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Stocking Up on Food Staples for Easy Meal Planning

By YWCA Minneapolis Registered Dietitians
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November 5, 2020

Getting to the grocery store on a regular basis can sometimes be challenging. The fall season brings with it not only the same difficulties we have been experiencing all year, but also the new circumstances that come with colder weather, a new school year and possible work changes. All these things can potentially get in the way of you reaching your health and wellness goals. Stocking your pantry or cupboards with items that help you create quick and nutritious meals can go a long way to keep you on track!

Check out these examples of nutritious foods to keep on hand, plus some considerations while shopping for them.

a pile of food for pantry

Foods to Stock Up

  • Canned vegetables (ex. beans, artichoke, mushroom, tomatoes, etc.) Look at nutrition labels to find those with no sodium added or reduced sodium.
  • Dried or canned beans and lentils. Look for no added sodium or low sodium. Rinse and drain canned beans/lentils before using.
  • Dried fruits (ex. bananas, raisins, craisins, mango, etc.) Look for packages with no added sugars.
  • Nuts and seeds (peanuts, almonds, chia, walnuts, etc.) Look for unsalted and unsweetened options.
  • Pre-made trail mix (with limited added sugars) or even make your own.
  • Nut and seed butters. Look for no added sugars or added oils.
  • Rolled or steel cut oats
  • Whole grains (quinoa, brown rice, wild rice, barley, whole wheat pasta, whole grain bread, etc.) Available as pre-cooked options that just need to be heated.
  • Canned tuna (packed in water)
  • Low sodium or unsalted broth or stock
  • Spices and dried herbs (cinnamon, basil, paprika, cumin, etc.)

Frozen foods can also be helpful for quick and healthy options, but limit those with added sauces:

  • Frozen fruits and vegetables
  • Frozen brown rice and vegetable mixes
  • Frozen proteins (available either pre-cooked or uncooked)

Example Pantry Recipe Ideas

Chicken, brown rice and vegetable stew:

  • Can use a rotisserie chicken from the store or frozen chicken
  • Brown rice and stock
  • Use canned, frozen or fresh vegetables

Overnight oats with nuts and fruits:

  • Rolled or steel-cut oats
  • Top with nuts or nut butter
  • Use dried, frozen or fresh fruits
  • Add toppings to your flavor preference such as cinnamon
  • Include milk of your choice

Begin a Meal Prep and Planning Routine

To begin meal planning with these items, start by making a list of what you already have. Then you can begin building meals around those items by brainstorming ideas that include those ingredients. Don’t be afraid to explore new meal ideas to shake things up. Consider meals that could be made on a larger scale, and freeze extras for additional quick meals later. Schedule your meal prep and when you will be serving each meal. Keep a running grocery list of things you need and any staple items as you run out of them; this way you always walk into the grocery store with a plan.

For inspiration about one staple food (black beans), check out our recent Food Focus video.

Learn More about YWCA Nutrition Coaching