How to Stock Your Pantry with Real Food

photo courtesy of ChanlonHandmade via Flickr

People ask me all the time how I manage to make most of our meals at home. The answer is in two parts and both are essential to living a healthy lifestyle. Number one is maintaining a well stocked kitchen and number two is a menu plan. There is no getting around these two things and the sooner you start doing it the easier everyday life will become.

Since our family doesn’t eat any food with artificial ingredients I get a lot of questions along the lines of “So what DO you eat?” Below is a list of what I like to keep on hand in my own kitchen. I want to point out that eating a 100% natural diet is not the same as eating a 100% unprocessed diet. There are lots of similarities, but I still rely on a few convenience foods, I just make sure I read and understand every ingredient on every package so I know exactly what it is we’re eating.

This list takes into account that I make about 85% of all our meals – breakfast, lunch, and dinner – for four people at home. The other 15% of the time we order pizza from a local pizzeria or eat dinner out on the weekends or have a business lunch.  Sometimes we even go out for breakfast at the diner on Sunday morning. I say this to let you know we are a real family and I’m a real Mom. Sometimes I’m too tired to even think about cooking.

The list also takes into account that we have two young, very active children (ages 3 and 6), therefore our snacking quotient is quite high. There are some things that I’m hoping to start making from scratch but haven’t mastered yet and until I do I will continue buying the all natural pre-made versions from the grocery store (bagels and sandwich bread are a good examples.)

A little background: I like to shop once a week for groceries. With our hectic schedules I find it easiest to have a set time each week to get the shopping done. Sometimes I add things to this list and sometimes I go without a few of these items for a week or two. It all depends on the menu plan for that week. This is not my weekly shopping list, it’s more of a check list of things I use to make our meals, snacks, and treats.  I shop at Publix most of the time and go to Whole Foods once or twice a month to stock up on things my Publix doesn’t have. Knowing what I have on hand or what I’m all out of makes menu planning and making my grocery list a snap so I keep a fairly sharp focus on what I have available. Having said that, I am in no way perfect so I’m thankful that our Publix is within biking distance of the house.

At the bottom you’ll see that I’ve included links to some of our favorite recipes that I depend on every day. I hope that when you read this list you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how “normal” what we eat really is and see how easy it is to commit to a diet without artificial ingredients no matter how busy you are.

How to stock your pantry with real food:

Pasta – spaghetti, penne, rigatoni, elbows
Rice – brown, jasmine
Beans – organic canned with no salt or dried – black beans, cannellini, kidney, and or pinto
Yellow onions
Organic Potatoes
Canned tuna
Vinegars – apple cider, red wine, white wine, balsamic
Oils- extra virgin olive oil, organic canola, coconut oil
Soy Sauce (or Tamari Sauce or Bragg’s Liquid Aminos)
Fish Sauce or Oyster Sauce
Ground Flax Seeds
Unsweetened Coconut Flakes
Organic peanut butter/almond butter/sunbutter
Organic Fruit Preserves
Pomi Diced Tomatoes
Tomato Paste
Jarred Pasta Sauce
Olives – green and black
100% Whole Wheat Bread, no high fructose corn syrup or artificial ingredients
100% Whole Wheat Bagels, no high fructose corn syrup or artificial ingredients

Fruit- (Organic when possible) Apples, Bananas, Organges/Clementines when in season, grapes, strawberries
Dried Fruits – dates, raisins, cranberries, blueberries
Nuts & Seeds – I always use raw or steam pasturized nuts, not roasted – almonds, pecans, peanuts, pistachios, raw sunflower seeds (keep refrigerated)
Organic Applesauce
Organic Popcorn
Organic Fruit Leathers
Organic Crackers, Pretzels, and Tortilla Chips
Staffer Animal Cookies
Annie’s Organic Bunnies (chocolate and cheese flavored)

Aluminum free baking powder
Aluminum free baking soda
Organic Cornstarch
Cocoa Powder
Raw Agave Nectar
Local Honey
Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips
Whole Wheat All Purpose Flour (or gluten free baking mix)
Pastry Flour
Old Fashioned Whole Oats
Brown sugar
Powdered Sugar
Maple Syrup
Liquid Stevia
Pure Vanilla Extract

Organic Unsalted Butter
Organic Grapes (for snacking & lunches)
Organic Strawberries
Baby Carrots (for snacking, lunches & cooking)
Organic Salad Greens – spinach, Spring Mix
Organic Cream Cheese
Organic Plain Greek Yogurt
Organic 2% or Whole Milk
Organic half & half
Cheeses – (in block form to avoid additives) Mozzarella, Cheddar, Parmigiano-Reggiano
Organic Free Range Eggs (buy fresh/local if you can)
Nitrate/Nitrite Free Bacon
Nitrate/Nitrite Free Sandwich Meat
Nitrate/Nitrite Free Hot Dogs
Nitrate/Nitrite Free Pepperoni
Tortilla Land flour tortillas

Organic Salsa
Organic Ketchup
Dijon Mustard
Mayonnaise (not low fat)
Frank’s Hot Sauce (my husband is from Buffalo, what can I say?)
All Natural Blue Cheese Dressing (see note directly above)

Fruit – pineapple, mangoes, blueberries
Veggies – broccoli, corn, green beans, spinach
Chicken – boneless, skinless breasts and thighs
Whole Chicken
Grass Fed Ground Beef*
Beef for stir fries, kebabs, stews
Beef Roast
Pork Loin Chops/Roasts
Ground Turkey

Chili Powder
Cayenne Pepper
Garlic Powder
Onion Powder

*I buy grass fed ground beef because it’s usually the least expensive option for grass fed beef and I can stretch it so the health benefits go farther. I use it for things like Meatloaf Muffins, Cheesy Hamburger Skillet, Hamburgers, and Meatballs (which I cook ahead of time and freeze).

About Organics: I believe it’s best to buy everything in organic form. But I also realize how stretched grocery budgets can be, mine included. Please know that it’s absolutely OK to prioritize when needed – I do it all the time. There are a few things that I refuse to buy non-organic, milk is a good example because my children consume large amounts of it and I worry about all those hormones and antibiotics building up in their little bodies. But sometimes I buy non-organic cheese and yogurt, or even salad greens and apples. Because I also believe that it’s better for my kids to eat a conventionally grown apple that has been thoroughly washed than no apple at all. The point is that I’m constantly adjusting my priorities from week to week depending on my budget and what we need. And that’s OK with me, and it’s totally OK for you too.

Essential Recipes:
Homemade Granola Bars
Homemade Granola
Homemade LaraBar Bites
Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins
Cinnamon Raisin Muffins
Make Ahead Breakfast Burritos
Bakery Style Chocolate Chip Cookies
No Bake Chocolate Crispy Bites
Pasta with Tomato Cream Sauce
Homemade Chicken Fingers
Make Ahead Meatballs
Cheesy Hamburger Skillet
Meatloaf Muffins
Tuscan Skillet with Chicken, Potatoes, and Rosemary
Creamy Parmesan Chicken Bake
Mexican Lasagna
Crock Pot “Roast” Chicken







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  1. says

    not only does my family love your recipes, (though I have two teenagers along with the little people you have :-) ) but your posts make me feel better about the difficult choices I have to make when at the store! Thank you!

    • says

      No, thank you Amie. This may be my favorite comment ever! You just summed up everything I hope to do with this site. Thanks for taking a minute to leave this note.

  2. says

    Gosh, Susan, I don’t know if I will ever be able to adequately express to you how much of an impression you’ve made on me and my pantry (and family!) this weekend, but I wanted to post and say THANK YOU, for being so supportive and sharing so much of yourself and your journey here on this blog. It has helped me so much with my decision to go on a junk food search and destroy mission in my pantry. Life changing stuff. Thank you so much!

    • says

      I’m so thrilled for you Beth! Great things are going to start happening because of this choice, just wait and see! The first few weeks are exciting and just a little bit scary, so don’t hesitate to let me know if I can help! After a few weeks you’ll wonder how you ever lived any other way. Congratulations! Take notes because I may be hitting you up for a guest post sometime about the changes you made! :)

  3. says

    I love this list. Sometimes we just need it written down and staring at us in face to help us make healthier choices for our family! Thank you so much for sharing this link with our Bonbon Break readers this week! We know they are going to find this information so helpful!

    • says

      Thank you Kathy for helping me spread the word about artificial ingredients to your readers. I’m honored to be included this week!

    • says

      My local Target has an Archer Farms fruit leather that is organic. Sometimes I can find some at Costco but I can’t remember what the brand is.

  4. Jessica says

    AWESOME POST! I’m a Registered Dietitan & totally printing this list to give to clients-thank you! Happy Cooking!

    • says

      Jessica – I’m so glad you liked this, and hope that it can help your clients! Never, ever hurts to have a Registered Dietician on your side! Thanks so much!!

  5. Annelies says

    Hi Susan, thank you so much for writing this (and your other posts), there can’t be enough info on natural eating !! I live in France but buy much of the same products, mostly organic and we have a weekly veggie/fruit/egg/bread basket that helps me avoid not knowing what to buy at the shops. Now off to read more of your website !

  6. Sabrina Rick says

    I absolutely love this list you created. I go to your site ALL the time. Really! Most of my family knows your name. LOL! It’s hilarious. They ask me if this one of my recipes or Susan’s…..The fact that my husband and son eat everything I have made from your recipes just blows my mind.

    You have opened my eyes from the very beginning. From the Parent’s Magazine article to the 6 week challenge.

    Thank you for changing my life to a healthy life!

    • says

      Sabrina, you have no idea how much your comment means to me today! Thank YOU for taking a minute to tell me what a difference this blog has made for your family! And that really is hilarious about your family knowing my name. I’m so thankful to have wonderful people like you coming along this journey with me.

  7. s carney says

    I am interested in knowing whether the products with msg cause issues for your child. Since it is literally a natural ingredient it is in several items on your list.

  8. Quentin Montgomery says

    Since you said you do not know what to do for bread and bagels let me suggest 2 options. I do not know how to make from scratch but as opposed to regular bread and bagels some better options with all natural ingredients include Ezekiel Bread. They make products from sprouted grains. They also have cereals without added sugars that will help with snacking and improving the basic cereal problem. Ezekiel products can be found in the freezer section of organic isles. Kroger has this. However another option and where I prefer my bread is P28 bread. I order online but there may be somewhere near you that stocks it. Its mostly marketed as high protein bread for people who weight train. However it is nutritious and good for children and a great bread replacement option with natural ingredients. check out the site before you buy theres lots of info on it on their site

    • says

      Thanks so much for these suggestions – they are really great! We are gluten free because my son is allergic to wheat, but I know this will help a lot of people.

    • says

      Bob’s Red Mill is great for aluminum free baking soda and powder. You can find all my favorite baking ingredients listed in my Amazon Store if you’re looking for ideas about other things. There are two tabs for baking – one is for gluten free items and the other is labeled Healthy Baking Ingredients. Here’s the link to the store:

  9. Dana S says

    I came across your blog as I was doing some research on ADHD and the relationship to diet. I AM SO GLAD I FOUND YOUR SITE!!! My 5 year old daughter, who sounds so much like your daughter, is getting ready to begin kindergarten this year. While she excelled in her learning at preschool, her teacher and us (her parents) were concerned about her ability to focus. I decided I’d look into diet modification as a proactive step, and I have been so incredibly encouraged and blessed by your site. I love the 6 week challenge (I decided to do the first 3 weeks all at once – and it wasn’t that hard), and we’ll start there and work toward adding the other 3. Both my son and daughter are willing, and even my husband. I’ve been trying a lot of your recipes and they have all been hits so far. I am so excited to observe and hope for the best, knowing that if her behavior changes or not, we have still made a huge step toward a healthier lifestyle. Thank you for all that you have shared – Blessings!

    • says

      Thanks Dana, your comment was a blessing to me! I’m glad to know that you’ve found all the information you needed to get started. I personally think doing the first 3 steps together is a great way to go. The biggest pitfall in weeks 3-6 comes from toothpaste believe it or not. So go ahead and switch that out now and you’ll be so much closer to being completely chemical free. I’m glad to know the whole family is on board, it makes a huge difference when everyone is working together. Good luck and please update me on your results – I’m always looking for success stories to share. I know you’ll have a great one!

  10. Rachael says

    My Husband and I have been struggling with our 3, almost 4, year old boy and his behaviors. We did not know what to do or where to begin. My husband started reading a book about how people over medicate for ADHD (because we did not want to go down that road) and he read a chapter on a child’s diet. Super concerned and again not knowing where to start, I went to Google for answers and found you!! I am beyond thrilled to have come across this website! You have helped me understand this new path that I’m about to go down! I began looking at everything my kids are eating and boy-oh-boy was I surprised!!! We are headed to the grocery store this afternoon hen my husband gets home from work to do a pantry makeover! Thank you so much for all this information!!!!!

    • says

      I’m so excited for you! I’m glad to know that my site helped you make sense of what’s going on with your son. Good luck, I’m sure you’re about to see some big changes! Please let me know how you’re doing in a few weeks.

  11. says

    Ok, I’m very new to all this and feeling a little overwhelmed with starting a new diet.
    I’ll start from the beginning. My son has ADHD and sever behavior problems, he is 9 yrs old and having a hard time fitting in at school (kids working him up to watch the fire works) anyway he is on Ritalin three tabs a day. Take him out of his square box and put him in with a lot of kids…. Not a good ending. So I’ve started to research what I can do in the diet department and have come up with stoping wheat and diary products like Gluten Free and Casein Free diets. So I’m going to start your clean eating diet for the hole family. Wow… Really have to clean out my pantry!
    Looking forward to seeing some changes in my son. Thank you Sooo much for this page :)

    • says

      Gluten and casein free are usually helpful but those results are nothing compared to what you’ll see by cutting out artificial ingredients. I know it’s overwhelming at first but after a week or two it will become habit, especially after you see the improvements in your son. You will never want to go back! If I can help just let me know. Good luck to you and your son! If you get too overwhelmed or just need some one on one help I offer consulting services too. You can check those out on the Services page if you’d like.

  12. Rachel says

    I love this site and getting prepared to start. One thing I need is an affordable hot cocoa option. Can you help? Winter is coming! Thank you!

    • says

      I sure can help – just mix about 2 cups milk (regular or dairy free), 1 tablespoon cocoa (or to taste) in a sauce pan over medium heat, stirring constantly with a whisk. When you see steam rising add your sweetener, either sugar, maple syrup, or honey to taste…about 1 teaspoon is what we use. Pour it into a mug and enjoy! You can use any brand of cocoa powder as long as the only ingredient is cocoa. You can adjust more or less of any of the ingredients as you like.

  13. anji says

    When you order pizza, are there any places you need to avoid? I would think there would be issues for a lot of sauces. Also, are there any drive-through options when things come up unexpectedly?