Stocked and Loaded: Organizing a Healthy Kitchen

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The saying goes, “While life may be created in the bedroom, it is certainly lived in the kitchen.”

Bfood fuels our bodies and minds, the kitchen is essential to our overall wellness, and our pantry and refrigerator are key in encouraging us to eat healthy. Having these two areas organized and stocked with nourishing food can make menu and meal preparation a snap.

Pantry Provisions
Whether you have a spacious walk-in or a few selected cabinets that serve the purpose, the pantry can lift a weeknight meal or an impromptu lunch to new heights.

Discard and Disinfect
The “skinny” on a plentiful pantry is to first get rid of the junk. Survey what is currently in the cupboards and purge any potential pitfalls. It’s fine to have one or two kid-friendly munchies on hand, but keep the pantry lean with fresh choices. Use this time to clean and organize as well. Get rid of any foods that have expired or won’t be eaten.

Stock Party
Now’s the time to fill our pantry with exciting options! Developing a healthy pantry doesn’t require a two-hour trip to the grocery store and a colossal food bill. By starting slowly in our pantry progression, we can educate ourselves about the food we’re buying. A well-stocked pantry typically has a few staples.

Can It!
One of the healthiest and easiest canned foods to keep in the pantry is the tomato. Chopped, sauced, diced or whole, tomatoes can help prevent certain cancers and provide bone-strengthening vitamin K. Other canned produce that offers more bang for your buck include green beans, corn, olives, peaches, pears, pineapple and mandarin oranges.

Go Nuts!
Noshing on nuts such as almonds, walnuts, pecans, pistachios and others can provide protein, fiber and good fats. Organic nut butters are great too; the only ingredients should be nuts and perhaps a little salt. If peanut butter is a potential pitfall, then don’t buy it or keep it out of eyesight. Better yet, try powdered peanut butter. Made from roasted peanuts, most of the fat is removed in the pressing process. Mix with water for a tasty treat or add to smoothies and baked items.

Bean Town
Keep your favorite beans on hand, either dry or canned. Black, kidney, garbanzo, cannellini and white beans pack a good amount of protein and are filling. Similarly, packs of tuna, salmon and sardines come in handy for a quick salad or sandwich.

Whole Grains and Pasta
Go whole or go home when it comes to bread and pasta. Check that the label says “whole” grain or wheat. Other pantry standards are brown rice, couscous, oatmeal, barley, quinoa and bulgur. Cereal is okay; aim to buy whole-grain and low-sugar varieties.

Flavor Faves!
Spike your taste buds with condiments! Stocking shelves with your favorite dried herbs and spices lets you change the taste and look of a dish. Keep extra virgin olive oil on hand, plus balsamic vinegar and reduced sodium chicken broth for soups and sauces.

Like the pantry, a clean refrigerator is more appealing to the eye and helps keep bacteria at bay. Empty the fridge and freezer contents and do a deep cleaning. Discard any food that has passed its expiration date and throw away any fruits and vegetables that have seen better days.

The Eyes Have It
When adding the food back in, think healthy food front and center! Fruits and vegetables can sometimes be stored in a basket on the counter, but for those that need to be housed in the fridge, make sure they are accessible and eye level. Clean and chop veggies and place in a clear bag or container so they are easy to find.

Bin It to Win It!
Stock up on clear bins to separate categories of food. They separate and organize and help you know when to add certain items to the grocery list.

Cutting the Price Tag
One of the most important reasons to keep a stocked fridge and pantry is to avoid buying expensive restaurant and take-out meals loaded with fat and calories. Other tips to help save money and time include buying in bulk when possible and shopping at discount stores for staples and/or unique food items; just check the expiration dates. Often, store brands are tastier than their national counterparts.

Prepare meals using less ingredients. Make “Meatless Monday” magnificent with just roasted veggies and brown rice.

Know what you like and don’t like. If you aren’t going to eat it, don’t buy it.

A well-stocked pantry and fridge are appealing and can inspire us to eat healthier. By using ours to our advantage, we keep our wellness and wallet in mind. With a clean sweep and the right staples, we can open the doors to making quick and tasty meals. ■

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