Take the stress out of meal planning by keeping your pantry stocked with these must-have healthy pantry staples. Plus get a FREE printable pantry staples list to bring to the grocery store.
Over many years of cooking for my family, I’ve found that the most important step to stress-free cooking is to keep my pantry stocked with healthy ingredients.
Having a pantry full of healthy foods like whole grains, nuts & seeds, beans, healthy oils and vinegars, packaged vegetables and fruits, and of course lots of spices makes meal planning easier and help me create nutritious meals for my family on-the-fly.
The Best Healthy Pantry Staples to Keep on Hand
Wondering how to stock a healthy pantry? Let’s dive in!
First of all, a few things you do NOT want in your pantry: processed foods, junky snacks, foods with lots of artificial ingredients and preservatives (be sure to avoid these 12 worst food additives).
Instead, stock up on real food ingredients that are minimally processed while still being shelf-stable. These ingredients are the basis for healthy meals and will keep you from resorting to take-out or fast-food as often as you might if you did not have good ingredients on hand.
Note: Choose organic foods whenever possible, but don’t stress out about it – real food (organic or not), is almost certainly going to be healthier than processed foods or fast food.
Here are the primary types of foods I recommend you stock in your pantry:
Grains, Pasta & Beans
Rice, quinoa and other grains provide a delicious base for a healthy meal. Brown rice is higher in fiber than white rice and provides slow-digesting carbohydrates that give you lasting energy throughout the day. Quinoa is an excellent gluten-free option that also contains more protein than most other grains – making it an ideal source of plant-based protein.
Dried and canned beans and lentils provide a great source of plant-based protein, fiber, B vitamins, magnesium and folate. They are also an economical way to add diverse flavors, textures and nutrition to dishes.
- brown rice
- oats (old fashioned or steel cut)
- whole grain pasta
- dried beans and lentils
- canned beans
Nuts, Seeds & Dried Fruits
Nuts and seeds are a great source of healthy fats and fiber to help keep you full. Nuts like almonds, walnuts, or cashews make great snacks and can be included in trail mixes, added to stir-fries and sprinkled on salads. Stock different seeds as well like flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, and chia seeds that are a great source of fiber, protein, omega-3 fatty acids and other nutrients. Dried fruits contain fiber and are a great source of antioxidants.
- nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans etc…)
- sunflower seeds
- pumpkin seeds
- flaxseed meal
- hemp hearts
- chia seeds
- dried coconut
- dried fruit (apricots, dates, prunes etc…)
Other Packaged Foods
Packaged foods that are minimally processed and come in cans, jars or pouches are an important part of a healthy pantry, and can be the backbone of a healthy meal. This includes foods like canned tomatoes, nut butters, chicken stock, canned meats, olives and more.
- canned tomatoes
- tomato paste
- organic pasta sauce
- stock or broth (chicken, vegetable etc…)
- nut/seed butters (peanut, almond, tahini)
- shelf-stable non-dairy milk
- coconut milk
- canned pumpkin
- canned tuna and salmon
Keeping a variety of baking supplies on hand makes it easy to whip up homemade versions of baked goods, instead of relying on packaged versions. Having a variety of both whole-grain and grain-free flours is helpful, as well as other additions like cocoa powder and real vanilla.
- whole grain flour
- grain-free flour (almond, coconut etc…)
- baking soda/baking powder
- cocoa powder
- real vanilla
- dark chocolate chips
Condiments add extra flavor to meals, but most store-bought versions are filled with unhealthy additives and unwanted sugar. Look for condiments with short ingredient lists and minimal preservatives.
- mustard (stone-ground, Dijon)
- organic ketchup
- soy sauce
- sriracha and other hot sauces
Oils & Vinegars
Healthy oils are an important pantry staple to use for cooking and preparing foods. Stock up on heart-healthy oils like olive oil, avocado oil and coconut oil, and avoid seed oils like canola or soybean oil. Vinegars are helpful for making homemade salad dressing and adding acid to balance flavors.
- olive oil
- avocado oil
- coconut oil
- red and white wine vinegars
- rice wine vinegar
- balsamic vinegar
We know that eating a lot of sugar is not healthy, but having some better sweeteners on hand will help you make healthier versions of sweet treats! Maple syrup and honey are less processed than regular sugar and contain more healthful nutrients. Coconut sugar and raw sugar are less refined than white sugar.
- maple syrup
- coconut sugar
- raw sugar
Keeping a variety of spices in your cabinet will help you add intriguing flavors to your meals – as well as antioxidants, anti-inflammatory properties and other health benefits.
- sea salt
- onion powder
- garlic powder
- Italian seasoning
- dried oregeno
- dried thyme
- dried basil
- chili powder
- bay leaves
How to Save Money on Healthy Pantry Staples
If this seems like a lot of food to keep on-hand – don’t worry – stocking a healthy pantry does not have to be expensive! Here are a few tips for saving money on healthy food for your pantry:
- Stock up on sale – Take advantage of periodic sales on food basics. Shelf-stable products will last many months without spoiling so stocking up should not be a concern.
- Purchase store brand products – Pay less by avoiding the popular brand-name products and opting for the less-expensive store brand.
- Buy food from the bulk bins – When you shop from the bulk bins you are not paying for packaging and marketing expenses. Plus you can buy exactly what you need, without waste.
- Shop at warehouse or discount stores – Warehouse clubs like Costco offer many healthy products – just don’t buy more than you can reasonably use!
- Join Thrive Market – Thrive Market is my go-to source for pantry staples because they have great prices on the healthy products I buy regularly. Find out what I buy from Thrive Market and get a big discount on your first order!
What foods do you stock in your pantry? Leave a comment and let us know!