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Healthy Pantry Checklist

If the brain has to think too long to make decisions, it shuts down.

No joke.  This became really obvious when I was reading Donald Miller’s, “Building a Story Brand.”  When the brain feels overloaded with too many decisions it starts to burn too many calories and stops dead in its tracks.  He makes such a powerful point that the “human brain is drawn toward clarity.”

This was an ah-ha moment for me as it relates to food.  It is part of the reason that so many people fail at meal prep and healthy food decisions.  They simply have to make too many decisions to be successful. Thus, their brain begins to burn too many calories and quits.

McDonald’s is just way easier (and they know it).

For you to be successful in creating a healthy lifestyle you have to eliminate as many barriers to success as possible.  One of those barriers is creating a physical environment that breeds easy nutritional access. Specifically,  a kitchen that makes decision making simple and straightforward. One that is clean, fresh, organized, inviting and let’s just say it…pretty.

If you walked into a restaurant that was dirty, disorganized and a total disaster would you want to eat there?

Yeah…me either.  

Your kitchen is no different.  You must create an environment where you want to cook, where you can find things easily, where things stay fresh and where you feel like Gordon Ramsay every damn day.

One of the first places to start is your pantry.

To me, a healthy pantry contains items that are essential to building the foundations of not just meals but snacks.  They are high in quality, contain ingredients that are easy to read and aren’t too sugary sweet.

Overall, the pantry is a place of balance.

Together we are going to begin to create a pantry that invites you in to take control of your health, is packed with healthy go-to’s, and maintains balance in 6 easy steps.

6 easy steps to creating a healthy pantry

Here are six simple steps to creating a healthy pantry.

Step 1: Ditch the junk.

Yep, let’s clean it out and start fresh.  This way you don’t have to question dates and can eliminate any of the stuff that has been sitting there for far too long.  And if you don’t want to start from scratch then just ditch the stuff you know won’t support your goals.

I am talking about those trigger foods; foods you can’t moderate and leave you with an ugly food binge of mental guilt.  Identify which ones are the highest triggers and remove them for now until you have time to learn how to moderate.

There are times when the pantry begins to fill with too many sugary laden items and I have to go in deep and trash the treats (thank you Christmas, Halloween, and Valentines).

Step 2. Invest in long-term storage

When I mean invest, I mean don’t be afraid to buy something that will last because it is worth it.  If you do it right, this pantry project can provide you years of health and sanity. Buy storage that fits the space well and is durable to last whatever age span your family or you are.

Clear Storage is a must. It allows you to see to the inside and identify what the contents are without pulling basket after basket out.  Being able to see to what is on the inside saves wear and tear on the pantry and also saves your ears from the “MOM–what is there to eat?

Because I am a budget conscious girl, the first place I began looking for clear kitchen storage was TJ Maxx.  They have hidden treasures in their kitchen and food department and I love peeking in there frequently to see what they have in stock.

Sure enough, they had the brand of clear kitchen organizers I was exactly looking for, InterDesign.  This brand is carried at the Container Store (in case you want to go there for reference) but is almost double the cost of what I found at TJ Maxx or even from Amazon.  I purchased the various sizes on-hand and used them as a guide in size to purchase more from Amazon.

You can also check out 9 Simple Organization Tools to Declutter Any Kitchen by Lyn Mettler, of The TODAY Show who features my  very own clear storage organization tip along with other products that will help you create a kitchen environment for success.

I bought stackable containers for small items like the ones shown below. You can click HERE for the link to view them on Amazon.  I also bought larger ones for bagged items like rice, quinoa, and lentils like these from AMAZON.  The tall and skinny ones are great for layering in the pantry. You can shop for various depths and configuration to fit your pantry the best.

Wire baskets like these from AMAZON are also a great option that allows you to see inside.  Trust me, I speak from experience, you save yourself so much time and energy by seeing what is inside the bins first.

Plastic or Glass?

This highly debated topic is relevant to the pantry too.  Will you buy plastic storage, a much cheaper option, or glass?

Here is why glass may be your best option.  It stays cleaner because it is less porous, can be washed at high temperatures, and is 100% recyclable.

I use Mason jars for every storage solution I need.  Why? Because they are cheap, easy to find and for me, are really inviting.  You can order all sizes right from Amazon shipped to your house in less than 48 hours.  The pricing even beat a Hobby Lobby trip where I could use a 50% off coupon.

I use small pint Masons for spices and seasonings.  The larger quart size Mason jars are filled with flours, ground seeds and some of the items we use in larger volume.  I even use some of the half gallon sizes for things I buy in massive bulk like nuts.

If you prefer plastic or are on a budget, just make sure they are 100% BPA free.  Because these containers will be used for storage and won’t be heated at high temperatures in the microwave, the use of plastic outweighs your amazing effort to make the pantry a more healthy place to eat.

#3. Group like items

To keep focused and efficient, group like items together.  Keep nuts and seeds in the same place in jars or on a turntable so you know where to look for that item.  Over time, that location will become a habit and will create efficiency for the eye.

Place boxed items together too.  For example rice, quinoa and lentils, all dinner side items, in the same bin.  That way when you are scrambling for quick dinner options you can view all choices of similar purpose (carbohydrate) together.

This also helps when you are preparing your grocery shopping lists because you can make a quick scan of the location to see if you need to buy more.

#4. Consider what you want the focus to be

A pantry is a place for storage of items that aren’t extremely perishable.  That often leads to a mixture of whole foods like nuts and seeds but also processed items like grains and crackers.

Consider what you want the focus to be in your pantry, not just for you but for your little ones too.

Do you want those crackers to be at eye level for little people?  Or do you have jars of nuts and trail mixes that you want the focal point to be when they open the pantry door?  Think about what message you want to send when you organize the pantry and keep those items you want to be consumed most often at eye level.

Use turntables so that you and your family can have full access to what is available.  I have had so many awesome pantry foods get hidden behind something and they have gone to waste too soon.  A 2-tiered turntable like this one allows you to store jars of nuts, seeds so that you can easily give it a spin and find all the options available.  It also allows you to maximize your pantry space by stacking items and filling space upward.

Consider a grab-and-go quick snack bin like this one.  This basket is filled with quick snacks that we might need for a car ride or on the way to an event.  It’s filled with things we don’t have daily but are healthy bars like Larabars, Rx Bars, Red Bars and occasional other bars that may be a treat.

#5. Buy in Bulk when you can

The great part of making an investment in your pantry and buying proper storage is that you can begin to save money by shopping in the bulk bins at the grocery store.  You are likely to pay half of what you pay buying the packaged version because you are saving on the cost of packaging and labor according to the thepennyhoarder.com. You can buy in bulk as needed and then store in the pretty little jars you invested in.

Using Mason jars as discussed above guarantee freshness over time.

#6. Label it up

I always tell myself I will remember what is inside each jar I have.

WRONG!

Let’s just say I have made a really spicy batch of my cashew-pecan butter when I accidentally put in cayenne instead of cinnamon (totally wasn’t paying attention).

Point is, put a labeling system in place from the start so that you know what is inside each jar from the get-go.  You can use pre-printed labels, chalk, or simple dry erase markers. Labeling helps the entire family, especially beginning readers like mine.

I keep it simple and often use a dry erase marker for the tops of my mason jars.

You can buy chalkboard labels or even dry erase tape to save a bit of cash.

Don’t forget to label your jars with dates to keep track of freshness in the pantry too.  Write the date you opened it or the expiration date as listed on the product’s packaging.

Having a pantry that is organized and inviting inspires healthy habits and cooking.  You can make your pantry over on a budget and can modify any of these containers by even shopping at your local dollar store or on Amazon Prime.

Pantry Staples: How to stock a healthy, nutrient-dense pantry

Kids are home from school, backpacks are flung on the kitchen table, and within 2 minutes I usually hear the rusty squeak of the pantry door hinge.

The kids are hungry and want snacks.  

The fridge is full of healthy whole foods, but the pantry is usually where the simple quick stuff is.  They aren’t dumb…they want a snack that will satisfy that afternoon craving.

If this story sounds familiar (or you have one similar) then this confirms the importance of filling your pantry with foods that support your family’s health and wellness.

P.S.A.: What is in the pantry WILL get eaten, no matter.  Even if it is healthy or not.

As parents and spouses, we are responsible for filling the pantry with options that help keep a nutrient dense diet but also allow balance in life. That is a huge responsibility.

Sweet treats

I talk a lot about eliminating trigger foods if you don’t feel like you have high willpower at the moment.  Keep that in mind when stocking that pantry.  However, creating a healthy relationship with foods you enjoy from a young age is a really important piece of the food awareness puzzle.

When it comes to children, don’t underestimate their knowledge and understanding of the importance of food in their bodies.  Teach them what foods provide them, encourage them to reflect on how certain foods make them feel and allow them the power of choice.

I keep a small bin of “sweet treats” in the pantry because I want my children to know how to moderate their consumption of them.  We use the following food mantra in our home as an open (and simple) reminder of how we fuel our bodies:

“There are everyday foods.” (things like vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, lean proteins).

“There are sometimes foods.” (things like a piece of chocolate, pasta, cereal, bread)

“And there are special occasion foods.” (cupcakes, ice cream, etc.)

This helps to create a simple visual and verbal reminder of what foods should be primarily composing our day-to-day diet.

Build a Foundation

There are things you can and should have on hand every single day.  These are things that serve as the foundation of meals and will make healthy living simple if you have them organized in your pantry all the time.  Beyond what you physically have in your home is teaching your children (and adults too) the power of choice when it comes to filling their body with foods.

What you fill your pantry with is what you will eat.  So chose wisely. Building a healthy pantry is a great responsibility.

Where can I buy these things?

Thrive Market

If you haven’t heard about Thrive market you are missing out! Think of Thrive as Costco meets Whole Foods all via a virtual store.  Essentially you pay an annual membership to get amazing prices on high-quality products including food, supplements, toiletries and home essentials.  The awesome part is shipping is FREE too on orders over $49!

You can shop for specific products via their online catalog, with all prices typically 25-30% below retail value.  Some of my favorite foodie products are hard to find and I don’t live near a retailer that carries them. Thrive comes in handy because I can order whatever I want and have it delivered to my doorstep. They also carry a few things that I have yet to find in my local grocer.

Thrive’s yearly membership cost is $60 (that breaks down to $5 a month) and is an awesome price point for a gift. When I got married we got a Costco membership and it was the best ever.  Thrive would have been even better! Click on the link below to start your 30-day FREE trial at Thrive and get FREE shipping.

Amazon Subscribe and Save

Amazon now offers the subscribe and save option.  You can pick your favorite items to be sent to your door automatically at a reduced price of anywhere from 10-25%.  If you know you are going to use it, this option is brainless and uber convenient.

Sprouts and Costco are my favorite local grocers for many of my pantry items.  I buy from the bulk bins at Sprouts and in bulk at Costco for some of our favorite go-to’s.

Healthy Pantry Checklist

Here is a list of must-have staples to help you build a healthy pantry.  You can download the entire list HERE.

Nuts, Nut butter, and seeds

Almonds

Cashews (If you haven’t tried my cashew-pecan butter you need to right now)

Pecans

Macadamia

Walnut

Sesame seeds

Chia seeds

Flax (seed and meal)

Hemp

Want the whole list?  Then CLICK here for a simple checklist you can take with you on your next grocery shopping trip to stock your pantry with real foods.

Refrigerator organization

I am embarrassed to admit this but there have times in my house when life has happened, the house is a disaster and I simply have no idea what is currently in the frig.  It isn’t always perfect food organization and freshness over here.  I am human too.

In fact, there have been moments where I’ve reached into the frig to grab fresh veggies only to find a two-week-old rotten zucchini that I had clearly forgotten about.  SO freakin’ gross.

Just like a well-organized pantry, your fridge is no different. In fact, it is even more gorgeous because a well-organized fridge with big, beaming lights is like a choir singing.  Okay, well maybe not, but it is an inviting space that beckons healthy eating.

Many of the same pantry tips apply to the refrigerator as well.

Use clear storage to save space

Just like the pantry, clear storage bins create a colorful invitation into the fridge.  Research suggests that when fruits and vegetables are visible their colors can increase your senses, thus we are more likely to grab them to eat. So, fill your fridge with bright enticing colors to sneak in a variety of vitamins and minerals.

After hitting the grocery store, the first thing I like to do is wash and dry veggies.  Once dry (because you don’t want to give mold any leg up) I use various size Mason jars to store them in, ready to eat.  This my friends is the number one way to increase whole food, healthy eating…have it ready.  That doesn’t mean just in the fridge but washed, cut and ready to devour.  I preach to my clients that success is about eliminating the barriers to your success.  By making vegetables and fruits readily available, there is no excuse (and no barrier).

 

Just like #2-6 above, group like items together, make the focal point the items you want to be consumed and don’t forget to label everything with dates.

Healthy Refrigerator (and Freezer) Checklist

Here is a list of items to help you begin to build a healthy, real-food kitchen.

Eggs

Egg whites

Almond Milk

Applesauce

Want the whole list?  Then CLICK here for a simple checklist you can take with you on your next grocery shopping trip to stock your refrigerator with real foods.

 

Remove the barriers to your success and create a physical environment in your kitchen that makes healthy choices and cooking a no-brainer.  These practices build sustainable habits that encourage a lifelong skillset of success.

What is your favorite healthy pantry snack?

 

Work Hard Be Kind,

AWalk

 

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