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What’s in Your Pantry?

Posted on: September 16th, 2013 by John

Creating a healthy home is often about a series of small choices we make every day. In the moment when our kids ask for snack food before dinner, do we say yes or no?  In the moment when deciding what to make for dinner, do we run out and grab some burgers or stay home and cook?  Small decisions made under pressure occur countless times a day.

PantryThe question, then, is how do we set ourselves up for making more healthy choices and fewer unhealthy ones in those moments?

Healthy decisions are either supported or thwarted by some pattern in our lives. Whether I decide to have family dinner or not is often dependent on how much mail I have piled on my kitchen table, or if I have any clean dishes, or very often on whether I have anything in my pantry to make a quick and healthy meal.

If it is 5:45 pm and I just got home from work and we have no plan for dinner, what I have on hand will make or break my evening plans. Will I go out and spend too much money eating unhealthy food and get home too late for a reasonable bedtime, or can I pull together something from what is on hand that nourishes my family, keeps us engaged with each other and saves some money? Can I set myself up for more healthy decisions and more family dinners by keeping enough food on hand to make a meal at home at any moment?


So here is my personal go-to list for a supportive pantry:

Garbonzo beans

Black beans


Rice – brown (when I have a little more time and white rice when I have no time at all)

Tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes

Can or box of tomato soup or any other kinds of soup


Tuna fish


Cheddar cheese – in the fridge



Red wine vinegar

Olive oil


Frozen peas

Frozen blueberries

Brewers yeast – this is my soup starter


And here are the handful of meals that I can make from what is on hand.

I can make anything on this list in 20-25 minutes and tide the kids over while they are waiting with some frozen peas, frozen blueberries, slices of cheese or almonds and apples.

Tuna melts

Black beans and rice

Quinoa and peas

Pasta with sauce

Mac and cheese and peas and tuna

Grilled cheese with pickles and olives and tomato soup

Hummus and carrots

Fried rice

Omelets with whatever is around


Making family dinner a reliable, sustainable and not-so-stressed part of my life is about a few well-placed structures.  It is the little shifts we make as parents that help us make more positive and healthy decisions and fewer of the not-so-healthy ones.  Stock up, keep a list of your go-to recipes, and tide the kids over with something healthy to eat while you cook.


Image via (no, it’s not John’s actual pantry)

This posted originally appeared on The Hilltown Families blog.