Pantry Raid.

Several readers have emailed me asking what sorts of things we keep in our pantry, brands we buy, etc.  I’ve also gotten some questions about what we eat when we don’t have time to cook a big meal.  Hopefully this post will clear things up!

Having a well-stocked pantry is really important to me.  I’ve found that creating meals and thinking up creative ideas is much easier with the right stock on hand.  This cuts out a lot of extra trips to the store, and also ensures that I’ll be able to create healthy meals with short notice.   So as promised yesterday, here is a little photo tour of our kitchen, showing you exactly how I make it work…

First up – the pantry.  The very top shelf is designated for canned goods and product overflow.  At all times, I always try to keep a few staple items on hand – diced tomatoes, black beans, chickpeas, pumpkin, vegetable broth, and marinara sauce. 


The next shelf is my “dry goods” area, where I keep all of our grains, pasta, nuts, oatmeal, etc.  I mentioned the other day that I get all of our dry goods in the bulk are of Earth Fare.  When I bring these things home, I put them in assorted sized of tupperware in the pantry, so that I can see all the different grains and things I have when I glance inside.  I try to replace these as they are getting low, so that I never run out of things completely.  On any given day, we typically have: bulgur wheat, brown rice, white jasmine rice, steel cut oats, pearled barley, raisins, almonds, and lentils. 


I have this awesome wooden bowl that my mom gave me a few years ago, and I always keep it on our counter full of fresh fruit.  Having fresh fruit out on the counter makes me more willing to choose it for a snack since it is right in my face when I am hungry.  Even in months like February when fruit is mostly out of season, there is always something on sale each week at the grocery store.  I always keep apples and bananas in the house for snacks, as well as OATMEAL add-ins.


For my non-refrigerator friendly vegetables, I use an extra one of our drawers.  In this I always keep potatoes, squash, onions, and garlic.  It’s good to keep these things separated from fruit (smells can transfer!) and having them in a drawer frees up a lot of counter space.


Next stop – the freezer!  Even though I am in culinary school and I work with fresh fruits and veggies all day long, fresh and affordable produce is a rare commodity here in Charlotte, especially in the winter.  Not to mention, between holding down a job, doing full time classes, and training for a marathon – any chance I can get to cut down on kitchen prep time, I will take!  So we rely a LOT on frozen vegetables at our house.  I mentioned this before, but frozen veggies have come a long way – it’s not all just crinkled carrots and pea mixtures anymore.  Trader Joe’s even sells frozen avocado halves!  I probably have about 30 different bags of frozen vegetables right now – seriously. 

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We also always have a boatload of frozen fruit – good for adding to cereal, oatmeal, and smoothies.  Sometimes these can be expensive, but if you shop around you can find them on sale, and find some cheaper options.  TJ’s has a good assortment of funkier stuff like frozen mango and dark bing cherries, my favorite.


This may or may not be an entire shelf dedicated to leftover wedding cake.  We had one ENTIRE cake left over that I refuse to throw away.  For the first few months we were married, I demanded that we eat a little bit of cake on every one month anniversary – why wait a year, right?  It’s a chocolate opera cream cake too…


This is what we call the “I don’t have time to make dinner tonight” shelf – loads and loads of veggie burgers of every shape, flavor, and size.  My absolute favorites ever are the TJ’s Vegetable Masala burgers.  Someone emailed me recently asking if I ever eat frozen veggie burger type stuff.  Since I’m not a daily meal blogger, I tend to only show you guys the creative and interesting foods we cook up.  But maybe I should show you more of the in between meals, so that you can see what our overall diet is like, not just the homemade stuff…


In the refrigerator, I always have my beloved Almond Breeze in stock, as well as this awesome new whole grain drink from (sense a pattern here?) Trader Joe’s.  We go through this stuff like it’s water…


And that’s about it!  Like I said, we really tend to base everything off fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, and a few other key things.  The variety and creativity comes from things like oils, vinegars, herbs, and spices.

I’m still probably not going to show you every meal I eat, because that’s just not the kind of blog this is.  But I can see that it’s important to also show you that it’s possible to be healthy even if you don’t always have time to cook up a gourmet feast.  Take tonight, for example.  I got home late, had a billion things to do plus a 3.5 mile run, and Casey had his night class and wouldn’t be home until 8:30pm for dinner.  So at 8:00pm, I sliced some potatoes and popped them into the oven and then hit the treadmill.

Thirty minutes later, my run was finished,Casey got home, and these were waiting for us in the oven…


Along with quickly heated vegetable masala burgers on sandwich thins…


A side of the world’s greatest condiment…


And an easy thrown together salad for some green.  When I was little, my mom taught me that every meal must have something green, and now it’s ingrained in my head as an adult…


No one has time to dish up a gourmet creation every night of the week, but with the right stock in your kitchen, it’s less tempting to grab fast food or the equivalent.  Having a few key items makes it fast and easy to throw together something delicious and nutritious! 

Off to another day of Stocks, Soups, and Sauces.  Today’s menu – French Onion Soup!