In general, we like to fantasize about grocery shopping as a leisurely task and imagine ourselves pursuing an open air famers’ market, the sun shining on our faces while we carefully select perfectly ripened fruit and veggies before gingerly placing them in our wicker baskets. This idyllic version of the grocery shopping chore is in distinct contrast to the reality of the supermarket! You basically play linebacker, pushing a metal shopping cart through tight grocery store aisles. You zigzag acrobatically across the store to get checked out and race home to the kitchen before your kids start begging, “What’s for dinner?”
Truth be told, sometimes we just don’t feel like going to the grocery store at all, and guess what? That’s okay. If you have a well-stocked pantry, you can survive for several days without stopping by the local grocer during those especially busy times. So plan ahead and next time you visit the grocery store, follow our sample grocery list guidelines for the perfectly stocked pantry.
Making Your Pantry Grocery List
When constructing your grocery list, think about foods in terms of the major food groups to dictate what you should buy for your pantry. With a little creativity, you can actually stock all five of the food groups in the USDA Food Pyramid! Laying out a grocery list in terms of food groups will make creating your list and shopping for the items much easier. And no matter what, you will have a fully balanced diet on hand for any emergency!
Bread, Cereal, Rice, and Pasta
While that loaf of fresh bread certainly isn’t a pantry item, all the things you need to make bread are perfect for keeping in the pantry. Flour, sugar, salt and yeast are all dry and store well. You will also need a little oil (see fats).
Make sure you always have a box of cereal or granola on hand. Cereal and grains are easily preserved in your pantry. Keep one or more of rice, quinoa, or polenta on hand for an interesting alternative to potatoes. Pasta also makes a great pantry item. When combined with bottled pasta sauce or canned tomatoes, it comprises an entire meal without requiring a special trip to the grocery store.
Fruits and Vegetables
Since fresh fruits and vegetables are definitely not going to last in your pantry, try to stay stocked with dried fruits and canned veggies.
Banana chips, dried blueberries, craisins, and dried apricots make delicious snacks. While dried fruits are chock-full of fiber, calorie and sugar contents are, logically, more concentrated than in fresh fruits. Additionally, phytonutrients are depleted in the drying process of fruits. To supplement your fruit serving, buy canned fruits, where nutrients are generally preserved. However, make sure to check the labels of all your canned fruits and veggies and opt for those that are low in sugar (fruits canned in their own juice rather than in sugary syrup) and sodium.
Canned beans, artichokes, asparagus, tomato sauces, and sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil also provide great additions to any dish for those times when you can’t make it to the grocery store. You can also get chili peppers or dried mushrooms to add a little kick to any dish, as well as concentrated soups (especially mushroom) that make a great lunch or provide the basis for casseroles, risottos, and sauces.
Milk, Yogurt, and Cheese
Dairy can be a difficult pantry group. However, you can stock a box of dried milk, a carton of long life milk (either cow, almond. or soy) or evaporated milk.
Meat, Poultry, Fish, Dried Beans, Eggs, and Nuts
Since proteins are most commonly found in perishable foods, like chicken or seafood, most pantries are bereft of this food group. However, you can get your daily dose of protein from the pantry by stocking up on canned chicken or Chicken of the Sea (Tuna)! Tuna also comes in vacuum sealed packages, which take up less space than cans.
Unsalted soy beans also have an astounding amount of protein with about 68 grams for every cup, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Dried chickpeas are yet another great source of protein and can be soaked and cooked up to make falafel or hummus.
Eggs are also available in both powdered form and long-life cartons (both whole egg and just egg whites). Other sources of protein include nuts, like almonds, cashews and walnuts. Almond butter (a healthier alternative to peanut butter) often does not require refrigeration and is a great pantry staple.
For pantry proteins that can be munched on the go, pick up one of the numerous protein bars or high protein snack bars available at the store, which are portable, organic, and delicious.
Fats, Oils, and Sweets
Always have a pantry with a healthy fat, most often found in oils that can be used for cooking, vinaigrettes, or dips. These healthy fats my include olive oil and canola oil. You will probably need limited amounts of oils, so check your pantry before purchasing another bottle of olive oil. Nuts and almond butter will also give you a dose of fat, along with a healthy serving of protein.
For the sweet tooth, try stocking some semisweet chocolate chips that can be used in baking, combined with granola to make trail mix, or melted over popcorn or nuts for a sweet treat.
Miscellaneous Pantry Essentials
After checking off all your major food groups, think outside of the box to make sure you have everything in your pantry to make a terrific meal. Spices are essential. Keep some of the basics handy, like garlic and onion powder, mixed Italian seasonings (which include oregano, thyme and rosemary) as well as a rub or chili powder. Try to buy your seasonings in the bulk aisle, where they are less expensive than the pre-packaged alternative. Extras like breadcrumbs are all great to cook with and can make a vast array of meals. You should also stock up on airtight containers so that you can store your pantry foods for months to years on end. After organizing your pantry, make sure to go through all of your pantry foods every three months or so to make sure nothing has expired.
Follow this sample grocery list with all the necessary food groups to assemble a picture perfect pantry. For those days when you simply don’t want to force your way through the crowded grocery store, you can always rely on a great pantry to help you make a nutritious, scrumptious, and piping hot dinner with ease.