Let’s face it: prepackaged and frozen foods are quick and convenient. But heavy reliance on these products diminishes the variety in your diet over time, so you end up not eating as healthy as you could be. With your busy schedule full of time commitments and deadlines, trying to cook at home yourself can seem daunting. Keeping a cache of simple ingredients in your fridge and pantry allows you to make fast, delicious meals and reduce your dependence on overly processed goods. Try some of these suggestions to get your kitchen ready for anything.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil: a Powerhouse for Cooking
It’s not just a flavorful oil prized by famous top chefs. Extra virgin olive oil is also one of the most heart-smart cooking fats you can buy. As a large staple in Mediterranean diets, it’s high in monounsaturated fats and contains valuable antioxidants. According to RealSimple.com, choose oil in packed dark glass bottles to shield against excessive light exposure, which destroys the flavor. When you get home, store it in a cool, dark place. Finally, remember that it has a shelf life between 18 and 24 months, so only buy what you know you’ll use.
Dry Grains: Easy Meal-Makers
Whole, dry grains are nutrient-rich and tasty, so they’re a fabulous alternative to processed simple carbs. Some wonderful choices include brown rice and quinoa, both of which add body and taste to one-pot meals and make you feel full, cutting down on the chances that you’ll nosh again later. Whole-wheat couscous is light and airy, and pairs well with other ingredients for a lovely side dish or to star as the main course. Finally, freekeh could easily be a new superfood: Rodale’s Organic Life reports that this Middle-Eastern grain has four times the fiber of brown rice and is loaded with selenium.
Beat Mealtime Boredom With Beans
Dried or canned, these protein-packed legumes open up a lot of possibilities for appetizing dinners that are simple to prepare. From soups and chili, to beans and rice, salads and other items, they make it easier to skip meat entirely and make meals lower in cholesterol and fat. With so many varieties, it’s a wise choice to keep a few different kinds stocked in your pantry, ready for any quick dinners you throw together.
Bone Broth: a Nutritious Building Block
Making a delicious soup or stew takes hours of work, or sufficient pre-planning to dump it all in the crockpot before leaving the house. Thankfully, organic varieties of bone broth like Au Bon Broth are packed with minerals and antioxidants as well as being preservative-free, which means they’re ideal to use as a soup base. Add your choice of ingredients and simmer for a warm, satisfying dish. Not to mention, they add a savory element in other items such as risotto, pilafs, gravies and sauces.
Eggs: Not Just for Breakfast Anymore
Having some eggs on hand in your refrigerator is a good idea. Boiled and sliced or diced, they make a perfect addition to salads. They also feature as one of the star ingredients in fried rice, and paired with Indian spices and vegetables, they’re excellent in curries. Don’t forget about the frittata, a customizable dish with an egg base that pairs well with many kinds of ingredients. And you can always do breakfast for dinner, with scrumptious offerings such as huevos rancheros.
Tomato Paste: Versatile and Rich in Flavor
Similar to broth, tomato paste serves as a base to many foods including soups, curries and sauces. Because it’s already low in calories and fat, it’s a delightful addition to your meals. Not only that, it takes on the characteristics of any herbs and spices you incorporate in your cooking, which means striving for a particular taste or balance of flavors is easy.
Breaking the habit of eating processed products is the best move you can make to eat healthier, but you need your kitchen to be ready so you don’t resort to ordering take away or hitting the fast food drive-thru. Armed with some essential ingredients, it’s easy to stock your fridge and pantry to whip up some fast, delicious meals. These and other elementary foods are within your reach, so whether you stock up at your local store or order online, you’ll never be at a loss for what to cook.