healthy meals
*This article has been updated in July, 2020 for accuracy.

Always have good ingredients on hand.

Sometimes I need a meal at the last minute – in case of a surprise visitor or unpleasant weather when you don’t want to go out.  I like to have some staples in my pantry that allow me to whip up a simple, delicious meal on the spur of the moment. I am assuming we all have various oils and seasonings on hand, as well as some chicken breasts, beef, and pork chops or tenderloin in your freezer so I am not including those in this recommended list.

Almond or cashew butter – This makes a great snack on crackers or spread on sliced apples. You can also whisk with tahini and water (equal parts) and drizzle over roasted vegetables.

Almond or rice flour – So many people are gluten-free that I’ve gotten used to using alternative flours to dredge chicken or fish before I sauté or roast.

Canned fish like tuna, salmon or anchovies – Easy to mash with a fork and make into a quick pate to serve on crackers or sliced cucumber. They can also turn into a pasta sauce with butter and lemon juice added.

Cipriani healthy meal

Dried pasta – Pasta is always a crowd pleaser.  Cipriani Pappardelle, Tagliolini and Rigatoni egg pastas get high marks.

Sun-dried tomatoes can be added to many things including pasta and chicken dishes. They can also be mixed with goat cheese for dips.

San Marzano Tomatoes have a fresh tomato taste. Cook them with chicken, or add broth and cream to make tomato soup

Dijon mustard is great whisked into a vinaigrette or as a marinade or sauce for fish or chicken or pork tenderloins.

Buitoni Pesto healthy meal




Pesto sauce Buitoni Pesto Sauce With Basil is great with chicken and pasta.  $9.99.


Good chicken broth – Always a useful staple to have on hand.  I like Swanson Organic Free Range Chicken Broth.

Olives for a healthy meal


Olives – Great for an hors d’oeuvres or as an ingredient in many delicious dishes.  Roland Kalamata olives are my pick.  4 lbs 6 oz. for $19.00.

Good roasted nuts – add to salads, chicken dishes or eat plain.

Chili paste healthy meals









Entube Condiments – Use to add flavor to any dish. There is chili paste, curry and harissa.

Baby artichokes healthy meals

Artichoke hearts add a special flair to salads and chicken dishes. Cook’s Illustrated suggests that we avoid the marinated choices and add our own seasoning. Other disqualifiers are tough outer leaves or water-logged hearts. Their favorites are packed in brine with a lemony flavor.  Pastene Baby Artichokes, $4.89 for a ten ounce jar.

Salted capers in healthy meals





Capers add a tangy flavor burst to pasta, chicken, fish and meat.  They are actually very small pickles made from unopened flower buds. Premium capers come packed in salt, not brine. My go-to is Il Mongetto Salted Capers.


cannellini beans for healthy meals

White beans (Cannellini beans) have a creamy texture which goes well in soups, salads, casseroles and pasta dishes. They provide protein and are handy when serving a surprise vegetarian. They can be mashed and seasoned for dips. Goya Cannellini Beans, 15.5 oz. can, $7.71

  • Note: Don’t do what I do and let staples linger in your pantry.  Here are some guidelines for keeping items fresh:
  • Get rid of items you will never use.
  • Get rid of items whose ‘best by’ date is long gone.
  • Nuts & seeds are fresh for 3 months.  Freeze them if you won’t use them up by that time.
  • Get rid of oils after 3 months or if they smell rancid or taste bitter.  Nut and seed oils spoil faster than others so maybe store them in the fridge.
  • Herbs & spices are at their peak of taste for 6 months, after that they lose flavor and color.
  • Whole grain flours & grains are good for 6 months, white flours are good for a year.

Here are some recipes with the above ingredients:

Mediterranean Chicken with Dijon Mustard, Tomatoes & Lemon

Sun Dried Tomato Pork with Balsamic Reduction

Ina Garten’s Pasta with Sun Dried Tomatoes

Pasta with Pesto & Chicken

Salmon Dip

Recipes with Anchovies

Keep your pantry staples fresh with these containers;

pantry containers

Keep Food Fresh in Your Pantry