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When I was in college, my pantry was limited to one shelf in the tiny kitchen I shared with 4 friends. My graduation dream was to afford a bigger kitchen with a real pantry.

Graduation came, Graduation left. I still lived in a tiny apartment with a tiny kitchen and a TINY pantry (a kitchen cupboard instead of just a shelf).

I got my first real job, and eventually my first house. I still had a tiny kitchen and a tiny pantry. I discovered that hallway linen closets work well for storing canned tomatoes, beans, and (of course) jars of peanut butter. My dream of a real pantry didn't happen until I was many years out of college.

Why the obsession with having a pantry?

3 reasons I prioritize having a well-stocked pantry:

#1 It saves money

  • Peanut butter is usually $1.50 a jar

  • I buy 10 jars when it's on sale for $1. This saves $5 in the long run

#2 It makes eating at home more convenient than eating out

  • When the kids have activities late in the day, it's tempting to stop for Little Cesars

  • When I've got a well-stocked pantry, I know I can make something 'just-as-fast' but healthier at home (hello tuna sandwiches and canned peaches)

  • I always feel better when I eat at home, even if we're just having quesadillas

#3 It saves time

  • Having a well-stocked pantry saves trips to the store

  • Buying a lot of something I frequently use saves time each time I go to the store

Who doesn't want to save time, money and eat healthier?

So what do I keep in my pantry?

Dietitian's favorite fifteen pantry staples (and recipes for using them)

  1. Canned Beans

  2. Dry Oatmeal

  3. Peanut Butter

  4. Tuna

  5. Pasta

  6. Low Salt Triscuits

  7. No Added Salt Canned Tomatoes

  8. Canned Chicken

  9. Canned Fruit (in fruit juice)

  10. No Added Salt Canned Vegetables

  11. Canned Pumpkin

  12. Flour + baking powder

  13. Coconut Milk

  14. Canola Oil

  15. Lentils and Rice (last because they aren't fast)

#1 Canned beans

NUTRITION in 1/2 cup

  • 8g fiber (kids need 19g/day)

  • 7g protein (kids need 13g/day)

  • high in iron and minerals!

  • choose NO ADDED SALT cans for 0mg sodium, regular canned beans have 400mg per serving, which is 1/4 of your total daily salt intake


  • on the side of cheese quesadillas, cold - straight from the can

  • on top of a bagged green salad (kidney beans are our favorite)

  • mix a can of corn with a can of black beans and eat in a tortilla

  • burrito bowls

  • hummus on a tortilla or with triscuits

  • 5 minute greek salad w/pita bread

#2 Oatmeal

NUTRITION in 1/2 cup dry oats

  • 4g fiber (kids need 19g/day)

  • 5g protein (kids need 13g/day)

  • iron, zinc, B-vitamins for energy!

  • Images are from walmart, I just buy whatever brand is least expensive!


#3 Peanut Butter

NUTRITION in 2 Tablespoons

  • 2g fiber (kids need 19g/day, adults need 25-30g/day)

  • 7g protein (kids need 13g/day, adults need about 50-60g/day)

  • 8g healthy fat (monounsaturated fat is good for your heart)

  • vitamin E, minerals like iron

  • This image is from Smiths. I just buy from whatever store has the best price.


#4 Canned Tuna

Photo from Notice how tuna costs less per ounce when purchased in bulk.

NUTRITION in 1/2 of a 5oz

  • 6g protein (kids need 13g/day)

  • omega-3 fats for a baby's growth!

  • buy LIGHT TUNA, not albacore. Light is lower in mercury (which is bad for a growing infant's brain).


  • tuna salad on crackers (99% of my tuna gets eaten this way)

  • tuna sandwich, with cheese cooked on a frying pan (our Sunday afternoon lunch)

  • more ideas:

#5 Whole Wheat Pasta

NUTRITION in 1 cup cooked

  • 5g fiber (kids need 19g/day)

  • 7g protein (kids need 13g/day)

  • Don't like whole wheat? Regular pasta still has 2 grams of fiber.


#6 Triscuit "hint of sea salt" crackers

NUTRITION in 6 crackers

  • 3g fiber (kids need 19g/day, adults need 25-30g/day)

  • 3g protein (kids need 13g/day, adults need about 50-60g/day)

  • good source of iron and B-vitamins

  • healthy tip: "hint of sea salt" flavor has only 50 mg sodium. Store brand and "Original" have 150mg sodium. For reference, kids need less than 1,000mg day.

  • 5 minute recipes

  • hummus

  • cottage cheese and crackers

  • tuna and crackers

  • cheese and crackers

#7 Canned Tomatoes

NUTRITION in 1/4 cup

  • 1 g fiber and 1 g protein

  • Hundreds of phytochemicals and vitamins to protect against diseases!

  • Lycopene is the major nutrient in tomatoes, it prevents against cancer.

  • buy NO ADDED SALT canned tomatoes

RECIPES (about 45 minutes)

#8 Canned Chicken

NUTRITION in 1/3 of a 10oz can (about 2.5 oz)

  • 6g protein (kids need 13g/day, adults need about 50-60g/day)

  • B-vitamins

  • I use more tuna than chicken. Tuna is more nutritious. It has more iron and omega-3 than chicken with the same amount of protein. Tuna is also half the cost of canned chicken.


#9 Canned Peaches, Pears and Pineapple


Canned fruit has similar nutrient content of fresh fruit. Canned peaches might have more vitamin C than fresh! Canned fruit is a great way to serve fruit at every meal without having to keep fresh fruit on hand all the time!

Buy canned fruit in 100% fruit juice to avoid extra sugar intake

Added sugar per 1/2 cup serving:

fruit in 100% juice = 0g

fruit in heavy syrup = 12g

fruit in light syrup = 7g

The limit for kids is 25g per DAY


Serve canned fruit on the side of peanut butter sandwiches, quesadillas or any quick meal for added vitamin intake and about 1 gram of fiber per 1/2 cup. Every meal should include fruit.

#10 Canned Corn, Green Beans, Beets and Artichokes


  • Research shows canned vegetables retain a lot of vitamins and minerals. Canned veggies are the easiest way to add a veggies to a meal: no washing, chopping or cooking required!

  • Buy canned veggies with NO ADDED SALT to avoid extra salt intake


  • anytime a meal is missing a vegetable, I'll simply open a can of corn or green beans, warm it up in the microwave and serve it

  • Some kids really love canned green beans, especially with spagetti

  • serve canned corn with a quesadilla for additional fiber and vitamins

  • serve canned olives with lunch or add to a pasta salad

  • add canned corn to a salad mix, add canned artichokes to a salad or pasta

#11 Canned Pumpkin

NUTRITION in 1/2 cup

  • 3 grams fiber

  • 100% of the day's vitamin A (important for eye health)


#12 Whole Wheat Flour + baking powder, soda, salt and sugar

NUTRITION in 1/4 cup

  • 4g protein (kids need 13g/day, adults need about 50-60g/day)

  • 3g fiber (kids need 19g/day, adults need 25-30g/day)

  • 1 mg of iron (for brain development)

  • B-vitamins for energy and growth



#13 Coconut Milk

NUTRITION in 1/3 cup

Mostly just 5 grams of fat (no fiber, no protein, no sugar or carbs, minimal vitamin/mineral content)

Why do I keep it on hand? It makes curry taste SO GOOD! And curry is a fast and easy way to eat vegetables and beans. In addition to making food taste good, fat is important for absorbing the fat soluble vitamins and keeping you full longer. The fat in coconut milk is saturated. Research is still pending on whether the type of saturated fat in coconut milk is good for you. Because it's unprocessed food from a plant, I think it's probably healthier for you than using butter or hydrogenated fats.

RECIPE: 30 minute curry

#14 Canola Oil (or olive oil)

NUTRITION in 1 Tablespoon

  • 14 grams of fat

  • 40% of a child's vitamin E needs for the day

  • omega-3 fatty acids which are good for brain development

  • Why do I keep it on hand? Fat makes food taste good and helps with absorption.

  • Canola oil is full of healthy fats, very similar to olive oil

  • Canola oil is usually 1/5 the cost of olive oil


#15 Dry Lentils + Dry Rice

I put these last because they aren't "fast." Brown rice and lentils take about 45 minutes to cook. However, I keep them both in my pantry and use them regularly.

Lentils and Rice are packed with fiber, vitamins and minerals. They are some of the healthiest and least expensive foods on the planet.


Do you keep any of these things in your pantry? When you keep ingredients to make quick and healthy meals in your house, you'll eat quick and healthy meals.

Don't have a pantry? Don't let that stop you. Find a place to store extra food, whether that's in a cupboard or in the hall linen closet. It's good for your wallet, your sanity and your health!

I hope you learned something new! Leave a comment or send an email to let me know what you keep in your pantry:

Want to learn how to cook foods from your pantry? Ask your Family Advocate about the next cooking class!

Grocery stores must sell a lot of food dye in March. Our elementary school died eggs green for Dr. Seuss on March 2, and I’m sure they plan to dye the milk green for St Patrick's day. To celebrate the holiday, some parents set out green frosted pastries for breakfast along with chocolate gold coins.

Sometimes my kids probably wish I wasn’t a dietitian.

There aren’t piles of gold coins or green frosted cupcakes at our house. On St. Patrick's day, we celebrate with GREEN FRUITS AND VEGETABLES! There are so many yummy and naturally green foods! (my kids will thank me later....maybe....when they are adults).

Image by Vanessa Loring

Here’s a few healthy ways to celebrate everything GREEN:

Breakfast: Green smoothies, especially the peanut butter-spinach-banana one: (I know peanut butter + spinach sounds gross, and this photo is not the best....but everyone who tastes this smoothie asks for more!) If you like peanut butter, you’ll love this smoothie!

If your kids haven't tried green smoothies yet, this is a perfect opportunity to start!

Lunch: Green pesto noodles + steamed broccoli + green grapes


1. boil noodles,

2. top with jarred pesto sauce

3. top with microwaved broccoli (this kind cooks in the microwave)

4. Enjoy your easy meal- it’s easier than mac and cheese!

Tip: Costco pesto is the yummiest. The nearest Costco is 150 miles away from my house, so I just buy whatever they have a Walmart, it's not as good, but my kids still devour it.

Have fresh basil? Homemade pesto is 100 times better than the jar stuff. Here's a recipe (I always use almonds, they are cheaper than pine nuts)

Remember to chop grapes safely for kids younger than 3!

image credit: Augustinus Martinuz Noppe

Snack: Green muffins + sliced kiwis + pistachio nuts OR avocado shamrock toast (depends on the cost of avocado's this week)

Dinner: American/Irish meal: corned beef, potatoes, cabbage and Irish soda bread

image from click link for recipe

Dessert: Pistachio pudding from the package! Being a dietitian doesn't make me 100% boring. Just 80% boring. Unless you like GREEN FRUITS AND VEGETABLES! Then I'm 100% fun.

One thing is for certain: my kids are not afraid of green foods. They start out eating them as babies and we have them almost every meal. It's hard to be afraid of something you are exposed to 3 times a day!

I hope you have a happy, healthy fun holiday with your family!


The fridge was empty again. I spent 200$ at the grocery store just days earlier.

Where did all the food go?

Did we get robbed by hungry bandits in the night? Did the kids have a party I didn’t know about? Or did we just have a house full of growing kids? There were still things to eat in the pantry: noodles, canned beans, and that really good chocolate I keep hidden on the top shelf. But I wanted fresh produce to make a meal with.

Luckily I still had food in my freezer.

I had good healthy food in my freezer. Not frozen pizza and nuggets: fruits, vegetables, and meats! Enough to make balanced meals until my Friday grocery run. I strategically use my freezer as a “storage bin” for the foods we frequently eat. I buy in bulk when prices are good, and freeze the extra before it goes bad. My freezer helps me spend less money on keeping healthy food in the house.

Do you want to spend less on healthy food too? Here's a list of money-saving freezer friendly foods you might find helpful!

#1 Discounted Produce: Smiths has a discount bin with fruits/vegetables for $1.00 in red mesh bags (see lemons + peppers in photo below). The produce is sometimes old or bruised. It's fine to use right away, but if you can't use it right away, freeze it! Below is a list of my favorite clearance items to freeze for later (and a link for the recipes I use them in)

Lemons + limes:

  • how: Freeze whole and then microwave for 30 seconds when ready to use,

  • cost savings: 10/1$ on discount, normal price: $.75 each

  • recipe: peanut noodles, many recipes I find online often call for fresh lemon juice!


  • how: Chop then freeze in a ziploc bag for cooked recipes. Don't use frozen bell peppers in fresh salads - they won't be crunchy after you freeze them

  • cost savings: usually 3/1$ on discount, normal price: 1$ each

  • recipes: curry, chili, egg muffin cups



  • how: Place an entire bag or container in your freezer for about 3 months. If you have spinach going bad in your fridge, put it in the freezer for smoothies!

  • cost savings: Entire bags are sometimes on clearance for $1.00, normally a bag is $3.00. I often find the big bins for $2.50, they are about $6 regular price!

  • recipes: green smoothie, curry, crustless quiche (use spinach instead of broccoli), green muffins, spinach lasagna,

Squash and pumpkins:


  • how: Buy bags of frozen berries instead of fresh, defrost in the microwave

  • cost savings: 6oz fresh berries = 2.99 (.50cent/oz), 48oz frozen berries = 10.99 (.22 cent/oz). Fresh berries are DOUBLE the cost of frozen berries.

  • recipes: pancake topping instead of syrup, in oatmeal, inside crepes, defrost and serve on the side of dinner or lunch


  • how: Buy frozen bags of mangoes instead of fresh, defrost in microwave

  • cost savings: fresh = 1$/.5 cup, frozen = 1$/1 cup Prices vary, but usually frozen is more economical, and you don't have to bother with cutting them!

  • recipes: defrost and serve on the side of meals

Broccoli + Cauliflower

  • how: Buy frozen bags of broccoli and cauliflower, or if discounted, buy fresh and freeze in ziploc bags. This also works for brussel sprouts.

  • cost savings: fresh = 1.99/lb, frozen = 1.66/lb + you don't have to bother with chopping, and packages stay good in your freezer for about 3 months

  • recipes: broccoli cheese soup, peanut noodles, buddha bowls

Fresh Ginger

  • how: Buy fresh ginger and stick it in the freezer. It doesn't even need a bag on it.

  • cost savings: No savings, other than having it on hand so you don't have to run to the store when making the recipes below

  • recipes: peanut sauce, curry, buddha bowls

#2 Meat Dairy and Bread

  • Discounted meat: I don't eat a lot of meat. However, I know most people do! Meats are good past the expiration date if you put them in the freezer before they expire. I will buy discounted sausage and bacon that is about to expire and put it in my freezer for later (see bacon in photo above). It's still good if I use it within 1-2 months. I do make sure it hasn't already spoiled before I buy it!

  • Bulk meat: I like to keep bacon on hand to give flavor to recipes. It is much less expensive per ounce to buy bacon in bulk. The same is often true of chicken. When it's a good price, I will buy it in bulk and portion out extras into ziploc bags.

  • Butter: A few month ago my local smiths was discounting butter for $1.50 a pound. It's usually $4.00 per pound!! I bought 20 pounds and put them in my freezer. The checker thought I was crazy. But I know that butter stays good in the freezer for a year or two and saved myself at least $50 in butter costs!

  • Milk: Gallons of milk will often get marked down at my local Smiths. I will buy a few extra gallons and freeze them. Previously frozen milk does have a different texture, so I only use pre-frozen milk for cooking (pancakes, waffles, oatmeal). Other dairy products, like cream cheese, sour cream, yogurt and cottage cheese do not freeze well in my experience.

  • Cheese: Cheese prices change a lot! One week 2 pounds will be $5, the next week it will be $8. When the prices are low, I buy several bags and freeze it for later. I find that shredded cheese freezes nicely, bricks of cheese do not freeze as well.

#3 Bread

  • fancy bread: Stores often discount baguettes and "fancy" sourdough loaves for less than 1$. They stay good in the freezer for about a month. I toast frozen bread before eating it.

  • naan bread: I often serve stone fire naan bread with curry and hummus. I often see it on clearance for half price. It stores well in the freezer for about a month or two.

  • bread loaves: When sandwich bread is priced well, I will buy a few loaves and freeze them for french toast.

There's a list of foods I keep in my freezer to save money and eat healthy! I hope a few of these ideas will help you save money and eat healthier too!

Want more to try out a few recipes from the freezer on a live zoom call with me? Join us for Cooking Club March 28. We will be making green smoothies and banana cookies. Click this link to join us! It's free and fun, once you sign up, a zoom link and recipes will be emailed to you.

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