Well Being

Fall And Winter Pantry Staples: What To Stock For Easy, Healthy Meals When It’s Cold Outside

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stocking your pantry for winter and fall

Stocking your pantry with useful, versatile ingredients means you're always ready to whip up a healthy meal in a matter of minutes. With the weather getting colder (and a huge storm already on the horizon for the East Coast), I've been thinking about how to stock my cupboards for the coming winter months. If you're as lazy as I am about running out to the grocery store for specific ingredients when it's cold outside, learning how to stock a pantry will be a huge help in keeping you cozy and well-fed.

For some insight, I asked a few of my favorite food bloggers what they fill their pantries with for fall and winter.

Brittany of Eating Bird Food suggests stocking up on quinoa:

“Quinoa is my favorite cold weather pantry staple. It's packed with protein and has a nutty but mild flavor, which makes it very versatile. It cooks up quickly and can be used in both sweet and savory dishes. I love using to make hot cereal or granola for breakfast and as a base for soup, veggie burgers or weeknight stir-fries.”

Rebecca of Ezra Pound Cake is partial to one of my own omnipresent pantry staples, canned tomatoes! She says: “I keep them on hand for chilis, soups and stews, as well as pasta and pizza sauces and casseroles. Plus, there's no shame in using them; your body can absorb more cancer-fighting lycopene from canned tomatoes than fresh ones.” (Note: If you're worried about BPA in cans, you can always spring for the POMI brand of tomatoes, which are packaged in BPA-free materials. We've also heard that Muir Glen has manufactured BPA-free canned tomatoes since late 2011.)

Maggie of Say Yes To Salad loves her healthy wild rice:

“My key cold weather pantry staple is most definitely wild rice. Wild rice is gluten-free (my hubby is gluten-sensitive), it has two times the protein of brown rice, 30 times the antioxidants of white rice, and plus–it's delicious! It reminds me of Thanksgiving growing up–my great aunt would always serve wild rice as a treat, and it was my favorite.”

Anjali of The Picky Eater suggests everyone's fall favorite, canned pumpkin: “It's extremely versatile–you can use it for both savory and sweet dishes, and even include it as part of your breakfast!”

Amy of Coconut and Quinoa uses flax oil all the time. She told me:
“I love to drizzle it over streamed vegetables with tamari, lemon juice, a pinch of cayenne and a clove of crushed garlic. I often add some kind of seed like toasted sesame or hemp. I also love it drizzled over soups or brushed onto garlic rubbed toast.”
Here are a few other ingredients you might like to have on hand to cook with during the colder months.
Baking Ingredients
  • Oatmeal (steel cut or plain)-Oatmeal is always delicious for a hearty breakfast on a cold morning, but it's also good to have on hand to make cookies, breads or other baked goods.
  • Evaporated Milk– Not only is evaporated milk useful for baking (and making mac and cheese), but it's also great to have in an emergency situation, just in case you didn't get to the store to stock up on regular milk before the snow started to fall.
  • Nuts Of Your Choice– I love almonds, so I always have them around to mix into muffins or stir-fry with green beans. But walnuts, cashews, peanuts, pistachios and pecans can also be added to all sorts of different dishes, adding a bit of protein and a lot of flavor.
  • Healthy Flour Of Your Choice– Regardless of whether or not you're gluten-free, I think it's worth having your favorite type of “healthy” flour in your cabinet. Almond, garbanzo bean, rice, coconut, flaxseed or hazelnut flours are all versatile, able to add some additional nutrients to your baked goods, as well as thicken soups and sauces.
Savory Ingredients
  • Broth– Broth, either beef, chicken, or veggie, is one of the most versatile foods arounds. It's great in soups, of course, but it's also useful when making sauces, risotto,  mashed potatoes, casseroles, or even just simple sauteed veggies. Freeze it in ice cube trays so you'll have small portions when you need it, and it's also good to always keep a few cans (or containers) in the pantry.
  • Chickpeas– Any type of beans are great to have around, but chickpeas are my favorite because of how easily their flavor adapts to different cuisines. Chickpeas taste great with spaghetti or other pastas, in tacos, mashed into burgers or blended into hummus. They're healthy, adaptable and tasty, too!
  • Lentils– Something about lentils just lends itself to cold weather eating. They're as versatile as chickpeas and just as low-cost. They're always a thick, filling lentil soup, but why not try lentil bread, adding lentils to meatballs, or sprinkling them on top of a salad?
  • Barley– Barley is one of the best (and most nutritious) whole grains to keep in your cabinet. You can cook it for breakfast as a hot cereal with milk and honey, add it to soups, or mix it with broth and veggies for an easy side dish.
  • Jarred Olives, Artichoke Hearts or Roasted Red Peppers: These preserved veggies add flavor and fiber to pasta dishes, casseroles, quiches, and pretty much any other dish under the sun.
Photos: flickr user Monica's Dad; flickr user jules:stonesoup