Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Time-Saving Kitchen & Nutrition Tips - The Healthy Pantry

When you ditch the microwave (that's another post) and stop buying most pre-packaged foods, you start to create short cuts to having real food in a hurry. Real food doesn't necessarily take more time, I can usually get dinner on the table in 30, but it does take planning and having a good filled pantry (fresh, frozen, dry) of supplies so I know I can make anything based upon the fresh veggies or meats I have on hand. I choose organic (non-gmo) for everything except meats and fish, those are grass-fed and wild respectively.

My Pantry consists of Dry - Frozen - Refrigerated/Fresh -

  • Nutiva Organic Extra Vir...Oils: olive, coconut, palm shortening, macadamia nut oil
  • Coconut milk
  • Stock, preferably fresh made and frozen but I have some of that organic chicken stock on hand just in case, don't tell anyone
  • Basic spices - sea salt, (NOTE: this is NOT regular table salt! I only use real sea salt, grey salt, river salt, we feel a big difference in our health and if we ever eat out, we can feel the difference in the sodium.) fresh black peppercorns, cumin, cayenne or chili pepper flakes, curry and curry paste, maybe some spice blends, vanilla beans and vanilla extracts
  • Canned tomatoes whole and diced (make sure it's in a lined can so the aluminum doesn't leach from the high acidity of tomatoes and only organic tomatoes)
  • Brown Rice (there are so many kinds of rice: Red, Wild, Sweet Brown, Short & Long Grain), Brown Rice Pasta (we love Tinkyada brand), Quinoa, Millet, Wheatberries, Grits (only organic), Kamut Berries, Barley, Oats (steel cut, rolled, thick rolled, Scottish, we use them all in different ways)
  • Baking supplies - flour, (I'm using the last of the organic unbleached all purpose and whole wheat flours, moving toward Amaranth Flour, Coconut Flour, Buckwheat, Spelt, Garbanzo Flour and things like that. Also having whole wheat berries I'll be getting a Vitamix to grind my own and make my own sprouted wheat - can't wait!), chocolate chips, baking powder/baking soda, yeast, chia seeds (whole and pulverized - I add them to smoothies and baked goods to add omega 3s)
  • Honey - I like YS Organic Honey and New Zealand honeys, but there are tons of lovely organic honeys each with their own qualities. I use one from Africa on meats and in sauces, it is the only honey I know of that is from a flowering tree; the flavor depends upon the flowering blossoms and organic means the bees are roaming on pesticide-free flowersWedderspoon Raw Organic ...
  • Crackers - particularly wheat-free and crunchy ones like Mary's Gone Crackers and Foods Alive Golden Flax Crackers
  • Condiments: Soy sauce from fermented nonGMO soy beans, Fish sauce, Mustard, Vinegar, Kethcup (Organicville makes one with Agave instead of sugar)
  • Nut butters: Almond, Cashew, Macadamia Nut, others
  • Fair Trade Coffee & Tea
  • Madhava Pure Organic Raw...Sweeteners we use Sucanat, I love the flavor and color of it, or Rapadura which is a brand name of the same thing, we also use in moderation: Brown Rice Syrup, Agave, Xylitol, and Therasweet from Living Fuel and
  • Organic Maple Syrup, Maple Chunks and Maple Sugar
  • Date Sugar
  • Jam, there are organic all-fruit spreads by bionaturae that are great!
  • Canned Wild Alaskan Salmon, Sardines, and Tuna
  • Beans - canned and dried especially cannellini, garbanzo and black beans
    Snacks for kids - Fruitabu Twirls, Freeze-dried fruit like Just Tomatoes Just Organic Strawberries, things like that we have for lunchboxes and quick snacks
  • Raisins, Apricots, Cherries, and other dried fruit
  • Fair Trade Dark Chocolate and Cocoa Powder, I have some organic fair trade milk chocolate for the kids but they are beginning to like some of the dark ones now too
  • Seaweed stuff - Sushi wrappers, Dulse, Wakame
  • Nuts: we have a big variety - cashews, pecans, walnuts, hemp seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, brazil nuts, hazelnuts, flaxseeds and flaxseedmeal (great for baked goods and smoothies), every kind, I keep them in the freezer to keep them fresh since they have a high fat content which can lead to them going rancid quickly
  • wild alaskan salmonFrozen fruit are great for smoothies. Any fresh fruit that doesn't get eaten gets frozen. Frozen fruit are also great to put in a juicer to make mock ice cream or even just to eat right out of the bag.
  • Frozen veggies are good to have on hand for frittatas, stews, etc. but I prefer fresh.
  • Grassfed Meats/Pastured Free Roaming Organic Poultry/Wild Alaskan Seafood - grassfed ground beef, lamb, turkey, grassfed bison, bacon, burgers, skirt steaks, salmon, halibut, a variety of cuts and kinds of meats and fish
  • Frozen pre-made meals that I made extra including Chicken & Beef Stock, Stews, Soups (lots of soups), breakfast muffins, desserts
  • I store Wheat Germ and Whole Wheat products in the freezer or anything I buy in bulk
  • Grass-fed Dairy: Heavy Cream, Milk, Butter, Kefir, Cheeses, Sour Cream, Ricotta Cheese, Yogurt (we like Seven Stars brand, I get plain and add vanilla and maple syrup) - always organic and rBGH-free and grassfed. If in Miami get Raw Milk at the Miami Coop or contact Justine with The New Hunter Gatherer or your visit the Weston Price Foundation
  • Flax oil - great to add to smoothies or salad dressings
  • Eggs - organic, preferably pastured
  • Fresh Fruits, Veggies and Herbs - LOTS of Fruits & Veggies - and a great variety!
  • Cultured Veggies, Pickles, Olives
  • Miso
  • Kombucha (have to learn how to make it myself)
  • Organic Deli Meats, but not that much since they are not usually grassfed, when I can find grassfed nitrite-free deli meats, we have our way with those
Save time shopping by going online, Amazon has lots of great groceries and organics now too, that way you can comparison shop and take your time.

When I cook an item I use a lot, I make extra and freeze it including:
  • soups - especially when veggies are plentiful (or about to go bad) like Roasted Pepper Soup, Broccoli soup, and of course Chicken and Beef Stock
  • basil spinach pesto - I freeze and then I can add that to anything from stews to pizza to frittatas or anywhere I need to add some greens and some flavor. Link here to see other GREENS tips.
  • baked goods - desserts, cakes, muffins, pancakes, waffles, all of these freeze very well and that way it's there when you need it when friends pop by
More Meal-Make-In-A-Hurry Tips -
  • make extra - use leftovers and create something new, heat them up as is for leftovers the next day, freeze them for another day
  • I'll make meatballs and freeze them uncooked to use another time: drop them into soup, braise them, cook them in the oven - ready to go and I know what went into them!
  • freeze peeled GINGER, I peel it and freeze it. It grates easily frozen, no need to thaw, and that way I always have some on had to grate into any dish with my micro-rasper.
  • freeze any fresh fruit or vegetable you don't use in time for use later
  • fresh fruits and vegetable preparation - I cut up apples and swoosh them in orange juice to keep them from browning and use as a quick snack; cut up celery and carrots and have on hand in the fridge ready to grab. The kids will grab those with nut butter as a snack. I take fresh herbs and rinse them, shake off the excess water, and wrap them in a kitchen towel and put them in a refrigerator drawer ready to use.
  • I take meat, fish, poultry out of the freezer every couple of days to plan my menu for the next several days
  • sauces make a meal, adding a sauce can change it and make it really delicious
  • extra soup can be used the next day or frozen for another day - be sure to label the frozen food with a date and what it is (maybe even the ingredients or the name of the recipe so you know what it is and what it includes in case of allergies in visitors or new allergies)
  • extra rice can be used the next day to make a chicken/beef/pork/veggie-fried rice
  • stews incorporate veggies, meats, broth, everything in one hearty bowl, I tend to make quite a bit of stews since they are fast to put together, can be crock-potted, are satisfying and nutritious.
  • breakfast for dinner - the kids love eggs, frittatas (great way to mix veggies in), pancakes, omelets, so much you can do with eggs! We tend to have a bigger lunch.
  • oh for my daughter's birthday party I made sandwiches cut up in flower and other shapes and saved all the crusts and used that to make an easy bread pudding with eggs, honey, vanilla, orange zest, milk.
  • don't toss the bones from roasted chicken, you can use that to make a rich chicken stock, add in the parsley stems that you didn't use fresh
Favorite kitchen gadgets and things I could not live without -
  • Glass Pyrex dishes. These are great for storing, come in a variety of sizes, can be used to reheat things straight from the fridge as long as you start them in a cold oven, and can even be used to store things in the freezer! There are containers, mixing bowls, all with tops and in a variety of sizes. They are glass but the tops are plastic. I just try not to overfill them so the top doesn't touch the plastic and I wait for the leftovers to cool before putting the top on the container.
  • Immersion Blender - without a doubt my number one favorite kitchen gadget is my Immersion Hand Blender. I have a Braun, 400 watts, but there are others out there. I use this for making everything including salad dressings, soups, sauces. I use it practically every day. It's easy to use, easy to clean up, and makes cooking from scratch a snap. I cannot imagine preparing food without it.
  • The Microplane Stainless Steel Micro-plane Zester I use for everything from fresh citrus zest to fresh nutmeg to frozen ginger. A must have.
  • Hand-held Grater for grating cheese into sauces, soups and sandwiches, it's easier than the big food processor
  • Cheese Slicer saves money from buying pre-sliced cheese and does a great job. Plus when you slice it yourself, it's fresher and, if you're getting cheese wrapped in plastic, the whole block has less surface area touching the plastic so less change of leaching.
  • Food Processor - it doesn't get as much work in my house but is handy to have
  • Juicer - we haven't been using it as much lately and I don't recommend it if you have a good blender like a Vitamix. The problem with my juicer is that with a family of 6, every time I juice for us it takes forever and then clean-up is not a snap, but I do believe it's important to juice veggies, especially leafy greens.
  • Blender - we use our blender practically every day to make morning smoothies for the kids. I add frozen fruit, milk, honey, sometimes a couple green leaves, chia seeds (for omega 3s), vanilla and blend BUT my goal this year is to get a Vitamix as they are super powerful for smoothies and juicing greens and for my new step into good food: grinding fresh grains
  • Cast Iron Pots and Enameled Cast Iron - of every shape and size to do the job right. if you have any nonstick or silverstone pots and pans, get rid of them and don't buy any more, they are harmful to our bodies and the planet, I'll write a post on that another time.
  • Dehydrator - this is good for everything from keeping home-made yogurt at the right temp to making your own fruit leathers
  • Silicone Spatula, Tongs, Poultry Shears, thin but wide stainless Spatula, Slotted Stainless Spoon, utensils important for the job. If you find this post or my blog helpful, I'd appreciate you linking on the affiliates the next time you want to buy something to help support my writing habit - Thank You!

For Packing Lunches:

This year my kids are back in school. We found this wonderful Montessori school and they are loving it and I do too. I do miss our family big lunches each day and the time together, but they get home so excited with much to tell me. I make the kids lunch each day and usually add a note. Planning and the proper containers make this easier.

I warm up and add leftovers to a stainless steel thermos after filling it with hot water so it stays warm. I make sandwiches on sprouted wheat bread with no nitrate deli meats or cheeses. They love yogurt and I usually add no sugar cookies or pretzels for dipping.

I make raw meatballs "batter" (meat, Parmesan cheese, oats, milk, tomato sauce, seasoning, maybe some basil pesto) and keep it in the fridge to make meatballs and rice for their lunch fresh in the morning; they love those meatballs.

I make panini sandwiches and wrap them in recycled aluminum foil. If using aluminum be sure not to use it on anything acid next to it, to buy recycled foil and to, in turn, recycle it. Aluminum is a killer on the planet to source but can be recycled indefinitely!

Some nifty things for making lunches eco-friendly and healthful include:

LunchBots Uno + Duo Set - cute new container in stainless perfect for sandwiches and snacks

Klean Kanteen Stainless Steel Water Container - these are stainless steel bottles and come in a variety of sizes and COLORS perfect for any age and personality

You'll notice what I do NOT have because the ingredients on the manufactured ones are poor:

  • Granola, Granola Bars - store ones contain soy oil, canola oil, bad fats, sugar, all to avoid and it's actually pretty easy and MUCH more delicious to make yourself, I'll post our recipe fave with pictures soon as I'm due to make more
  • Cold Cereal - they normally contain sugar, corn, preservatives, even the organic varieties have things I don't like and I just don't believe cereal is good for us, it starts our day on carbs and the grain is not natural (it's puffed or extruded)
  • Salad Dressing - so easy to make your own, so much more delicious, ones on the market are gmo, soy oil, corn oil, cottonseed oil, even organic ones don't taste good and use bad oils, sugars
  • Mayo - though Wilderness Family Naturals makes a wholesome mayo
  • Frozen Meals and Pre-packaged foods - we make our own "pancake mix" and things like that, it's really easy and doesn't take so much time, there is just a learning curve, as with anything worthwhile in life
  • "White" stuff - plain old white sugar, white flour, white iodized salt, white rice
  • Artificial Sweeteners like Splenda, Asparatame, Saccharine - we use dates, safer sweeteners like xylitol, honey, maple syrup (lots of maple syrup!), date sugar, there are other sweet options
  • "Health" Foods and gimmicky stuff like Acai, unfermented soy stuff, power bars (except we do like Larabars, but they aren't organic so we don't induge that often)
  • Traditional Deli Meats - they contain nitrates which convert to nitrosamines that are carcinogenic
  • "Vegetable" oil like corn, soy, canola, peanut - these are all bad oils, some are even touted as "health" food but the research shows otherwise, more on that later
  • most prepackaged foods. Typical shelf stable non-organic foods contain HFCS, MSG, hydrogenated oils, and artificial colors. Organic foods don't, so it's easy for us to avoid those things but sometimes artificial flavors, MSG, non-GMO soy and corn do lurk in even organic pre-packaged foods so it's important to read labels and KNOW what you're reading.
  • Soda, even organic, it's just liquid candy so we don't buy it
  • Juices - the whole fruit and vegetable is much better than a pasteurized juice which is just full of sugar. We don't drink much juice, we have some on hand but it's not a staple that I must have nor do we drink a lot of it, not really health food
  • Potato Chips, even organic ones, the oil isn't good since they use cheap stuff for their own bottom line and the process of frying them creates acrylamides which are carcinogenic
  • any grain-fed meats or regular conventional rBGH agri-biz dairy
  • most name brands, there are some organic brands we now get but we tend to shy from big name brands just because the product quality ingredients deteriorate to make way for higher profit margins

Eating and preparing real food to me means being frugal with each item and really using everything you can, but it's not always easy. I believe in taking time in preparing and cooking food when possible. Making a meal with love adds flavor, nutrition, and to the pleasurable experience for the one making the food and those enjoying it. We all have our hurried moments, and for those days, which can be many in today's busy world, time-saving tips and being prepared with a good pantry and the right kitchen tools can help us eat healthy in a hurry.

I am really looking forward to reading all the posts for the real food Wednesdays carnival this week and incorporating more ways to save time in the kitchen from these hip, smart, eco-mamas writing these blogs.

This post is part of two Carnivals today:

Join Works For Me Wednesday at We Are That Family; Join the Real Food Wednesday Carnival by heading over to Kelly the Kitchen Kop

What’s Real Food?

Real food is whole, natural, and nutrient-dense.

* Organic
* Humanely raised (animals on pasture, not in factories)
* Grown locally when possible
* Whole and unrefined (real maple syrup instead of high-fructose corn syrup)
* Processed as little as possible (raw milk instead of pasteurized and homogenized)
* Nutrient-dense (enzymes, vitamins, minerals, and probiotics)
* Free of additives and preservatives
* Free of synthetic and chemical ingredients
* Not genetically modified
* Traditionally produced and prepared

In other words, butter or lard instead of shortening or vegetable oil. Real milk from a cow instead of soy milk. Real sprouted flour (ground fresh or purchased) instead of refined white flour. Real, natural sweeteners like honey or unrefined cane sugar (rapadura or sucanat) instead of white sugar.

If it’s highly processed and/or doesn’t come from nature, it’s not real food!

We’re not saying you have to be perfect (nobody is) but try to feature real foods in your recipes and minimize the junk like vegetable oil and refined sugar and additives.


  1. Wow, what a great in-depth post. I am 'eating' it up! I can't wait to hear all about the 'more on that later's. Thanks! Can you give an indication on what you spend for food? I realize that the true cost of things (especially unhealthy foods) is hidden in health costs later etc. But, for someone switching over, the price of healthy food is A LOT more. Have any tips in this regard?

  2. Leah, thanks for the wonderful comments! I wasn't sure if this was going to be too much info or if it wasn't something that interested others but it's my standard basics in the kitchen so I thought I'd share it.

    You know it's hard to say on how much we spend since once I have the basic pantry stuff, that lasts pretty long so it's just restocking when low. We are a family of 6, 4 kids that all eat well and 2 adults that do the same. Most of our food is in produce and dairy as we have a stock of frozen meats and fish from our last purchase so right now we are roughly spending about $100-150 a week on those things. I'd have to figure out how much we spend overall with meats and veggies, etc and I'll try to do that over the next couple of weeks. I'll write down each item we use and the price, but remember, we don't eat out at all, everything is made here at home so that is all our food expenses for our family. Thanks for the question, that is a good one that I will have to spend some time figuring out since we buy in bulk and have things on hand that I don't buy each week.

  3. Oh my gosh, that is a TON of information! I'm going to have to print that out and go through it a little at a time - so many great new ideas to explore.

    Thanks for joining in!
    Kelly p.s. You may want to think about breaking that down into many smaller posts - just a thought...

  4. WOW, THE Kelly the Kitchen Kop, thanks for stopping by and for your comment! Yeah, well, point well taken, I guess I sort of get carried away in writing and go with the flow. I will work on shorter and more frequent posts, thank you for that tip, I can't promise but I will try to do that, I'm fairly new to blogging and just have so much to say I don't know when to stop. ;)

  5. Hi Annie -- You could cut it up and do it as a series. "They" say the ideal blog post is between 250 and 500 words long. Any longer, and people start to scan the words instead of read them (and maybe even click away from the post altogether). So, the more "bite-sized" you can make your posts, the better.

    That said, this is a great post! I always like posts that are "sneak peaks" into people's pantries, freezers, and refrigerators.

    (AKA FoodRenegade)

  6. Your blog is a great find. I, too, have been shifting my family from processed foods to "real" foods. You mention the Larabars, which are very tasty. I found an organic alternative that's very similar: PURE bars.

  7. Thanks for sharing everything you've got in your house to make a difference. While completely overwhelming (I thought I was so much further along) I do want to know what it takes to change over. Small steps, right?

    I had no idea canola oils and such were not the way to go? What else can I use when I am cooking chicken and such on the stove?


  8. This looks like a lot of good information! I've got it bookmarked so that I can read into it a little further when I have some thinking time ;)

  9. That is certainly very comprehensive! We're just two adults, so our list is much shorter, although just as healthy! I don't buy anything processed. The bulk of our purchases are fruit and vegetables and the only things I have in my freezer are frozen fruit for smoothies.

    Great post!

  10. WOW...I may need to bookmark this as I learn how to stock up my kitchen pantry/refrigerator! Thanks!

  11. Annie,
    Great post. Also loved the post on green-cleaning!
    I recently won a Kreativ Blogger award, and the deal is to pay it forward to 10 more people. I picked you as one of my awardees. Please pay it forward!

  12. I just discovered your blog (and a whole bunch of other traditional foods blogs -- yeah!) and even though I learned about traditional foods a few years ago and cut out the processed junk, you're inspiring me to get back to making broths regularly and cut out the unsoaked grains that have been creeping in.

    That was a ridiculously long sentence! I hope it makes sense :) Thanks so much for letting us peek into your kitchen. I'll keep stopping by!


thanks for your comments! If you submitted a question or position on one of the points, I'll do my best to research that and respond promptly. Thank you for your part in creating a healthier world for us all.