Ah, the good ol’ kitchen staples. The go-tos. The MVPs. Whatever you may call them, you probably have certain ingredients in your kitchen that you always keep on hand either because you use them so much or because they go with just about everything. Or both. I figured I’d share a few of my own kitchen staples to get you inspired to stock your fridge/freezer/cabinets so you can easily (and cheaply) whip up something delicious for your next meal. Note that you can usually buy these things in generic form, but I’ve noted some of my favorite brands when applicable.
If you keep up with recent food trends, you’ll know that ghee is all the rage these days. Ghee is basically a variation of clarified, unsalted butter. It has a higher smoke point, which makes it ideal for cooking at high temperatures. I use ghee for frying eggs and sautéing vegetables. It keeps for a long time in my cabinet and doesn’t need to be refrigerated.
My favorites: Fourth + Heart, Trader Joe’s
Eggs are a lifesaver for a college student on a budget. Not only can they be cooked in about a million different ways, they’re also hella cheap. Oh, and did I mention that you can eat them for basically any meal? Yeah, eggs rock.
I always make sure to keep either shrimp or frozen meat in my freezer. This is super helpful for when I can’t make it to the grocery store for a few days but still want to make a meal with decent protein. Whatever you choose, whether it be shrimp, chicken, or beef, can easily be seasoned with a variety of different things to make it taste different every time.
4. Uncured chicken sausage
Make sure it’s uncured in order to avoid all the added preservatives that essentially cancel out all that’s good for you. You can throw this into an egg scramble, pasta, or eat it on its own. This freezes really well and is great for when you’re in a pinch, especially because it’s already cooked.
My favorites: Bilinski’s, Trader Joe’s
Okay, I’m going to be completely honest here, plain quinoa is disgusting. Don’t let any “health guru” tell you otherwise. But quinoa is a whole grain and complements a lot of flavorful things. Try it with beef + broccoli as a substitute for rice or in a salad with spinach and chicken. It keeps for a long time, so you don’t have to use it all right away.
6. Nut butter
Unless you’re allergic to nuts, I hope this is a staple in your kitchen. There are tons of nut butter brands out there without added sugar, which is what I like to buy. Throw it in smoothies, eat it on toast, snack on it with some apples. The possibilities are endless.
My favorites: Trader Joe’s salted creamy peanut butter, Trader Joe’s salted almond butter, Crazy Richard’s peanut butter
7. Coconut milk
Coconut milk is my milk of choice since cow’s milk bothers my stomach. I keep cans of unsweetened coconut milk on hand as a source of fat for smoothies or substitute for any recipe that calls for cow’s milk.
8. Parsley + garlic powder
These two are my go-to spices. I literally put them on everything. Chicken, roasted veggies, you name it, it’s on there. I also feel like it should go without saying, but salt + pepper should already be staples in everyone’s kitchen, no matter how much you cook.
9. One box of pasta
Pasta is basically just a blank canvas. Literally all you need is butter. Or cheese. Or if you’re feeling extra fancy, some roasted vegetables and a jar of pesto.
My favorites: Banza, whole wheat generic brand
Just like the chicken sausage, you can either go healthy or unhealthy with this one. I buy mayo like this one that’s organic and doesn’t have any artificial preservatives. Mayo can be a great source of fat in something like chicken salad or on a sandwich. It also keeps forever. My favorites: Woodstock Foods, Sir Kensington’s
11. Frozen bananas
The base of most of the smoothies that I make is a frozen banana. From there, I throw in stuff like peanut butter, coconut milk, protein powder, and maybe some other fruit. You can also use frozen bananas whenever you feel the sudden urge to make banana bread (just me?) or blended up as a substitute for ice cream.
12. Frozen fruit + veggies
Repeat after me: frozen fruit + veggies have the same nutritional value as fresh fruit + veggies. Except they just keep a lot longer. Whip up a chicken breast and some frozen veggies for dinner tonight or toss some frozen berries in Greek yogurt for breakfast tomorrow. It’s seriously that easy.
Well, there ya have it. These are my 12 go-tos that I try to always keep in my kitchen. These are the things that I either use a ton or that make it easy for me to whip up a quick and healthy meal. I hope this list helps inspire you to add a few new healthy staples to your kitchen!