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The Well-Stocked Pantry

Updated: Jan 9, 2022

A Stocked Kitchen

By: Pam Smith, RDN

If you struggle to eat well, you are more than likely among the nutrient-deficient majority - and you aren’t getting what it takes to live fit, fueled, and satisfied. Here’s the bottom line: We will only eat well and cook well if we fill our pantries with the right foods.

Keeping your kitchen stocked with simple, inexpensive ingredients will make weeknight cooking much easier (and more fun!), and makes the difference between quickly and efficiently putting together healthy flavorful foods vs. a meal-time-blues headache or a fast-food nightmare. These are my go-tos for adding a healthy advantage to my shopping cart - and keeping my kitchen pantry, fridge, and freezer ready to prepare a delicious and nutritious meal.

Spice Cabinet Musts

P.S. Flavor!™ Spice Blends, pure vanilla extract or paste, cinnamon or cinnamon sticks, coarse ground black pepper, black peppercorns, Diamond Crystal Kosher salt, and Sugar in the Raw.


Red wine, white balsamic, rice wine, and apple cider vinegars will cover you for salad dressings and balancing dishes. Reduced balsamic is great for a drizzle and flavor pop.

Hot Sauce

Keep a few on hand and add a dash (or two!) into soups, salsas, sauces, sandwiches, and eggs. I especially love Cholula and Sriracha.


I use extra virgin olive oil for most all my cooking, a more exquisite one for vinaigrettes and drizzling, and a little less expensive one for cooking. Grapeseed and canola oils are good for baking, and nonstick spray makes life so much easier.

Honey and Real Maple Syrup

Add a quick drizzle when you’re craving a little sweetness in things like your oatmeal, vinaigrettes, or sauces.

Dijon Mustard

For so much more than sandwiches, it adds a special flavor punch

to marinades, rubs, crustings - and is the time-tested emulsifier for salad dressings.

Dried Fruits

Craisins, dried blueberries, and tart cherries bring a touch of sweetness and nutrition to salads, chutneys, and sautés or roasts.

Nuts and Seeds

Toasted pumpkin seeds, almonds, pecans, pistachios, and pinenuts add satisfying crunch and healthy fats to salads, grain dishes, and crumb toppings.

Canned Beans

Keep a few different kinds of canned beans in your pantry. I keep black beans, chick peas, cannellini, red kidney beans, and black eyed peas. Drain and rinse to bulk up soups, salads, or mix with rice and grains.

Brown Rice and Whole Grains

Some grocery stores now stock them ready to heat, but it’s easy to do yourself. Cook a large pot, cool completely, and freeze in re-sealable bags. Thaw as needed.

Lower Sodium Chicken, Beef, or Vegetable Stock

Easy to make on your own, and great to have handy for cooking vegetables and soups.

Pre-Cut Vegetables

Look to see if your grocery store has these available in the produce section. They’re wonderful to have on hand to steam, stir fry, or microwave. You can also buy veggies whole and portion them into your own personal blends.

Root Vegetables

Red onions, garlic, shallots, and ginger.


Think of citrus as a two- for-one. The zest can be used in marinades and the juice can be drizzled over cooked vegetables and used in vinaigrettes. Use a lemon or lime squeezer for easy juicing!


Whip up a quick omelet, poach eggs in tomato sauce, fry one for a sandwich or grain bowl topper, or hard-boil a few for quick snacks.

Nonfat Plain Greek Yogurt

Perfect on its own as a snack with fresh berries or the base for a smoothie, overnight oats, or healthy, creamy dressing.


Milk (of your choice), light sour cream, and unsalted butter.

High Quality Cheeses

Invest in a microplane cheese grater and add Parmesan into salads, soups, and more. Remember a little goes a long way. We also love to throw pieces

of the cheese rind into simmering soups for an umami boost. I keep feta, sharp cheddar, and ricotta on hand as well.


Panko, olive oil mayo, low sodium soy sauce or tamari, whole wheat flour, Worcestershire sauce, salsa, and canned Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce.

... And Don't Forget Your Freezer!

A powerful resource for keeping fresh food on hand is your freezer! I keep mine well-stocked with whole grain breads, salmon and shrimp, soups, and a variety of meals that I’ve made and saved leftovers from.


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