Healthy Pantry – Healthy Family

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Oats, yogurt, fruit in glass canning jarsOver the course of the last week, my family and I along with the rest of the world have made the transition to “stay at home” and practice social distancing in an effort to help slow the spread of COVID-19. My two teenagers have quickly adjusted to receiving their high school education via the internet and I am trying to keep up by moving my focus from face to face programming to digital programming via our N.C. Cooperative Extension of Haywood County website, social media, email, and, coming soon, some educational videos and live webinars.

One challenge that I have already faced is making sure I have healthy meals and snacks available at home so that we can make healthy choices while spending more time at home. It is easy and tempting to stock up on and eat unhealthy foods especially during stressful times. Stocking our pantries and the frig with healthy options is a great way to focus on our health as well as our finances by making choices that give us a lot of nutritional bang for our buck. As most of us are spending more time at home over the next few weeks this will be a great opportunity to get into the kitchen cook your own food!

Before making the grocery list make a list of the things your family likes to eat. Keep a master list taped inside a kitchen cabinet and if you try a new recipe that your family likes add it to the list. Use this list to help you as you plan for each week. In addition to planning and shopping for the week it is a good idea to keep staple items on hand. This can be helpful for putting a meal together when you have not had a chance to stop at the grocery store as well as making planning and shopping less of a chore. Following are some suggestions for stocking your healthy pantry:

Dry and canned foods offer reliable meal opportunities as they are shelf stable and come in many healthy options.

  • Pasta
  • Rice and other whole grains
  • Oatmeal
  • Popcorn
  • Spaghetti sauce
  • Canned fruit – in water, juice or light syrup
  • Canned vegetables
  • Canned beans
  • Canned tuna or salmon packed in water
  • Canned chicken
  • Soup
  • Nuts and raisins

Freezer Foods also offer many healthy options as well as take away the pressure to use something before it spoils. I also like to take advantage of sales to stock up on family favorites that I know will be used over a period of two-three months.

  • Chicken
  • Ground beef
  • Lean pork loin
  • Whole-grain bread
  • Fruit – without sugar
  • Vegetables – without sauce

Refrigerator Foods will need to be monitored and used before spoiling so only purchase amounts that you know your family will consume in a reasonable amount of time and plan menus to use up those items. Wash and cut up vegetables for easy/healthy snacks.

  • Bag salad
  • Fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Milk
  • Yogurt
  • Eggs
  • Cheese

Condiments and Spices will vary depending on what your family enjoys but having the basics on hand will add to the ease of cooking your own food.

  • Vinegar – balsamic, cider, red wine, white wine, rice, etc.
  • Vegetable oil (Canola)
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Spices & herbs- choose several of your favorites to keep on hand