Friday, January 7, 2011

Stock Your Kitchen and Stick to Your Resolutions!

If you're like many, you may have resolved to eat healthy this year, lose weight and/or save money. A great way to do all of these things is to eat more meals at home. You will save bundles by not eating out and you will know exactly what is going into your body! The best way to get started is to have a well stocked kitchen. You may have the best intentions, but after a long day at work, it's easy to succumb to fast food temptation if preparing it yourself seems like too much work. If you always keep the staples and plenty of easy to prepare foods on hand, meals will be a breeze!  Guarantee better success and use Sundays to portion out your meals for the week. To make it easy on you, we have prepared a list of nutritious and reasonably priced foods to keep in your kitchen. Get creative, preparing meals can be fun and rewarding! There is nothing like the taste of a home cooked meal! Don't forget, if you work or go to school, you should be bringing your lunch as well! Please add in anything we missed in the comments.

Herbs and Spices
Salt and Pepper are a staple at almost every person's house, as they should be. Try Sea Salt and Peppercorns for the most nutrition and flavor. Other great spices to have on hand include Turmeric, Basil, Dried Chilis and/or Cayenne powder, Garlic powder, Celery Salt, Dill, Lemon Peel or Lemon Pepper, Paprika, Curry, Dry Mustard, Rosemary, Thyme, Cumin, Cinnamon and Ginger. In season, purchase fresh herbs, you can always dry any extra out for later use.

Oils and Vinegars
Always keep Extra Virgin Olive Oil on hand, it may seem expensive, but it actually breaks down to pennies per use. Avoid vegetables oils as they become rancid quickly and are highly processed, use Grapeseed Oil for sauteing. Coconut Oil is a great choice as it very healthy and shelf stable. For flavor try sesame or walnut oil. Balsamic Vinegar is extremely flavorful and great as a marinade or on salads. Apple Cider Vinegar is chock full of nutrients and can be used in numerous applications.

A must have in any kitchen is a stock of grains, buy them in bulk to save money and keep them in tightly sealed glass jars for maximum freshness. Brown rice is a must and Brown Basmati and Brown Jasmine rice are also good choices, along with the highly nutritious Quinoa, quick cooking Bulgar Wheat, Barley, Buckwheat, Whole Wheat Couscous and Steel Cut Oats for a hearty breakfast. Whole Wheat pastas cook quickly and leave lots of room for creativity.

As with grains, buy beans and lentils in bulk and store appropriately. Legumes are inexpensive and an excellent source of protein, fiber and various vitamins and minerals. Lentils cook up quickly and Beans can be soaked overnight for quick cooking the following day. Both can be sprouted for added nutrition (research which can be eaten raw and which shouldn't)!

Nuts and Seeds
Again, buying in bulk is your best value. Nuts and seeds are also packed full of nutrients and healthy fats. Keep these on hand for snacking, add to salads, smoothies or breakfast grains. Flax Seeds are extremely popular and for good reason, they are full of heart and brain healthy Omegas and help with regularity! For best results, grind Flax just before usage.

Keep lots of fruit on hand, dried, fresh and frozen! Keep fresh in-season fruits for easy snacking, juicing, smoothies, additions to breakfast grains, salads and desserts. Frozen fruits are good when your favorites are not in season and for quick smoothies making. Dried fruits have a long shelf life and can be used in many of the same ways as fresh fruit and are great added to nuts for a healthy snack. Bake fruit filled muffins and have breakfast all week long!

Staples to have on hand include Garlic, Onions, Potatoes, and Sweet Potatoes. Buy fresh in-season vegetables such as Mixed Greens, Kale, various kinds of Squash, Asparagus, Carrots, Celery and Green Beans. These veggies go a long way and can always be chopped and frozen for easy use later.

Buy your meats and seafood once a week and use within the week or keep frozen. For vegetarians, it can be very handy to have frozen "beef" crumbles, "meatballs" and "chicken" strips on hand for various incarnations. A block of tofu or tempeh are also great additions.

Eggs last a long time, cook quickly and provide lots of protein. Hard cheeses, such as Parmesan or Manchego, also last much longer than soft or shredded cheeses. Another important staple is Plain Yogurt, it contains the calcium and protein of dairy, but with the addition of probiotics or "friendly bacteria" which help with digestion and different types of infections. Plain yogurt can be used in place of sour cream, milk in some recipes and even frozen for a dessert-like treat! It's great anytime of the day!

If you enjoy baked goods, such as muffins, breads, cakes, etc, you should always keep Whole Wheat Flour, All Purpose Flour, Wheat Germ, Baking Soda, Baking Powder, raw Cacao powder, Vanilla Extract and Unrefined Sugar on hand. However, you can always substitute other natural sweeteners for sugar, such as Xylitol, Stevia, Molasses, Honey or Agave Nectar. Applesauce and Banana also make great sweetener substitutes!

Additional Staples
Hot Sauce, Nut Butters, Breadcrumbs, Jars of Sauces (Marinara, Pesto, Curries, Salsas etc.), Dried Mushrooms, Whole Grain Crackers, Olives, Broth (Veggie, Chicken, etc.), Low Sodium Tamari, Non-GMO Cornmeal, Cornstarch or Potato Starch, Whole Wheat Tortillas, Non-GMO popcorn kernels and frozen tortellini and/or ravioli.

Note: For those of you following a Gluten-Free Diet, we have an extensive selection of Gluten-Free items to replace any items above which may be restricted for you.

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