The Best Staple Food Items to Keep In Your Kitchen At All Times

Keep your fridge and pantry full with this list of shelf-stable food items that dietitians always have at home.

Whenever a big weather event is coming (say, a storm), it seems like everyone flocks to the nearest grocery store to grab the same items from the shelves: milk, bread, meats, and frozen foods. In a time of panic, it's easy to grab whatever you think you might eat, leading to a widespread disappearance of items from supermarket shelves.

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., a registered dietitian nutritionist 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 — it doesn't matter if you use them now or two months from now," she notes.

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:

10 Staple Food Items to Always Have On-Hand

Frozen Produce

It's a good idea to always have frozen fruit in your freezer, suggests Taub-Dix. "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," explains Taub-Dix. She usually picks strawberries for their taste and vitamin C content, but you can use any berry in dishes such as smoothies, cereal, overnight oats, or on their own as a snack.

Another frozen produce go-to is 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 such as pasta. Buy frozen veggies and fruit served in a bag rather than a block, so you can easily close it back up for safe storing, suggests Taub-Dix.

Canned Beans

If you're looking for filling fiber, vitamins (such as energizing B vitamins), minerals, and protein all in one food, then beans are your answer. "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 such as soups, salads, burritos, or tacos, or simply have them on their own with some herbs, spices, and cheese.

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.

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 into foods such as soups, stews, muffins, or smoothies, says Taub-Dix.

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 butter flavor, whether it's peanut, almond, cashew, or a mix. And always check the ingredient list before you buy to make sure it names the nut and not a long list of other additives such as sugar.

Canned Salmon

You might think of tuna as a go-to for protein, but salmon is lower in mercury and safe for most people to consume daily, says Moreno. Plus, it's high in omega-3 fatty acids, which protect your brain and heart health.


You can technically keep eggs for three weeks past the printed date, says Moreno. That makes them a great, long-lasting source of protein and choline, a nutrient that acts like B vitamins to protect your heart, brain, and metabolism. You can eat eggs for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, pairing them with veggies and a starch such as potatoes, suggests Moreno.


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., an intuitive eating counselor and body image specialist. "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.


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 them with nut butter. (Alternatively, you could use some to make these cinnamon apple cookies.) Store leftover apples in the fridge, as cold ones can last up to two months.


This flavorful 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.) If you aren't already, try crushing it and adding it to pasta, fish, meat, or veggies, suggests Modell. Aim to store garlic in a cool, dark place (no need to refrigerate) so it lasts for up to six months.

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