Eat More, Cook Less Series Part 4 of 4: How to stock your pantry so you can cook healthy when sh!t hits the fan

good intentions

It's been one of those weeks.

Aleks started going to daycare for two afternoons last week. Inevitably, we're both sick this week with a cold. His first one. AWESOME.

I know that when a child starts daycare, they're sick for pretty much the entire first year. To be honest, the fear of Aleks getting sick, especially anything GI related (he had 2/3 of his small intestine removed immediately after birth), is at times paralyzing. I know he can't live in a bubble ... but why can't he just live in a bubble?!

I digress.

I don't know about you, but when I feel sick, I'm not in my kitchen whipping up a loaded salad. I'm lucky if I even feel ambitious enough to make a bowl of cereal (gluten free cereal with dairy free milk of course). Not as horrible as a Big Mac, but a meal like that isn't going to give my body the nutrients it needs to fight any superbugs.

It's times like these when I thank God that I stocked my cupboards with some healthy, ready-to-go pantry staples that can be made in 30 minutes or under.

Let's be honest, you don't need to be sick to have an excuse to eat cereal, chips and dip, or a cheese string for supper. It's summer round these parts in Southwestern Ontario, which means everyone is busy cramming a years worth of outdoor fun into 2 short months. Who cares about meal planning when there's S'mores to be had and sparklers to light?

I certainly don't meal plan most of the time in summer, until I get sick or just plain run out of most fresh produce, and remember that I'm the only one who seems to care realizes that some sort of healthy food with a shelf life of more than 2 days needs to be kept on hand, for times just like this.

Here's exactly what I keep my cupboards stocked with for days when life gets a little off track:

  1. Pasta with tomato sauce: I know, a food nazi holistic nutritionist telling you that a regular, cheap dinner that most North Americans eat at least once a week pasta is healthy ... whaaaaattttt?! Let's look at it from an actual scientific point of view. Tomatoes, especially when cooked with olive oil, have huge amounts of lycopene. This is a fancy food compound that's been proven to slash your risk of certain cancers, and prevent cardiovascular disease, cataracts, and macular degeneration. This means if you want to see out of your cancer-free eyeballs when you're 70, eat some tomatoes! For being so common, tomatoes are truly a superfood. Regular tomato sauce is fine, but organic tomato sauce in a glass jar or certified BPA-free can is even better (click here to read more about why you want to buy BPA-free canned goods). Choose whatever pasta is best for you (i.e. gluten free if needed), and switch it up for some variety!  Try kamut, spelt (FYI: these 2 are not gluten free), and even quinoa pasta. If you've got some veggies hanging out in the fridge, let them join the pasta party! If not, don't beat yourself up about it ... it's still better than french fries.
  2. Soup: Even when it's 100Β° out, sometimes you just need some damn soup. It's the food equivalent of your Mom's hug. If I'm feeling a notch better than completely exhausted, I can whip up some healing, homemade chicken soup in no time flat thanks to my frozen chicken broth (click here to read how I make mine for almost free). I just defrost it in some hot water until it's thawed (about 30 minutes), heat it up until it's boiling, and add whatever is on hand from my pantry/fridge. This could include any combo of the following: gluten free pasta, lentils, quinoa, pre-washed spinach (learn how to make it last for a week in your fridge here), grated carrots, sliced zucchini or celery (have these all ready to go by following 7 easy steps over here), frozen green beans, chicken, onion, or garlic. If I don't have any homemade soup in the freezer because I didn't follow my own instructions in part 3 of this series, or I'm feeling so craptastic that all I can manage is to open a can, I reach for this organic soup that is actually low in sodium, unlike every other canned soup. Trust me, the first time you eat this soup it'll taste like nothing, only because there's so little sodium that it actually tastes like the ingredients in it. What a concept. Once you eat it a few times, you'll try some regular "low sodium" soup again, and wonder how the hell you ever ate anything that salty.
  3. Organic baby food: Hah! Just kidding ... sort of. I guess if we were in a total emergency, I could eat Aleks' food. Except the pureed meat and veggies, that shit is nasty (whoops, saying shit two times in one post and joking about eating your kids baby food? Bad Mommy).
  4. Dried beans, lentils, and brown rice: There are other ways to get all of your protein instead of just eating meat. Combining beans, legumes, and grains makes sure you get all your protein requirements without having to spend a ton of money on meat (hooray!). That, and you can save the environment. No biggie. Whether you make a big batch of kitchari, any type of daal (cooked lentils), or some mexican black beans and rice, it's up to you. While you're at it, get a rice cooker, it'll change your life. This one by President's Choice (sorry, no picture) actually cooks brown rice properly, and has wrecked me for being able to cook any sort of rice (other than risotto) on the stovetop.

This brings us to the end of my Eat More, Cook Less series. Did you catch the first 3 parts? If not ...

To read part 1 of the 4 part Eat More, Cook Less Series, β€œThe one time and sanity saving appliance that you need in your kitchen right now”, click here.

To read part 2 of the 4 part Eat More, Cook Less Series, "5 ways to fill your fridge so your 5 year old can make dinner", click here.

To read part 3 of the 4 part Eat More, Cook Less Series, "3 ways to use your freezer to cut your cooking time in half!", click here.

Leave a comment with the ONE thing in your cupboards that you use on a weekly basis, especially when shit hits the fan (I couldn't resist one more time!).