The Best Staple Foods to Keep In Your Kitchen At All Times
When the coronavirus outbreak hit the U.S., tons of memes hit the internet about the shortage of toilet paper (an item that's still confusingly MIA on store shelves). But then other items started disappearing, too, as people stocked up on staple foods like rice, bread, meats, and frozen foods. In a time of panic, it's easy to grab whatever you think you might eat.
An even better idea? Always keep your freezer and pantry filled with a few essential, non-perishable food items. That way, if you're stuck at home for any reason, you'll still have foods to fill you up and keep you energized.
Bonnie Taub-Dix, R.D.N., creator of BetterThanDieting.com and author of Read It Before You Eat It—Taking You from Label to Table, says she always has a stocked freezer, fridge, and cabinet, no matter what's going on in the world. "There are good foods to keep as staples," she says. "It doesn't matter if you use them now or two months from now." You don't want to go overboard by overstocking your shelves, but it's a good idea to keep this list of groceries in your pantry and fridge at all times.
1. Frozen Produce
Taub-Dix suggests always having frozen fruit in your freezer. "It's important to have foods with antioxidants and vitamins like vitamin C, especially during cold and flu season," she says. "Also, while people shy away from frozen or canned produce, they can actually be even healthier than fresh because it's picked at peak freshness." Taub-Dix usually picks strawberries for their taste and vitamin C content, but you can use any berry in dishes like smoothies, cereal, overnight oats, or on their own as a snack.
Another frozen produce go-to: corn. Try it in soups, casseroles, or other dinner dishes. Frozen broccoli and spinach also work well as a side dish at dinner or in a bowl meal like pasta. Taub-Dix suggests buying frozen veggies and fruit served in a bag rather than a block, so you can easily close it back up for safe storing. (Here are other healthy frozen foods you can feel good buying.)
2. Canned Beans
If you're looking for filling fiber, vitamins (like energizing B vitamins), minerals, and protein all in one food, then beans to the rescue. "Many Americans don't get enough of these nutrients and beans provide them," says Taub-Dix. Plus, they can last for years on your shelf. Use them in last-minute meals like soups, salads, burritos, or tacos, or simply have them on their own with some herbs, spices, and cheese. (You can also use beans as a secret healthy ingredient in desserts!)
You can also top them with Greek yogurt (a substitute for sour cream), to get an extra dose of protein, plus calcium, suggests Monica Auslander Moreno, R.D., founder of Essence Nutrition. And the best part is that beans of any kind are super cheap, so you don't have to worry about hurting your bank account when you buy in bulk.
3. Shelf-Stable Milk
Whether you prefer almond, hemp, coconut, or a mix of nuts, it's always a good idea to have some extra shelf-stable milk at home. Try to have some in your fridge and another box or two in the cabinet, so when you're ready to use it, you can pour it in foods like soups, stews, muffins, or smoothies, says Taub-Dix. (If you're weirded out by shelf-stable, non-refrigerated milk, here's exactly how milk can be shelf-stable and whether it's healthy or not.)
4. Nut Butters
"They help you feel full for longer, can be swirled into oatmeal—another smart grocery staple—and they're shelf-stable," says Taub-Dix. Choose your favorite nut flavor, whether it's peanut, almond, cashew butter or a mix. Check the ingredient list before you buy to make sure it names the nut, and not a long list of other items, like sugar. (More here: Everything to Know About Nut Butter and Its Different Varieties)
5. Canned Salmon
You might think of tuna as a go-to for protein, but Moreno says salmon is lower in mercury and safe for most people to consume daily. Plus, it's high in omega-3 fatty acids, which protect your brain and heart health. (Read everything you need to know about omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.)
You can technically keep eggs for three weeks past the printed date, says Moreno. That makes them a great lasting source of protein and choline, a nutrient that acts like B vitamins to protect your heart, brain, and metabolism. Moreno suggests eating eggs for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, pairing them with veggies and a starch, like potatoes.
Inexpensive, tasty, versatile, and packed with nutrients—these attributes make bananas a must-have on your counter or stored in your freezer, says Brittany Modell, R.D., founder of Brittany Modell Nutrition and Wellness. "They're a great source of potassium and complex carbohydrates," she says, suggesting you buy a bunch and freeze the extras so you can toss them into smoothies. You can also slice 'em and throw 'em on a whole grain waffle with peanut butter or add to oatmeal or cereal. And when they get super ripe, use bananas for these delicious, flourless banana cinnamon muffins.
Rich in filling fiber, you can eat apples all on their own for a satisfying snack or add them to meals, either baked, sautéed, or raw, says Modell. Try tossing a few slices in oatmeal or pairing with nut butter. Store leftover apples in the fridge, as cold ones can last up to two months.
This flavorful, low-calorie ingredient can last up to six months on your counter, says Modell. "Onions are part of the allium family, containing phytochemicals, which may improve immune health," she says. Add them to potatoes, eggs, soups, or casseroles.
You'll get vitamin C, B6, thiamin, potassium, phosphorus, copper, and magnesium in garlic—plus a ton of taste. (And those are just some of the health benefits of garlic.) Modell suggests crushing it and adding to pasta, fish, meat, or veggies. Aim to store garlic in a cool, dark place (no need to refrigerate) so it lasts for up to six months.