good options.
  8. Spice things up. Speaking of flavor, keep the dried herbs and spices you use often on hand. Use to add taste in place of extra salt or fat.
  9. Invest in healthy fats. Oils made with healthy fats are great for sautéing, baking, roasting vegetables, making salad dressings and more. Canola oil is a lower-cost healthy choice best used for cooking. Extra Virgin Olive Oil is a great multipurpose oil. Select EVOO in dark bottles and check the use-by date. Once oils are open they begin to age so purchase EVOO in small bottles that you will use in 30-60 days from the time you open the bottle.
  10. Buy basic baking items. Keep basic ingredients like flour, baking soda and baking powder stored properly in your pantry. Store in air-tight containers. A suggestion is to cut the product package and tuck important information in the container. Self-rising flour will have a best-by date to insure the best leavening from the baking powder and baking soda thus, you will want to save that part of the package. Note: Most products have a sell-by date simply to help the grocery restock their shelves. This is not an expiration date.

Below is a recipe from the NC Cooperative Extension’s Cook Smart Eat Smart Curriculum. It is easy free flowing chart as a guide to creating pocket meals which may be baked in the oven or prepared in aluminum foil and cooked on an outside grill. This recipe is a great way to let your family join the fun of cooking together and allows individual food preferences. Learn how to create pocket meals, baked in the oven or cooked outside on the grill, in a video I recently created using a recipe from NC Cooperative Extension’s Cook Smart Eat Smart Curriculum. It can be found on the Beaufort County FCS Facebook Page.

The source for this article is North Carolina Cooperative Extension’s Med instead of Meds educational program. For more information about foods and nutrition, contact Louise L. Hinsley at the Beaufort County Center of North Carolina Cooperative Extension, 155 Airport Road, Washington, 252-946-0111. Be sure to like the Beaufort County FCS FaceBook page for upcoming classes.

Louise L. Hinsley is the family consumer science extension agent, at Beaufort County Cooperative Extension.