5 pantry staples that will repeatedly save your ass
This is how I feel when I have time to cook big, fancy dishes. But usually, ain’t nobody got time fo’ dat.
If you are reading this, then you are a human being living in the 21st century. And as many great things life in the 21st century provides for human beings (indoor plumbing! Weird shoes! Instagram!), one thing it does not provide is excess free time. That can create some problems for those of us working to incorporate fresh, whole foods into our lifestyles.
I had the best intentions when I bought a big bunch of kale last Sunday. Salads all week long, hooray! This’ll be great, right?
Flash forward to Monday morning, when my coworkers and I divvy up who needs to cover what concerts this week. Suddenly, my Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday nights are devoted to grabbing dinner with clients, attending shows, making an appearance at after-parties—not much room in my schedule anymore for a quiet little salad at home. The next time I see that kale, it’ll probably be a different color than it was when I bought it.
Thankfully, I was able to preemptively salvage my greens by turning them into these pancakes, but the point here is that if you want to regularly eat clean, it’s vital that you stock your kitchen with the right staples—the kind that stick around forever and won’t make your fridge smell funky while you’re away at an unexpected work event/water polo game/emergency happy hour. Because, hi, we’re human beings, and most of us lead pretty crazy lives.
Here are five foods that should always be in your kitchen; they’re cheap as hell, they won’t stink up the fridge, they’re packed with nutrients and are super easy to prepare.
The big ol’ tub of plain, unsweetened, unflavored stuff. Straight up oats, guys. I know that steel-cut oats are the darlings of the whole foods world, but I still fall back on the instant, rolled version because I just like it so much. Both are packed with fiber and protein and can be incorporated into a million different (pretty surprising) recipes. I’m currently killing about half a cup of rolled oats mixed with peanut butter and strawberries each morning.
Like oatmeal, they’re delicious on their own, but if they’ve turned too brown for your liking, toss them in the freezer and save them forever. Bananas are a fantastic natural sweetener for all kinds of baked goods (not just banana bread), and once frozen, they can be blended with a dash of milk and cinnamon for instant “ice cream.” Ohmygodsogood.
3. Brown rice (or barley, or wheatberries, or…)
Pick a grain, any grain. Just make sure it’s whole to ensure you’re getting the greatest amount of nutrients in your calories. I typically fall back on barley because it cooks much more quickly than rice, but hey, choose your own adventure. Boil up a pot at the beginning of the week, then enjoy with a fried egg, veggies and sauce or whatever else you have on hand.
4. Beans (preferably dry)
Dry beans are cheaper than canned and contain no added sodium. Plus, the taste of freshly prepared beans tops the canned stuff any day. Win, win, win. And guys, you can do SO MANY things with beans. Soups, chilis, dips, casserole, plain over rice, even snuck into cookies and brownies for a surprise protein punch. Beans are the bomb.
5. Bag o’ fruit + bag o’ veggies
Yes, fresh produce is great, but fresh produce usually spoils way before I can finish it. Long live frozen food! A bag of raspberries to smother on my oatmeal and a bag of peas n’ corn to heat up alongside dinner = good to go.
There are plenty of other kitchen staples that didn’t make this Top 5—what can always be found in your kitchen?