Must-Haves For Your Pantry

Single parents always watch their budgets—so I know it’s a hard sell to convince us to stock up our pantry with expensive items. But believe me, it will make life SO much easier if you do. With certain go-to items always on your shelves, you can whip up a last-minute pasta, chicken or fish dish that is healthy and flavorful for your kiddos. And from an expense perspective, stocking up the pantry with these items each month will save you money in the long run. Ordering pizza or grabbing fast food two or three times a week isn’t as cheap as you think. If you haven’t read this New York Times article, “Is Junk Food Really Cheaper?” I highly recommend it!

Even if you don’t go out to eat much during the week, serving your children processed foods like chicken nuggets and hotdogs or frozen or canned meals— loaded up with sodium—sets them on the path to obesity, or a limited palate at the very least. My time living in Europe inspired me to try to always serve one meal and eat with my children—helping them to develop healthier, broader tastes—and letting us enjoy more quality time together. Trust me, kids will eat what you do, eventually. I saw my son when he was three (now 10) eating chicken curry pie with beats and parsnips at his nursery school in London. It’s eye-opening, but for another blog post.

So, as I was saying, I know it’s exhausting after a long day at work to come home and cook and then have clean-up later. But I promise you if you can aim to do it five nights a week, it will improve your health, your waistline and your children’s health dramatically. Here are my monthly must-have pantry items. They have been lifesavers on many evenings as I’ve been able to throw together tasty pasta or add more flavor to veggies, sides or invent a quick pork or chicken dish. If you have a Trader Joe’s or a CostCo near you, you can really save money stocking up on these. And if you have any to add to my list, please chime in! I’d love to know your favorite staples.

Laura’s Must-Haves In the Pantry:

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Red Wine Vinegar
  • Capers
  • Whole Grain Mustard
  • Dijon Mustard
  • Olives (I’m in love with spanish green with whole garlic cloves in the center at the moment, but also have canned black, green and mixed on hand.)
  • Canned White Tuna Fish in Water. (Only eat once a week, at the most, due to methyl mercury. Read this article I wrote about the top pollutants for our children.)
  • Crushed Ginger Paste
  • Dried Oregano
  • Pitted Prunes
  • Dried Apricots
  • Lazy Chopped Garlic
  • Mango Chutney
  • Marinated Artichoke Hearts
  • Jar of marinated sun-dried tomatoes
  • Pine nuts
  • Marcona almonds
  • Can of large white beans
  • Chopped walnuts
  • All fruit spreads: raspberry, blueberry, apricot
  • Soy sauce
  • Figs
  • Good Large can of cream Tomato Vodka Sauce
  • Cans of Chopped Tomatoes.
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