Keeping an organised and well-stocked pantry is key to keeping your home cooked meals delicious (and healthy!) and your food waste to a minimum. Take the new year to inspire a pantry overhaul by culling those mystery jars that you don't remember buying, but can't seem to throw out and stock up on some delicious essentials that you can vouch for the expiration date of. Here's your list of must-have ingredients to get your on your way to re-stocking your shelves the smart way.
Let's get started with the basics. These two should go without saying, but any meal that begins with simmering onions and garlic is bound to end up tasting great. Not only a savoury staple, onions and garlic are naturally full of phytochemicals. Phytochemicals are a plant defence mechanism that play an important role in fighting off inflammation. Phytochemicals also have many anti-ageing properties, so on top of tasting great, garlic and onions will keep you looking young!
Need a salad dressing in a pinch? Time to haul out the greasy old bottles and start your oil shelf afresh. Splash out on a high quality extra virgin olive oil and get ready to taste the difference in your salads and drizzled over the top of dishes. Keep a few specialty oils on hand for ethnic dishes, like chili, sesame and walnut.
And we couldn't talk oils without mentioning the humble coconut. This delicious natural oil might have started trending before 2017, but for an oil filled with healthy fats with a high smoke temperature, you can't go past coconut oil. A high smoke point means a longer life span, as it won't spoil in hot temperatures. Use it as a healthy substitute for butter when baking, in curries and stir fries… and even for beauty! It makes a great moisturiser, hair mask and even sunscreen.
Make sure your vinegar selection is well rounded, with great red and white wine options and a high-end balsamic. Apple cider vinegar is a salad dressing staple with a great range of health benefits – it's been proven to lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
Healthy whole grains are a staple for any meal. The options are endless – try millet, spelt, teff, oats and quinoa. Quinoa will continue to hold reign on menus in 2017 as it's an incredible source of protein that can be served at any time of day. Try it in porridge at breakfast, in a healthy salad for lunch and with grilled salmon at dinner.
Make sure to allow plenty of storage space, and keep your grains fresh for longer by storing in airtight, labelled containers or sealed zip-lock bags. Save yourself a nasty surprise like a stale bowl of rice by labelling containers with the date the package was opened.
And remember, you can never go wrong with legumes! Not only are they delicious, but legumes keep you fuller for longer, increasing satiety by 30%. Chickpeas are a saviour for salads, curries and home-made dips.
Shop smart by heading to the canned vegetable aisle and stocking up on high quality tinned tomatoes, coconut milk and meat and vegetable stocks to kick your weeknight dinners into gear. You'll thank yourself when it's one of those nights where there doesn't seem to be anything left in the cupboard! Tinned tomatoes are perfect for pastas, stews, curries and slow-cooker dishes – but make sure to read the label when you purchase to check that it's low in sodium. Try making your own homemade stock by adding garlic, onions and your favourite root vegetables to a broth. Don't have time to make your own? Try stock cubes for convenience.
Seeds are a wonderful way to add healthy fats, protein, fibre and a crunchy texture to all kinds of dishes. Try flax, chia, sesame and sunflower seeds. Pepitas (pumpkin seeds) are also a great option for adding to breads, salads and soups. Chia seeds, in particular, are a great source of calcium, minerals and antioxidants. Try adding a handful to your morning smoothie for a healthy boost. Seeds are also an amazing butter substitute. Try almond and sunflower butter, and tahini (sesame seed butter).
Herbs and spices are the best way to add flavour to any dish without overloading on salt and preservatives. Treat yourself to a gorgeous compact spice rack to avoid clutter and reap the health benefits. Try cumin and mustard seeds, cinnamon, chilli flakes and smoked paprika for an instant flavour boost.
Herbs and spices can provide loads of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits – take turmeric for example. It's a natural anti-inflammatory and great for digestive health, and research has even shown it can help to ward off Alzheimer's disease. Try adding it to a curry, tossing it with roast vegetables or with spiced marinated lamb chops and garlicky yoghurt.
Cooking healthy meals that taste great doesn't have to be boring. By ensuring your pantry is always fully stocked with these items you will be able to enhance the flavour in almost every dish, and always have a range of great ingredients to cook with. Take inspiration from this list and you'll be making healthy and delicious recipe choices in no time!