Stocking my real food pantry and fridge: Back to Basics

Stocking my real food pantry and fridge: Back to Basics

The other week I got a message from a reader who is transitioning into real food. And I couldn’t help but picture my own confused self a couple of years back with all the same questions. Maybe you can relate, too. Holly writes:

As I’m learning more about food, I also find myself somewhat more confused and overwhelmed at the grocery store. I usually buy my produce and a just a few other necessities and then end up leaving the store with little else. This results in a relatively bare refrigerator, and throughout the week I realize that I really don’t have much on hand to make myself a nutritious and well-balanced lunch. I would find it so helpful if you could provide some insight as to what your food staples are. What do you find yourself buying and stocking your kitchen with on a regular basis? What are your go-to meals with ingredients you normally have in the house?

Ah yes, those moments when opening the fridge after unpacking the week’s groceries and feeling like you still have nothing to eat. I remember those feelings. Thankfully, over the course of three or so years, I’ve finally found a “groove” that works for my family. And today I’m going to share some of my “go to” basics and staples that we use.

Remember: Everyone is different

Keep in mind that what works for me, may not work for you. And I’m far from perfect… (But I don’t need to tell you that, right?)  My family does well on dairy, grains, eggs, and meat. We are not vegetarians. Definitely not vegans. And we are lucky that we don’t have any major food allergies. So if our situation seems to match yours, then hopefully this post will help you as you transition into real food.

To everything there is a season

Much of what we eat depends on the season. During the summer months, for example we will usually sign up for a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and that will shape our menus for the week. I do most of my other shopping at smaller “health” food stores where the selection for produce and other perishables will change with the seasons, too. At first this seemed like more work as I would plan for a specific dish only to learn that an important ingredient wasn’t to be found. So before you do any shopping or planning, check in with what’s really in season where you live. It will save you time and it’s better for your body, too.

Ready? Let’s do this.

Pantry Staples

Useful guide to stalking your pantry and fridge with real food!

1. Rice, Beans, Pasta

Whether you cook your own beans and then can or freeze them or choose to buy canned beans in the store (just be sure to get BPA free cans, please!), beans are a great addition to soups, salads, tacos, dips, etc. They are frugal and nourishing.

Rice is another great staple that can be added to soups or used as a lovely side dish. When things are hectic, I will cook some rice and throw in shredded sharp cheese to make cheesy rice. We don’t eat rice all the time, but’s nice to have on hand. Also, we choose to eat white rice after years of thinking brown rice was better. Not only do we enjoy the flavor more, but turns out white rice is actually better for you for a number of reasons.

Pasta is another one of those quick and easy meals that we eat once every week or two. You can find sprouted pasta online, which is easier to digest and more nourishing.

2. Tomatoes, Pasta/Pizza Sauce

Whether in pasta dishes, for tacos, in soup or the like, we love our tomato products. Self preservation and canning will always give you more nourishment, control, and help you avoid toxins like BPA. But don’t let that keep you from having food in your pantry while you keep progressing.

3. Coconut and Olive Oil

We go through A LOT of coconut oil. We use extra virgin for popcorn, french toast, baking, and any other cooking that lends itself well to a subtle coconut flavor. We use expellar-pressed coconut oil for cooking where we don’t want a coconut flavor. Olive oil is used more sparingly in things like salad dressing, humus, and other heat-free dishes.

4. Flours, Oats, Quinoa, Pop Corn, and other grains

While some people may think it’s heresy, I have both whole wheat flour and white flour on hand in small amounts. And honestly, I haven’t use the whole wheat flour for months and will probably be tossing it soon. If I’m going for nourishment I will always choose my sprouted flour (coming up), but if I’m making cookies for a family gathering, white flour is the way to go. It stores much better than plain ole’ wheat flour and is actually easier to digest. So while it’s not really nourishing, I choose it over wheat flour (unless that whole wheat flour was freshly ground… that’s a different story.)

We also like having oats on hand for soaked oatmeal. We LOVE popping popcorn on the stove top in coconut oil. And we occasionally eat other grains like quinoa, millet, and the like. (Although, I try to keep my quinoa consumption down as it’s devastating the areas trying to keep up with our want for exotic foods.)

5. Dried Herbs and Spices

What finally got me hooked on real food was the flavor. Herbs and spices are a must to bring some real goodness to the table. The ones I use the most include: Oregano, Basil, Parsley, Chili Powder, Garlic, Cumin, Curry, Paprika, Red Pepper Flakes, and Cayenne Pepper. And of course real salt and freshly ground pepper. Of course, it’s nice to have fresh herbs on hand, too.

Refrigerator Staples

Useful guide to stalking your pantry and fridge with real food!

1. Raw Milk, Cheese, Butter, Yogurt

Yep. We love dairy in our house. I always have these essentials on hand. Raw milk is my favorite drink. Cheese goes with almost everything. Butter is essential. And yogurt is perfect for a quick snack or to boost the occasional smoothie.

2. Eggs (and lots of them!)

I remember growing up in a home that went through a dozen eggs every couple of weeks (maybe). Boy, are things different in my house. Many morning start with fried eggs, sprouted toast, and raw milk. Grateful to have access to pastured eggs from a local farm. Can’t wait to have my own chickens.

3. Vegetables and Fruits

The type of vegetables and fruits depends on what’s in season. Greens, carrots, beets, root vegetables, onions (lots of onions), tomatoes, apples, grapefruit, bananas, mangoes, etc. Having a bunch of ways to cook different vegetables means you should never go hungry. Salads, roasted, sauteed, blanched, raw… etc. Love your fruits and veggies. (And yes, not all of these should be stored in the fridge. I know that.)

5. Tortillas, Sprouted Flours, Specialty Flours, etc.

I keep my sprouted flour in the fridge so it doesn’t go rancid. I use it to make biscuits, cookies, etc. I also love having my sprouted corn tortillas on hand. They are great for easy tacos, quesadillas, or fry them up in some coconut oil for chips and salsa. I also have things like almond flour and arrowroot powder on hand.

6. Condiments

Store bought condiments can be the biggest offenders of nasty ingredients. Read labels carefully, or make them yourself. Our most used include organic ketchup, mayo (without rancid vegetable oils), whole grain mustard, hot sauce (for the hubs), and homemade dressings for salads.

Freezer Staples

Useful guide to stalking your pantry and fridge with real food!

1. Frozen Vegetables and Fruit

I love having this stuff on hand in case I don’t get to the store and need a veggie. We always have organic berries on hand at all times (they are my little girl’s favorite snack).

2. Meat, Liver/Organ Meats

We only eat meat once or twice a week, and since we buy more of our stuff from a local farmer it’s usually frozen to begin with. We’ll almost always have grassfed burgers, a whole chicken, liver, and fish in the freezer.

3. Stock

When we roast our chicken, I make chicken broth and store up until my freezer is full. This is perfect for soups and sauces. I will also cook my rice and other grains in stock to add more nourishment to a dish.

4. Sprouted Bread and Pizza Crusts

We don’t eat a ton of sandwiches. Most of our bread is consumed as a piece of toast in the morning with our eggs. To keep the bread fresher longer I just stick it in the freezer. And I always have at least one sprouted pizza crust on hand. Talk about a 15 minutes start to finish meal that’s yummy and good for you.

5. Ice cream

Let’s be honest, I also almost always have ice cream in my freezer. Best if it’s homemade from raw milk but I’ll take a quality organic store-bought variety if I need to. It’s my comfort food, and I don’t care who knows it.

Keep it simple.

As mentioned in this post, real food doesn’t have to be complicated. We always try to find at least one new dish each week to try and experiment with. But most of the week we will fall back on simple meals like salads, soups, or (what I like to call) “the toddler approach” where we just have a variety of easily prepared options to consume.

For me, meal planning has helped me a lot… but I also find that I need to be flexible. Having a list of 5, 10, or even 20 “go to” meals will help take the work out of planning. Make meal time more than just the food. Connect with others, practice mindful eating, and feel good that you’re making progress.

What are your real food staples?

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About the author

Hi! I'm and I’m passionate about healthy living: feeling nourished, having energy, getting good sleep, and feeling strong. I believe healthy living does not have to be complicated or stressful. I’m a Registered Somatic Movement Therapist (RSMT) and a Certified Laban/Bartenieff Movement Analyst (CLMA). I’m also an avid researcher and love to read about nutrition, the body, and toxic-free living. Learn more.

View all articles by Robin Konie

21 comments

  1. Lauree Kramer

    Great post! It really means a lot when you’re trying to eat healthier but weren’t raised that way. Thanks.

  2. Elizabeth

    Oh, this is a good post! I’m wondering how much you spend a week/month buying food for your family? Just curious how much it costs to feed a family real food? :)


    1. Post author
      robin

      It really depends, honestly. Currently I spend more as I am eating more meats and other “expensive” foods to help with pregnancy. I can keep the budget lower ($100 a week or less) when I need to.

  3. Jennifer Womack

    Great post! I’m new to this way of eating and still trying to get into the groove. Would you mind posting your recipe for sprouted pizza crust? That sounds like something I want to keep in my freezer too.


    1. Post author
      robin

      Hi Jennifer,

      I actually “cheat” with my pizza crust. My local Real Foods Market sells an awesome sprouted pizza crust that has only real ingredients. I buy a handful of them and have them in my freezer for those busy days. But a quick google search for “sprouted pizza crust” will give you some good options, too. :)

  4. Crystal

    Good points in your post I have a family of 8 and often get looked at funny at the farmers market for buying 15dozzen eggs but we go through them. I would also say to new folks don’t think the world is going to end if you cheat every now and then as a mom of 6 I have learned to cut myself some slack. I am now friends with the farmers at the market and buy a lot of my dry goods on Amazon and have just recently found the Green Polka Dot Box for some good deals on organic fruit that I can’t get locally.

    I keep sprouted tortillas in the freezer and always have nuts and hard boiled eggs on hands for those days I’m stuck in the chair nursing the baby that way the other kids can make themselves a lunch that doesn’t give me a heart attack.

    I wish there had been more posts like this when we first started making the transition many many many years ago


    1. Post author
      robin

      I think anyone with a family of 8 should get an award for just keeping alive! :) Definitely cut yourself some slack. By the sounds of things, you are doing pretty amazing.

  5. michele

    White rice? Isn’t that like white flour? I have done much research and brown basmati seems to be the most nutritious. Just wondering-


    1. Post author
      robin

      It actually isn’t the same. If you click on the link above where I talk about white rice you can see why we switched back.

  6. Karen Taylor

    Thanks for the listing. I buy certified organic products as much as possible. One of my newest staple products is “ghee” or clarified butter- I keep it on the counter near the coconut oil. Frozen edamame and dried lentils are also newer additions to my “must have on hand” list. Nutritional yeast is also something I am incorporating more and more into dishes or as a topping or flavor enhancer. If you are “like minded” please visit and become a fan of my page :)

  7. Shaynna Riel

    This is my confession of a processed foods junkie. I have a family of four including myself. I am more health conscience than any of the others. I honestly feel like a failure when it comes to the teenager because cookies and coke are staples in his diet. Other family staples include: pizza rolls, frozen pizza, frozen chicken wings, etc. If that’s not in the house, they say they have nothing to eat. I honestly want to make a change but it’s hard to break old habits. I am once again off cokes, trying to drink primarily water. Last night I had a coke and now my stomach is terribly upset. That’s a big red flag!!! I saw on Pinterest how to layer salad so that it will stay fresh throughout the week so I’ve really been eating fresh salad almost daily for lunch. I’m now regulated again. LOL!!! I really want to do this new way of eating for my nine year old daughter who was diagnosed with IBS. She has the eczema problem and a little OCD about washing her hands. Her hands are like sand paper and crack in the winter. We live in the south so that helps!! Plus she’s a little chucky but I think that’s also from a lack of regularity. I know this is long and I don’t know what I expect you to tell me but I honestly do want help to get my family healthy even if I have to do it on the sly until they jump on this health journey with me. Any words of advice, suggestions, or other guidance as I take on this huge challenge????


    1. Post author
      robin

      Good for you for wanting to make these changes. That’s really the biggest and first step.

      Make sure you’re getting enough real fats in your diet (check out my real food posts listed in my “favorite topics” at the top) as that will definitely help with the dry skin.

      As for getting your kids on board, get them to help in the kitchen when possible. Remember, real food doesn’t JUST have to be vegetables and salads. You can make your favorite versions of the “junk” they love including real food pizza, hamburgers, etc. If your kids are involved in the process and see that real food can still be super satisfying that’s half the battle right there.

      Good luck!

  8. Joni

    Hi Robin!

    Not sure if you remember me, but I took your class at UVU and I am Marci Tuttle’s sister:). Anyway, My husband and I are trying to switch over to real foods. It is a process, but I am excited about the change. I am wondering if your body went through a weird phase while switching. We have started drinking raw milk, but for some reason we have been feeling kind of sick. I can’t figure out if we just aren’t getting something we need or if it is the milk. I don’t want to believe it is the milk honestly. Anyway, I just wondered if you had any thoughts or tips. I love your blog. Thank you for being a pioneer in this. You are awesome.

    Thanks!!!!!!


    1. Post author
      robin

      You’re sweet, Joni. I definitely remember you. :)

      It’s hard to say what it might be. I haven’t had a problem with milk at all (and I drink it a lot), but some people are truly sensitive to milk. Did you drink pasteurized milk before? If you didn’t have issues with that I would highly doubt it’s the milk… assuming you’re getting it from a reliable source. (Are you still in Utah? Are you getting it at the Real Foods Market? There’s is awesome.)

      You can always try backing off of it and seeing how you feel. If the sickness goes away reintroduce the milk in a week or two and notice how you feel again. It could be a number of things… Have you made any other changes to your diet?

  9. Joni

    Ya…we got it from Real Foods Market. That market is the best. Other than raw milk products we have switched to sprouted flour and just cut out the processed foods. Maybe I will back off and re-introduce it. I have never been a huge milk drinker so maybe that is it. I have no idea.


    1. Post author
      robin

      Yeah, just stop and see if things improve and reintroduce. If you have the same reaction when reintroducing it you may just have a milk intolerance. Bummer.

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