Having a well-stocked pantry, fridge and freezer really help in preparing healthy meals quickly and easily. Try not to be overwhelmed by this list, it is exhaustive. I have compiled it just an indicator of the types of ingredients that will feature occasionally in my recipes. You don’t necessarily need to rush out and buy every last thing I have listed.
So when preparing a meal, once you have decided upon your core ingredients, pantry items really help to build flavour. Most of these ingredients are available at growers markets, the supermarket or your local health food shop. If you are unsure what something is, click on it to find out more about it, where to find it, how to use it and why it’s so good. My preference is always for S.L.O.W – Seasonal, Local, Organic (or sustainable) and Whole foods where viable.
If you have children, try to keep the food in the fridge and pantry that you want kids to choose at their eye height eg; fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds. You can also cut it up, or have it packed to grab and go for busy young ones. Better still, train your kids to wash and prepare it in advance themselves.
If you only buy real, unprocessed food, that is all you and your kids will have to eat.
I also make great use of my freezer and always prepare more food than I need for that meal so I always have leftovers (either in the fridge or freezer). Whenever I bake, I tend to make large or double batches and freeze to pack for school lunches. It also means that a healthy snack or treat is always available to my kids and that they have plenty of variety.
So these are examples of the staples I try to have on hand:
Fruit and vegetables
Lots and lots and lots of seasonal, local fresh fruit and vegetables (20% fruit, 80% vegetables).
Try to eat organic or one hundred percent grass fed or pasture raised meats, organic poultry, line caught or sustainable seafood, organic eggs and unprocessed, full-fat dairy. It is worth seeking out economical sources and stocking up your freezer when you come across specials. The resources list will hopefully give you some options to shop around and find the best, most sustainable produce in your area. I will also be giving lots of tips for making the most of the organic protein to get your money worth. Remember to ask questions of your supplier to ensure you are getting exactly what you are after. As morbid as it sounds (and as much as the animal lover in me would sometimes rather ignore this), I like to honour the animals I eat by knowing they were happy in life and were slaughtered with respect. As such I endeavour to only support ethical farming and butchering practices.
I will generally offer a vegetarian option for many of my meat based recipes. For more information on eating, protein see here. For more on why I recommend pasture raised, 100% grass fed beef, click here.
Only the real thing and NEVER the spreadable varieties or margarine. I place pieces of butter in a butter server and leave it in the pantry so it softens enough to spread. I’ve written about the health benefits of margarine vs butter here. I hope you’ll not look sideways at anything but butter after reading this.
Make sure it is the real thing with nothing but dairy, rennet and cultures. I love to stock different varieties, feta, goat, sheep, parmesan, quark, soft, hard…just no ‘plastic’ cheeses, please. For more on cheese, click here.
Always free range and organic. I urge you, for the sake of a few dollars, do not support the ‘cage egg’ industry. It is barbaric, the lowest form of cruelty and you will be ingesting a cocktail of toxins when you eat these eggs.
It’s your choice of what type. My personal preferences are nut milk, coconut milk, coconut water and organic cows milk. If you choose to drink regular cows milk make sure it is full-fat and un-homogenised. Do NOT consume low-fat dairy produce.
Choose only full-fat natural or Greek yoghurt. Never eat low-fat, flavoured or vanilla yoghurt. Why? For all you need to know about yoghurt and clever ideas for changing from flavoured to natural varieties, please click here.
Nuts and seeds
Always raw, unsalted (and organic if possible). It’s best to keep nuts and seeds in the fridge or freezer to keep them from going rancid (bad). They can be eaten direct from the freezer, no need to defrost. If you can soak and activate them, all the better.
Almonds, whole (more on the benefits of almonds and recipes, click here)
Almonds, slivered or flaked
Pepitas also called pumpkin seeds (for more on the benefits of pepitas, click here)
In an ideal world, preparing beans and legumes fresh is best. I always soak and cook large quantities of legumes like chickpeas and freeze them in portions. However, I often reach for a can when I’m not organised or strapped for time. This is a list of what I stock. Click on the legume for soak and cook times.
Grains, flours and meals
It is worth reading more about the best choices and processing of grains here. These are the grains (or seeds) mostly referred to in my recipes:
Arrowroot powder (or starch)
Buckwheat, kernels and flour
Quinoa, grain, flour, rolled. For more about the amazing health benefits of this superfood, click here.
Spelt flour, white and whole meal
Oils ain’t oils. Be cautious what type of oils you choose, especially to cook with, as heat can change a healthy oil into one that is dangerous to your health. For more fantastic information on dietary fat and the best choices for you health, click here.
Oils for cooking / heating
Avocado oil (low to moderate temperatures only)
Butter should be used at low temperatures only
Coconut oil, unlike many ‘vegetable oils,’ coconut oil is not extracted using dangerous chemicals and extreme heat (which yields damaging trans-fats). This in itself makes it a safer oil to consume. The most beneficial grade of coconut oil is raw, unrefined or virgin oil which I like to use for raw baking and heating to moderate temperatures (up to 175℃). If the taste is a problem or you’d like to use it to deep fry or bake at higher temperatures, then choose refined coconut oil. Refined expeller-pressed oils have their scent and flavour removed through a deodorising process. Always check that any refined oils are not hydrogenated (the hydrogenation process creates trans-fats) and hexane free.
Ghee is great to use at high temperatures. I love the flavour in roasts and Indian dishes.
Macadamia oil, (low to moderate temperatures only)
Animal fats such as lard, tallow and poultry fat. Here’s an idea; keep your bacon fat and cook in it.
Palm oil is a heat stable oil but its popularity is responsible for the destruction of large areas of rainforest which results in habitat loss for many vulnerable species including the orangutans of Indonesia. I would urge you to become educated and make an informed decision when purchasing products containing it (food, cleaning and skin care products). Support companies using only Certified Sustainable Palm Oil in their products. For much more information about products containing palm oil see here.
Oils for pouring / dressing
Avocado oil, cold pressed
Flax seed oil, cold pressed
Olive oil, cold pressed extra virgin only (please avoid light oils). Olive oil is also good for finishing off hot meals. Add in at the end of sauces and casseroles to make the most of its delicious flavour.
Olive oil, lemon and chilli infused.
Oils to always AVOID (heated or not)
Rice bran oil
Soya bean oil
I mostly use vinegar for dressings or in baking when an acid is required (lemons and limes also provide good acidity).
Apple Cider Vinegar
Balsamic vinegar (in moderation due to the sugar content)
Red wine vinegar
Rice wine vinegar
White wine vinegar (there are some interesting variations here with subtle taste differences such as chardonnay vinegar)
Raspberry vinegar (sugar-free ones are best)
I actually have a bit of a vinegar addiction and collect all sorts of wonderful varieties. I love the subtle flavours they lend to a meal or salad. For a few healthy salad dressing ideas, check out these recipes.
I choose sweeteners based on their ‘wholeness’ and ability to contribute something nutritionally as well as adding deliciousness. I personally feel better using fructose-free sweeteners where possible, although all sweeteners should be used in moderation. If you are looking for more info on fructose and leading a sugar-free life see sarahwilson.com.au. I have also written posts about the sweet stuff here.
Honey, always raw and unprocessed
Maple syrup, only the real thing and never maple ‘flavoured’ syrup
Rapadura or coconut sugar
Brown rice syrup (fructose-free), sometimes called rice malt syrup. I only use the Pure Harvest brand.
Please avoid sugar (raw, white, brown etc) , high fructose corn syrup, agave and artificial sweeteners.
Always choose either organic or sulphur / vegetable oil free varieties and consume in absolute moderation or avoid altogether if you do not want to eat fructose.
Currants (or sultanas or raisins)
Dates (good to replace sweeteners or sugar)
As well as your primary milk, these milk (and milk alternatives) come in handy for lots of recipes.
Bone broth, the most super food of all the closest thing to a cure-all (home made, of course, click here for the recipe and details of its health benefits)
Condiments and sauces
These ingredients are used in small amounts but are condiments I cook with often.
Mustard (what type will depend on your taste buds, we have a bit of a selection). At least, have a Dijon as this mild mustard can really spice up a salad dressing, meatballs or cheese sauce.
Cocoa or cacao powder (always unsweetened)
Coconut, desiccated, shredded, flaked
Nori (sushi paper)
Tomatoes, canned whole or diced organic
Tomato purée or sugo or pasata (all more or less the same)
Tuna, good info on the best brands to buy here
Herbs and spices
These are a list of my most used:
Coriander seed, ground
Curry powder (mix)
Garam masala (mix)
Mexican spice (mix)
Peppercorns to put in your mill
Salt, always Himalayan or Celtic sea salt
Vanilla beans, vanilla powder, vanilla bean paste or real vanilla essence (not vanilla flavour)
Utensils and appliances
These are the utensils and appliances I use to make life easier in the kitchen. My favourites beyond the standard stainless steel pots, pans, mixing bowls, cast iron baking trays, a good wooden chopping board etc…
• Invest in a high powered food processor or blender (capable of grinding nuts or seeds). I love thermomix, I wish everyone had one in their kitchen as it is an amazing time-saving device. Remember to always look for shortcuts in any recipe. You may need to rearrange the method slightly to make the most of your appliance. This will make life in the kitchen faster, simpler and more joyful.
• I love my julienne peeler for quick julienning vegetables.
• A hand held lemon juicer or press.
• A sharp zester or parmesan grater.
• A big, sharp knife will make preparing food SO much easier. Ceramic knives are definitely worth investigating. They are light, very sharp and a joy to use in the kitchen. Food also doesn’t oxidise the way it does under a stainless steel knife (apples, herbs and lettuce don’t go brown). Mine is a Kyocera brand, you can find a stockist here.
Other kitchen favourites
This is a list of other sustainable kitchen supplies I stock…
• Unbleached totally chlorine-free baking paper and cupcake / baking cups made by ‘If you care’. Why spoil your food by exposing it to the chemicals in normal baking paper and cupcake holders? You can buy them here at my favourite eco store Biome.
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