Have you recently taken to cooking or baking at home more often? Having a grocery list for meal planning can guide you to selecting the food staples to ensure your kitchen is well-stocked and equipped to cook most meals. Perhaps you’ve noticed that many recipes often warrant quite a plethora of ingredients, and this can be off-putting if you don’t have many of the items.
If you’re only trying a recipe out and have to buy a vast amount of ingredients, who’s the say you’ll even make it again? To top it off, all of them ingredients you purchased cost good money and could be sitting in your kitchen unused for weeks, if not months, before they’re eventually discarded with.
Let’s be clever with our healthy food staples and choose items that regularly appear in most meals! This way, when choosing recipes to follow, you’ll have the majority of ingredients already, if not them all. Who knows, you might even save yourself a trip to the supermarket!
Having a well-stocked pantry is one of the easiest ways to ensure that you can follow your meal planning programme and also guarantees that you can make tasty meals. Below is the ultimate list of ingredients that will ensure your kitchen is stocked with a versatile list of healthy foods that won’t blow your budget. It’s also categorised into protein, fat and carbohydrate sources so you can easily create a macro-balanced meal.
Short shelf life
- Meat: Chicken breasts are a popular staple amongst most households and are also less processed and contain less saturated fat than other meats. Turkey is another excellent meat source. In terms of red meats, opt for lean cuts of meat and reduce-fat steak mince. Just remember not to eat them every day; recommended guidelines suggest no more than 3 portions of red meat per weeks. Many meats can be frozen to preserve them for up to 6 months.
- Fish: White fish is an excellent source of lean protein, e.g. whiting, cod, haddock. Oily fish, e.g. salmon, tuna, is also renowned for omega-3 nutritional properties and lowering triglyceride levels and blood pressure. Like meat, fish can also be frozen for up to 8 months.
- Eggs: These are such an all-rounder food (no pun intended). They can be cooked in a variety of ways (healthiest options include boiled, poached and scrambled), used in omelettes and of course in baking. Have you ever had eggs in your porridge? In terms of nutritional value, they’re an eggcellent (not sorry) source of protein and healthy fats as well.
- Yoghurt: Greek yoghurt is particularly high in protein (10g per 100g) and also has the added bonus of lower sugar compared to normal yoghurts. You’ll often see it used as an ingredient in baking, but can also be eaten on its own or paired with the likes of fruit and cereal.
- Cheese: While cheese may not always seem to be the healthiest food, there fortunately are healthy alternatives, such as quark and mozzarella, which are lower in calories and saturated fat than the conventional cheeses, e.g. cheddar. Depending on the type of cheese you buy, it can be used in numerous dishes, from topping your spaghetti bolognese to a filling in the humble sandwich.
- Avocado: Up until recently, avocado wasn’t really a food that many people knew of or used. Fun fact – did you know avocado is a fruit? One of the accolades associated with avocados is the level of monounsaturated fats present, which are considered the healthy fats. As many of us often neglect to include healthy fat in our diet, this fruit is now playing a paramount role in ensuring we’re obtaining enough of this essential macronutrient. They typically last anywhere from 3-10 days. Store them in the fridge to extend their shelf life!
Here’s a no nonsense guide to help you differentiate between healthy and unhealthy fats: Is fat really bad for you?
- Bread: Often one of the first foods to fly off the shelves during panic-buying periods, we simply feel a sense of destitution if there’s little to no bread in the house! Whole-grain bread is considered the healthier alternative when compared with white bread, which is higher in refined carbohydrates and has less fiber. Don’t forget that most bread can be frozen, which can preserve it for months! There are also certain breads that have a longer expiration date, e.g. unopened tortilla wraps or breads that are vacuum-packed often can last weeks, if not months longer.
- Fruit: A healthy grocery list wouldn’t be complete without including at least one of your 5 a day! In terms of fruit, it could nearly be categorised into ‘short shelf life’ and ‘short-short shelf life’. Depending on whether you have to ripen them at home or not, some fruits can last a couple of weeks, e.g. apples, pears, bananas. In contrast, it sometimes feels as if some berries are nearly decomposed by the time you bring them home from the shop. Fortunately, berries are available frozen, and are often cheaper and have a greater nutritional value than fresh berries, whose nutritional value can deplete while on the shelf.
Here are some tips to choosing the best carbohydrates: Are you fuelling your body properly? The ultimate guide to carbohydrates
Long shelf life
- Tinned fish: In terms of convenient protein, it doesn’t get much better than tinned fish. It’s easy and compact to store, often has a shelf life of a year or more and is generally ready to eat. All that being said, it’s recommended to eat tinned fish, e.g. tuna, no more than twice a week due to the high mercury content present.
- Protein powder: This is considered another convenient and lean source of protein. Many protein powders often have a shelf life of up to 2 years! Not only is it extremely convenient, it’s also very versatile and can be used in shakes, smoothies, porridge (proats), pancakes, mixed with greek yoghurt, and even in baking! They also come in a wide range of flavours to avoid any risk of you getting bored of the taste.
- Butter: Another functional food staple is butter, spread it on bread or use it to grease baking trays or frying pans. Just steer clear of ones which contain hydrogenated oils. There is a divide amongst households regarding whether butter should be stored at room temperature or in the fridge. At room temperature, it will last approximately 2 weeks. In the fridge, butter can last months when opened, and even past the best before date in some cases. Furthermore, did you know that butter can be frozen for up to 9 months?
- Oil: Most recipes involving heat, be it baking or cooking, will generally warrant some form of oil. Typical examples include olive oil, and low-cal spray oils are also increasingly popular amongst those following a clean-eating lifestyle and those looking to lose weight. It’s generally recommended to avoid hydrogenated oils, such as vegetable oil, which are high in trans fats.
- Pasta and rice: Let’s face it, we are a nation that love pasta and rice. Not only is it so versatile to use, it’s also so easy to cook, with little to no preparation or any of that peeling nonsense. Opt for whole-wheat where possible as it is higher in complex carbohydrates, protein and fiber when compared with white pasta/rice, which are higher in refined carbohydrates.
- Oats: If you haven’t joined the army of people eating overnight oats or porridge bread, you are truly missing out. Oats are considered a leader in terms of heath benefits, and their nutritional value is second to none. I challenge you to find another cereal that is as low in sugar and high in fiber as porridge! There are countless variations of porridge you can make nowadays, my personal favourite currently being proats (protein powder and oats), not to mention how filling it is; it also has a long shelf life to top things off! So, come and join the porridge parade and buy yourself a packet of oats!
- Frozen vegetables: With a life of approximately 8-10 months, frozen vegetables can really be a staple that you should keep stock of at all times. Not only do they take much less preparation compared to fresh vegetables, they often preserve the nutrients much better as well.
- Canned foods: While canned foods are often highly processed, there are some foods that are less-processed and serve as a fundamental ingredient in some nutritious meals. Tinned tomatoes are often a staple in many tomato-based meals. Coconut milk is often a base in curries. Beans and peas often serve a convenient purpose, whether you’re looking for beans on toast or kidney beans for a chilli con carne. Just look for ones with low fat and low salt. Here’s a simple guide to avoiding unhealthy processed foods foods: Is processed food healthy and what are the best processed foods to eat?
Not many meals or baked goods can be produced without some seasoning staples listed below. Believe me, investing in a spice rack and a herb rack is something that really opens up a world of opportunities to cook a wide range of meals that you previously would have shunned.
- Fresh garlic
- Spices: cinnamon, paprika, chilli powder, cumin, curry powder, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, turmeric
- Herbs: mixed herbs, parsley, oregano, basil, thyme, mint, sage, bay leaves
Condiments and sauces
While not always the healthiest option, a life without sauces would be a bland one. Fortunately, you can buy almost all off the below in reduced salt/sugar/fat versions.
- Tomato paste
- Soy sauce
So there you have it, your ultimate grocery list for meal planning. While you don’t have to go and purchase all of these items, there are certainly some basic ingredients listed above that will feature in many of your meals. Additionally, many of these ingredients can facilitate quick and healthy meals, so that you’re not left tempted to eat takeaway or caught short when in a rush. Just pick an ingredient from the protein, fat and carbohydrate sections and you’ve got a nutritionally-balanced meal!
Are there any foods you swear by having in your kitchen? Have you invested in a spice or herb rack and do you find yourself constantly reaching for items on it? Please leave your thoughts below.
Eatbydate.com. 2020. Butter – How Long Does Butter Last? Shelf Life, Storage, Exp. [online] Available at: http://www.eatbydate.com/dairy/spreads/butter-shelf-life-expiration-date/ [Accessed 9 May 2020].
Hosie, R., 2018. All The Foods You Can And Can’t Put In The Freezer, And How Long You Can Keep Them There. [online] The Independent. Available at: https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/freezing-food-freezer-defrosting-how-long-which-foods-cooking-a8530971.html [Accessed 9 May 2020].
The Modern Proper. 2020. The Ultimate Stock-Up Grocery List & Meal Plan | The Modern Proper. [online] Available at: https://themodernproper.com/the-ultimate-stock-up-grocery-list-meal-plan [Accessed 9 May 2020].