Keep these staples on hand to create quick, delicious meals all week long.
If you’re like most people, you’re busy. Whether it’s work, school, kids — or all of the above — you’re often so crunched for time that meal preparation and cooking can become an afterthought. Unfortunately, this can lead to dining out, which can be expensive, or grabbing fast food, which can be expensive and unhealthy.
But with smart shopping, some planning, and a little weekend food prep, you can have quick, delicious, and healthy meals all week long.
One of the keys to meal planning and easy preparation is to stock up on staples — basic food items that can be used in a wide variety of recipes. If you have the storage space, buying frozen and non-perishable staple items in bulk can be a great way to trim your monthly food budget. Here are some of the items to keep on hand:
Healthy starches like quinoa, brown rice, and whole-wheat pasta.
These can be the bases for many different meals: pasta with sauce, stir-fry vegetables, or quinoa salad. You can prepare batches of these on Sunday and they’ll last up to five days in the fridge. You can also freeze them and microwave when needed.
Beans are an excellent source of plant-based protein and incredibly versatile. Add chickpeas to a salad, whip up some multi-bean soups, toss with some quinoa or pasta, or mix them up with some grilled chicken or salmon. They are affordable (especially in bulk), simple to prepare, and can be added to many delicious recipes.
Think about it: Greek chicken, chipotle chicken, curry chicken, and chicken fajitas. What’s the main difference? Spices. Having a range of spices can add flexibility and variety to all your meals.
Another good source of protein, nuts can be sprinkled on salads, tossed with pasta, added to stir-fry, and more. Because nuts can be expensive, it makes sense to purchase nuts in bulk and store in airtight containers.
Soup mixes make creating a healthy, filling meal easy. Many mixes can be prepared in minutes and when you add a fresh salad or sandwich, you have a complete, healthy meal.
Dried Fruits and Vegetables
Dried fruits and vegetables are more affordable and, of course, they last so much longer than fresh. Grab a handful as a snack, or toss with pasta or in a salad. Although they are dried, they still retain much of their nutritional value and taste.
Oils and Honey
Must-haves for cooking and baking purposes, oils can be used to create delicious salad dressings, glazes, sauces, and more.