Building a Healthy Pantry You Can Rely On

By Milette Siler, RD, LD

According to a recent United Way poll, about ⅓ of Americans say they don’t feel confident when making their grocery shopping decisions. During times of crisis, this uncertainty is proven when grocery store shelves are picked clean by shoppers uncertain about their needs and unsure when their next grocery store trip can be accomplished. Historically, 60 to 80% of the food purchased during these times of high stress is unfortunately thrown in the trash.

One way to address this issue is by building up a small stock of food to use as a resource. Putting together a collection of inexpensive, nutritious staples to stock your pantry has many benefits (and not just during a crisis). A food storage at home can help you: 

  • Save time. Shoppers who have a food storage spend 30 to 45% less time grocery shopping than those who don’t.
  • Save money. A well-stocked pantry will not only save you time, it will save you money, too. Building this pantry on your time, when you can shop sales and get the products you know you will use, will cut down on food (and money) waste.
  • Eat better. Many studies demonstrate that when we make our own meals at home, we consume more fiber and eat fewer calories than we would otherwise. Having pantry basics reduces the likelihood of utilizing convenience or drive-thru food.

Start Small

Not sure where to begin? Start small. Work with the space and resources you have, and build at your own pace. Start with simply building a back-up supply of some ingredients that you and your family use most frequently.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Canned beans – Beans are a versatile, economic addition to many meals. Adding a can of pinto beans to your cooked ground beef on taco night not only adds more fiber, folate, and protein, it also drops the cost by 20%.
  • Vinegars – The tangy, acidic quality of vinegar is a key component of marinades, sauces, and dressings.
  • Oats – Long lasting, inexpensive, and very nutritious, oats should be a building block of every healthy pantry. They can be used in so many ways beyond morning cereal.
  • Grains, dried lentils, rice, and pastas – Including quality carbohydrates in your meals helps stabilize blood sugar, decreases risk of colon and other cancers, and promotes a healthy gut microbiome. Look for whole grain, minimally processed varieties.
  • Canned tomatoes – Tomatoes are a rich source of lycopene, which is great for heart health and cancer risk reduction. They are also necessary for many sauces, soups, and pasta dishes. Look for no-salt added options when possible.
  • Canned tuna – Canned tuna, salmon, sardines, and/or anchovies are an economical way to help us get closer to that ideal of two servings of fish per week for maximum benefit.
  • Peanut butter – Peanut and other nut butters are an excellent, shelf-stable complete protein that is great by itself or as a major flavor player in baked goods, dips, and sauces. Look for “natural” peanut butter that contains three ingredients or less.
  • Applesauce – Unsweetened applesauce is not only a great snack but also works as an oil substitute in most baking recipes.

Resources

  • Town Talk Grocery is a deep discount, grocery chain with locations in Fort Worth and Arlington.
  • The SuperCook app lets you enter the ingredients you have and provides recipes to fit.
  • Read more about building a food storage on a budget with limited space.
  • If you or a loved one needs extra assistance, our community partners at the Tarrant Area Food Bank can help.