Master Cleanse – your pantry

Time for a Do-Over?

I came across a fun article last week – The Master Cleanse – not about diets but about wardrobes.  The premise was this: what if your home burned up and you had to replace your entire wardrobe?  Of course, waiting for a fire as an excuse is pretty silly.  Why not just toss everything and start from scratch.  What key pieces of clothing should you own?

I realized this is a great concept to apply to kitchen pantries and refrigerators.  Toss everything and start over with food that’s healthier.  Ditch the frozen pepperoni pizza and chicken nuggets, the microwave dinners, junky little candy bars, chips, processed cheese dip, baking mixes, soft drinks and toaster pastries.  So what should you stock?  Here are 25 suggestions for foods to stock, great for busy singles or couples who don’t always have time to buy and prepare fresh food.  But don’t just put these foods away and forget about them.  Foods are for eating in a timely fashion.  If you honestly don’t think you’d use something, don’t buy it:

  1. Frozen vegetables: these now come in more convenient bags, in smaller sizes, so perfect for singles and couples to microwave a serving for a meal, or use some in a soup or casserole.  Good choices include chopped spinach, green beans, peas and broccoli/cauliflower.  I use frozen spinach in soups and it’s fabulous added to risotto.
  2. Frozen unsweetened fruit: these also come in re-sealable bags, and in many cases taste a lot better than “fresh” versions sold out of season.  Berries, peaches, pineapple and mango are great choices.  Mix different fruits up in a bowl, and let thaw for a really easy fruit salad.
  3. Pre-cut vegetable and fruit trays/pre-washed salad veggies: only buy these if you intend to eat them up in a few days.  Once they’re in your refrigerator, it’s extremely easy to snack on veggies or fruit, or throw a salad together for a meal.
  4. Whole-grain crackers or flat breads: these are easy to grab for snacks or when throwing together a quick meal.  Brands may vary by region.  A couple of choices I like are Ak Mak and Dr. Kracker, but there are many other choices.  Treat flat or pita breads like any fresh bread – they don’t keep forever, so only buy what you’ll eat in a few days.
  5. Yoghurt: high protein, high calcium, easy to grab as part of a quick meal, or snack.  Avoid overly-sweetened varieties.
  6. Ready-to-eat cereals that are at-least-mostly whole grain: choices can vary from Cheerios to Kashi varieties to bran cereals.
  7. Club soda or seltzer water: add a lemon or lime slice to make it special.  A great alternative to sugary-sweet soft drinks, and the bubbles fill you up.
  8. Fresh vegetables that keep awhile: carrots, celery, broccoli, peppers, potatoes, onions, sweet potatoes, etc.  But be realistic when it comes to fresh produce.  If you aren’t going to eat them before they deteriorate, don’t waste your money.
  9. Interesting rice: most rice cooks up fairly quickly, with little fuss, and there are plenty of alternatives to plain old white rice now.  Brown, Jasmine, Basmati and other varieties are widely available.  Along with rice, you might try other grain foods like quinoa and couscous.
  10. Oatmeal, or other whole grain hot cereal
  11. Canned beans, for use in chili, soups and other bean-based dishes.  They’re all great: kidney, black, pinto, garbanzo, etc.  Pick the No Salt varieties, and add your own salt as necessary.
  12. Sauces: salsa, Thai, green chili, BBQ, soy sauce, mustards and whatever you enjoy, as long as it’s not processed “cream” or “cheese” type sauces that are full of calories and additives.
  13. Canned soups: low sodium and without MSG, preferably full of vegetables
  14. Basic spaghetti or pasta sauce: low sugar and without cheese or meat or other flavoring agents.  You can add your own as necessary.
  15. Good vinaigrette-type salad dressing, made with olive or canola oil
  16. Olive oil, preferably extra virgin.  Peanut oil is good to have around for higher temperature cooking.
  17. Parmesan cheese, the dry grated type form that keeps well.  Very useful for pasta, soups and on salads.
  18. Nuts and/or nut butters: for snacks or on sandwiches.  Nuts can be used on salads, with pasta or stir fry dishes.
  19. Dried fruit: not just raisins.  There are lots of choices in grocery and speciality stores these days.  Avoid the ones coated in sugar or additives.
  20. Plain frozen meat or fish portions.  Buy the kind in bags or single-serve packages, so you can just thaw out what you’ll eat at one meal.
  21. Dark chocolate, because one little piece can turn off your sugar cravings.  My current fave: Lindt Chili flavor
  22. Tofu: it’s so versatile and easy to use, not to mention high protein.  Fry some up with vegetables for a quick dinner
  23. Canned tuna, sardines or salmon.  For sandwiches or with salads.
  24. Canned tomatoes: great to add to casseroles or soups.  Whole, crushed or diced are fine, and you can find unsalted versions.
  25. Garlic: fresh keeps for awhile in a dark cupboard.  Chop it up for sauces or casseroles.  Or roast whole bulbs and spread on bread instead of butter.

No fresh fruit?  Yes, by all means buy fresh fruit in season, if you plan on eating it in a short time.  You don’t do yourself any favors by buying fruit and forgetting about it.  You just end up feeling guilty and wasteful.  So buy fruit you like, that you will eat, and that is in season.

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