What I Eat: What’s Always in My Pantry Plus 5 Ingredient Swaps to Get Your Pantry in Shape

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This is part two of three posts on what I eat. Take a look at part one here. Next week, I’ll share a specific list of recipes that make up my typical week of eating.

This shift in the food I eat has felt very organic and natural. I wrote all about it a couple weeks back – check out this post if you’d like to catch up. The best part is that I spend more time cooking because whole foods made from scratch are worth it. But I won’t lie: the first three months were very challenging. I had to change everything. I mean, everything.

You see, I had to get rid a lot of old food and add a lot of new food to my pantry. I examined everything in there to ensure I had whatever I needed to bring a nourishing, satisfying meal to life in a timely manner. As a cookbook author and food professional, my pantry was traditionally filled with flour, sugar, and chocolate; every kind of animal protein including bacon, pork, and beef; butter, milk, cream, yogurt, and every kind of cheese imaginable; and plenty of cloying cocktail ingredients and booze for my daily evening drink(s). Some of these ingredients disappeared as I ran out but, in most cases, I tossed it away decidedly, with purpose, adios, because hard change requires hard decisions.

The most radical change was in the dairy and sweetener categories. I switched from animal milks to plant milks for basically everything that required creaminess. And shifted from regular cane sugar to no sugar at all or small doses of specific sugars that didn’t throw my glycemic levels out of whack (at least, not as much). I have not really given up dairy or sugar, I’ve just switched up the forms that get into my body.

Now, you’re going to look at this list and shout, “I can’t change my entire pantry over to this in a heartbeat!” And, friend, I completely understand. While I had to change everything immediately in order to start that elimination diet, you take your time and do what feels good, always. In fact, if you want to go slowly, I wrote a downloadable PDF just for you. It’s called: “5 Ingredient Swaps to Get Your Pantry in Shape” (see bottom of post) and I hope it will help you make tiny changes whenever you feel like it.

I do want to share, however, that after I switched up my pantry, I ended up saving a lot of money. In fact, the moment I curbed my spending on animal protein and dairy, my monthly food budget halved immediately. That’s a lot of money, people.

Ultimately, my pantry changed dramatically.

And here’s what’s in there today. While these are the core ingredients for the meals I make in my kitchen, you don’t need to stock everything to make gorgeous dishes. Stock what you like, make change in little ways, cook as often as you can.

And without further delay, here is what’s in my pantry, fridge, and freezer.

THE PANTRY

Beans + Legumes: I keep a variety on hand all the time. My pantry is filled with pinto beans, pink beans, black beans, chickpeas, black lentils, brown lentils, green lentils, and pounds of special heirloom beans from various sources. I stock both dried beans (preferred) and canned beans (canned without BPA whenever possible) because sometimes I need to eat right this very second. When I’m living a balanced life, I make dried beans in my Instant Pot every week. When life is crazy, like now, when I’m finishing up the manuscript for my next cookbook, I pop open a can. (Give those beans a good drain and rinse before using.)

Fats + Oils: I stock olive oil, refined coconut oil, ghee, grape seed oil, sesame oil, coconut butter, and canola oil. I prefer to saute with olive oil or grape seed oil; bake with coconut oil; and I love to use ghee when butter is called for in a dish. Ghee is essentially clarified butter, where the milk solids have been removed through a heating process and the golden fat has been toasted up beautifully. It tastes a little like brown butter, aromatic and nutty, just without the milk solids. You can buy this in most markets today or make your own (which I do).

Flours + Grains: I keep a variety of flours on hands, both with and without gluten. They include (but are not limited to) all-purpose flour, 00 flour (for pizza), almond flour, buckwheat flour, chickpea flour, oat flour, rice flour, rye flour, semolina flour, spelt flour, sprouted whole wheat flour, regular whole wheat flour, and whole wheat pastry flour. I do keep a variety of grains on hand like amaranth, basmati rice, black rice, brown rice, corn tortillas, couscous, long grain rice, quinoa, rye flakes, and oat flakes. (I tend to to store the nut/oat flours, corn tortillas, and rye/oat flakes in the fridge.)

Pasta: I was born into a pasta loving family and have a pasta-loving husband. I keep both traditional and gluten-free pastas on hand. They include black rice noodles, brown rice noodles and pasta, Israeli couscous (which is really pasta), semolina pasta, and vermicelli pastas of all types.

Plant Milks: I use plain unsweetened plant-based milk for everything from my morning cup of decaffeinated coffee to my smoothies and even pancake batter. I also cream up sauces, pasta dishes, and soups with plant-based milk. I use almond milk and cashew milk daily, sometimes diluting them with a little water if it’s in a smoothie or soup. I typically make my own almond or cashew milk but also stock plain unsweetened varieties from the organic grocery. I also stock or make coconut milk, hazelnut milk, pistachio milk, or oat milk when I want something a little different or need it for a recipe.

Produce: Since the bulk of my dishes are filled with produce, my home is filled with produce on the regular. While I do buy a tub of strawberries when they’re in season or just dug potatoes from the local farm stand for comfort food night, these are the ingredients I keep around most of the time. I’ll list what’s in my pantry here and put the other ingredients under the “fridge” section. In my pantry, you’ll find: avocados, bananas, garlic, lemons, limes, onions (white, red, shallots), sweet potatoes, squash, and tomatoes (more on that below).

Tomatoes and Tomatillos: Tomatoes are a special category to me since I use them on the regular. I typically stock tomato sauce, tomato paste, diced tomatoes, and whole tomatoes. In August and September, I make quarts and quarts of my own tomato sauce (I’ll include a recipe in my next cookbook) and make sure I process them so they’re shelf stable (meaning, they can last about a year on a shelf) as I don’t want to take up valuable freezer space. I use a lot of tomatillos in my cooking and make Tomatillo Salsa Verde — it’s a salsa that makes everything taste divine. During harvest season, I typically remove the thin outer husk of the tomatillo, clean them, and slice them half. Then, I’ll freeze them in 1-pound batches to make easily work for that Salsa Verde or my Pumpkin Enchilada Sauce (also a recipe in my next cookbook). There’s been a lot written about night shades and whether they’re all that good for you in big quantities. I’m reading and adjusting as I learn more from reputable sources.

Spices: I have three drawers of spices so this list is just a start. I stock: black peppercorns, white peppercorns, cardamom, chili peppers (dried and ground), cinnamon (sticks and ground), cumin, ground ginger, dried mushrooms, mushroom powder, dried rosemary, rosemary powder, dried sage, sage powder, nutmeg (whole and ground), pumpkin pie spice (because, come on), and turmeric. I also stock various types of sea salt from all over the world: pink, kosher, coarse, fine, flaky. I’m a sea salt fanatic.

Sweeteners: I use a variety of new sweeteners since shifting to this new way to food. There is certainly a little organic cane sugar in my pantry, because I do bake for others frequently, but increasingly, they’re asking for the lower glycemic stuff too. I stock these lower glycemic sweeteners: apples (fresh and frozen), bananas, brown rice syrup, coconut sugar, dates, date syrup, date sugar, date nectar, honey (light, wildflower, chestnut, hazelnut, raw, and simple syrup), maple sugar, and maple syrup. Remember, I know that sugar is still sugar so I consume as little as possible.

Vinegars: Vinegars have added so much to my new way of cooking. I splash a little on veg at the end of a saute and even drink shots, well-diluted, of certain types during allergy season. I stock apple cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar, champagne vinegar, coconut vinegar, distilled white vinegar, fruit vinegars (the homemade kind), red wine vinegar, rice wine vinegar, sherry vinegar, and white wine vinegar.

Teas: I have a big bin of loose leaf and tea bags, all organic. I tend to stock chamomile as it calms me down and keeps my anxiety at bay; peppermint as it helps me process a meal and refreshes/perks me up; Irish breakfast as living with someone of Irish origins means keeping a good black tea around (caffeinated and decaffeinated); and oat tea that’s a blend of oat tops, oat straw, motherwort, and cinnamon chips made by a dear friend (she says it helps to “mother” me or self-care, people). I have many other teas but these are the ones I drink most often.

Other Ingredients: I keep a variety of extracts on hand to flavor my baking, my morning oatmeal, or even my plant-based milk lattes. I make them all myself: vanilla, almond, cinnamon, hazelnut, coconut, peppermint. The extract recipes are in my first cookbook. I also keep baking soda and baking powder (for leavening), arrowroot powder (for thickening), nutritional yeast (for adding cheese-ish flavor to foods), rice milk powder (for baking sandwich breads).

THE FRIDGE

Condiments: I stock so many condiments including chili paste, chili oil, chipotle in adobo (in cans), garlic puree, ginger puree, hot sauce (fermented/homemade), miso paste, mustards (whole grain, dijon, yellow), pesto (dairy-free and nut-free styles), and soy sauce. There are a hundred more but these are the ones used most often. They’re all stored in my refrigerator though sometimes I freeze small portions of pesto.

Nuts + Seeds: I use nuts for everything from adding a little crunch to a salad or oatmeal bowl, because of course, all the way to whizzing up for plant-based milk, egg substitutes in baking, or creamy sauces and yogurt. I stock most of the following and store it all in labeled glass jars in my fridge: almonds, brazil nuts, cashews, cacao nibs, cacao powder, chia seeds, flax seeds, peanuts, pecans, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, and walnuts. I go through many of my nuts pretty quickly so a month or two in the pantry won’t hurt them. But if you go through nuts very slowly, it’s best to store them in the fridge – it lengthens their life.

Produce: I keep the following produce in my fridge: basil, blueberries, carrots, celery, cilantro, ginger, greens (kale, swiss chard, spinach, lettuce), mint, mushrooms, parsley, zucchini. I also keep a lot of unsweetened dried fruit in my fridge, like coconut flakes, apricots, dates, raisins, cranberries, and cherries. Keep in mind that I’m hyper concerned with food waste so only buy in small quantities each week and use it up in all my dishes (or freezer it for future dishes).

THE FREEZER

Animal Protein: My freezer is where I hold my non-veg protein. Sometimes I indulge in a bit here or there but more than likely I am cooking this for guests or family. You see, I buy from a farmer whom I trust and make sure it’s organic, cage-free, and grass-fed. Since I buy in bulk only a few times per year, I freeze it and thaw as needed. I stock a couple steaks, ground beef, a whole chicken, a whole duck, sustainable salmon (I know the fisherman!), and I bring in a turkey at Thanksgiving only. I also keep organic, cage-free eggs in my fridge.

Produce: I source and freeze local fruit when it’s in season (I layer it on trays and then vacuum seal it) and keep it all in an extra large chest freezer. Whenever I need a few blueberries or strawberries for a smoothie or a pie, I often use or cook it from frozen.

Stock: I tend to only stock homemade stocks since making them in between other cooking has become second nature to me. I store them in 1 quart containers and label them with names and dates created, and try to use them up within 6 months from date of creation (though they do tend to last longer). I make and store allium (all the onions) stock, bay + garlic stock, chicken stock (seasonally), duck stock (seasonally), ginger stock, mushroom stock, turkey stock (seasonally), and good old vegetable stock. I make them without a lot of salt and add more after they’ve thawed for meal prep. On the rare occasion when I buy stock (sometimes I keep a single carton for emergencies), it’s always vegetarian, organic, and low in salt.

Thanks so much for reading along! If you have any questions about any of this, post them in the comments below and I’ll answer them stat. Next week, I’ll take you through a typical week of eating for me, with links to favorite recipes and food prep tips. Okay? Okay.

ALSO, here’s the link to download: “5 Ingredients to Get Your Pantry in Shape” I hope you find this super duper helpful. Cheers! xo

Photos taken by Maggie Battista.

Eat Boutique is an award-winning shop and story-driven recipe site created by Maggie Battista – an author, business guide and alignment seeker. After hosting pop-up markets for 25,000+ guests, Maggie is now supporting entrepreneurs as they create values-based businesses in service, food, & retail through Eat Boutique StudioFollow Maggie Battista on Instagram.

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