Building a Whole Foods Pantry
Our health starts right in our very own kitchen
A well stocked pantry, packed with whole food ingredients will create a functional yet inspiring space with all the necessities on hand to prepare nutritious meals - and with good wholesome meals, the foundations of health are built.
Whole foods are foods that have been minimally processed, and so they are naturally rich in nutrients, meaning that they’re packed with all sorts of vitamins and minerals that we need to be healthy. Creating a whole food pantry means selecting foods to fill our shelves that are all natural, or as close to their natural state as possible - for example, although fresh tomatoes are “all-natural”, canned tomatoes can also be a great choice. While it’s best we minimise the amount of refined and processed foods in our diet, most foods will undergo some processing before they get to us and some make convenient, yet healthy additions to our kitchen.
Building a well stocked, whole foods pantry means having all of the basics on hand to throw together a quick, easy and nourishing meal, as well as a few extra ingredients for inspiration. This makes coming up with meal ideas much easier, and it ensures you'll be less likely to end up ordering takeout on busy evenings faced with empty shelves.
Here’s our guide for building a whole foods pantry:
Beans and pulses (canned and dried)
Beans and pulses are not only economical, but are also nutritionally rich. They’re packed with dietary fibre and are a great source of plant-based protein, which can be used to create nutritionally balanced vegetarian-friendly meals. As for their value from a culinary perspective, they’re hugely versatile, take on flavours well and work wonderfully at stretching meals - try adding kidney beans to a homemade chilli, or cut the meat in half in a mince bolognese and add a tin or two of lentils. Both dried and canned options are great to have on hand in the pantry - canned beans carry the perk of being super convenient, as they’re pre-cooked, and so are ideal for throwing together a speedy meal after work.
- Canned lentils
- Canned red kidney beans
- Canned chickpeas
- Canned baked beans
- Canned mixed beans
- Canned borlotti beans
- Canned black beans
- Dried adzuki beans
- Dried chickpeas
- Dried mung beans
No matter whether we’re an amateur home cook or budding chef, no whole foods kitchen is complete without a basic set of spices. Not only are they brimming with health properties, but they can really make a dish sing. Spices are dried elements of seeds, bark, fruits or roots, and are primarily used for naturally flavouring, seasoning, preserving or colouring food. They’re used in small amounts, yet are so packed with flavour that they can easily overpower a dish if we’re too heavy-handed with them! They’re best stored in the pantry as a cool, dark space will keep them as fresh as possible. Classic and versatile spices include:
Muesli and Cereals
There’s no excuse to skip breakfast with nutritious and delicious muesli and cereal options ready and available in your pantry! Keep a range available to rotate with your favourite milk and fresh fruit for a wholesome breakfast to start the day, or enjoy a handful as a snack. Rolled and quick oats are another wonderful staple ingredient to keep on hand in your pantry - not only do they work well as a warming breakfast that’s high in dietary fibre, but they can also be ground down into a flour, or used whole in baking.
- Jumbo rolled/quick rolled oats
- Oat bran
- Swiss bircher muesli
- Ginger zest grainola
- Apricot and almond grainola
Nut and seed butters
A delicious plant-based source of whole food fats and protein, these butters consist of ground nuts and seeds, and are rich in vitamins and minerals. No matter whether spread on toast for a quick speedy breakfast, added to your morning smoothie, used in baking, or in a delicious homemade dressing or marinade, nut and seed butters are a versatile kitchen ingredient that works great across both sweet and savoury dishes.
The delicious smell of baking wafting through a home is one of life’s simple comforts. Keep a range of flours in your kitchen to ensure your baking/cooking needs are always covered. Preparing meals from scratch is a way to know exactly what’s going into our foods, and is another way we can support our health. As a weekend project, try baking your own bread and smothering it in some almond butter, or make your own pizza bases and top it with pizza sauce and your favourite toppings!
Grains are a delicious and highly nutritious addition to our diets. When selecting cooking grains aim for whole grains as much as possible, as these are packed with complex carbohydrates which supply us with long-lasting energy. Serve alongside veggies and your choice of protein for a nutritious dinner, or stir through a nice big salad at lunch. Homemade popcorn makes for a yummy and kid-friendly snack too!
Vinegars and Oils
Important for cooking and dressing dishes, having a range of vinegars and oils available in your kitchen will ensure safe cooking practises (some oils are heat stable, while some are not), as well as having meals that are appropriately dressed and flavoured, thus broadening your culinary horizon! It’s ideal to have a variety of oils and vinegars on hand to suit the needs of your dish - for example coconut oil is better for cooking and baking with as it is less susceptible to heat damage, whereas olive oil isn’t and so is best for dressing cold dishes like salads. From a health angle vinegars are great digestive aids, while oils provide dietary fats, necessary for good health.
Seeds, nuts and dried fruit
While the nutritional profile of nuts and seeds vary, they’re all wonderfully healthy additions to our diets and are also extremely versatile in the kitchen - they’re great to snack on, enjoyed at breakfast time in our granola or on top of our porridge, used in baking or sprinkled on top of salads for an extra nutrient boost! Use dried fruit as a natural sweetener or for an energy boost, or try making your own homemade trail mix using a selection of seeds, nuts and dried fruit.
Sweeteners and essence
These are typically used in baking or when a little extra sweetness is called for in a dish. When selecting sweeteners it’s great to stock options that will provide some nutrition, in addition to sweetness. For good health it’s important to practise moderation with consumption and enjoy them as a treat, whether refined or whole. Essences, such a vanilla, provide extra flavour as well as some natural sweetness, and is delicious used in baking.
Tomato products, whether canned, sauces, paste or passata, are a hugely versatile ingredient in our pantries, servings as the building blocks of many wholesome meals. As a base, tomato products works well as a pasta sauce, as a bolognese in cottage pies, in soups, chili, lasagne, tacos, stews, pizza and more! Try adding a tin of tomatoes to a soup next time for a rich tomatoey flavour, or use some quality tomato pasatta for a beautiful sauce to pair with the pasta of your choice.