Stocking up Your Pantry

By Siew Guan Lee, MS, RD – University of Idaho Extension

As many of us continue to stay home, you may wonder how to maintain healthy eating habits. The good news is that it’s still possible to consume a balanced, healthy diet during this restrictive time. Having a variety of healthful foods on hand and avoiding overbuying can help you stay healthy (and calm) and minimize food waste.

Before heading to the store, make a shopping list and plan for a two (2) week supply of groceries that will cover everyone in the household. If you have children, involve them in planning for meals and snacks. Check what foods you have on hand and whether you have enough spaces for food storage in the pantry, refrigerator and freezer. Planning ahead helps reduce multiple trips to the stores and also saves time and money.

What should you stock in your pantry and fridge? Here is a list of foods that are nutritious and versatile to keep in your kitchen.

For your pantry, stock up on shelf-stable, dry and canned foods. Instead of making a bulk purchase for the same item, consider buying different varieties (animal vs. plant-based protein), shapes (such as pasta) or even colors.

  • Canned or dried beans, split peas or lentils (including kidney beans, pinto beans, black beans, lima beans, black-eyed peas, garbanzo beans/chickpeas, lentils)
  • Canned chicken or fish (tuna, salmon or sardines)
  • Canned fruits in 100% juice or water
  • Canned vegetables with no added salt
  • Tomato-based sauces
  • Potatoes, sweet potatoes and onions
  • Whole grains (crackers, cereals, oats, pasta, brown rice, quinoa)
  • Dried fruits, nuts, seeds, and nut butters

The refrigerator is great for storing fresh foods to be used within the next several days.

  • Fresh fruits and vegetables (uncut or unwashed)
  • Milk, yogurt or cheese
  • Eggs
  • Tofu

Many foods can be frozen for several months without a great loss of quality.  Portion out in individual containers or small sizes to easily use later. 

  • Meat, poultry, seafood
  • Fruits and vegetables (without sauces or gravies)
  • Breads, tortillas or baked goods
  • Leftovers

Other staples

It’s good to have condiments on hand, including salt, pepper, garlic, dried herbs and spices to add flavor to your food. Stock up on baking staples such as whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, yeast, butter and oil. 

Find more information from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration about how to shop safely before heading to the store:

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