Week 1: Start with Staples

 We all have food staples in our homes; those items that we use often, that we always replace when we run out, and that stare us in the face at 7pm when we look in the fridge/pantry and wonder “what the *bleep* are we going to eat tonight?”  Sure, for some of us (like me in my early 20s) staples include stacks of frozen enchiladas, cans and cans of soup and packs of beer.  In my current “grown-up” life most of that has changed (well, to be honest, the beer is still staple.  Just ask the 48 pack of Blue Moon from Costco).

For me, one of the first steps to successfully sticking with meal planning was to ignore the cookbooks for a minute and take time to shop my pantry.  I took stock of the items we already had so that I could both make as many meals as possible with things that were easy and familiar and to save money.  Here are some of the staples in my home 

House Staplesstaples.jpg

  • Earth Balance butter
  • Soymilk
  • Orange juice
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Peanut Butter
  • Tamari (or soy sauce)
  • Carrots (organic)
  • White flour
  • Whole-wheat flour
  • White and brown sugar
  • Baking powder and baking soda
  • Extra Virgin Olive oil
  • Lentils
  • Black beans
  • Chickpeas
  • Boxed Pom Tomatos
  • Trader Joes Kalamata Olives
  • Trader Joe’s Salsa
  • Mirin (rice wine)
  • Rice vinegar
  • Whole wheat sandwich bread (G-man makes two loaves about once a week)

Getting my kitchen stocked up with these staples has been a long process.  As I mentioned before, the types of food I have on hand has changed as my life has.  When the G-man and I were both working and didn’t have kids, our staples shelves looked very different: fewer dried beans, more canned soup and jarred pasta sauce.  To shift to where we are now was a slow transition, not an overnight one.  We started buying 5lb. bags of organic carrots because they were easy baby food whether we were puréeing or boiling the crap out of them for little baby mouths. Dried beans replaced canned beans.  Spices and herbs were added based on recipes I wanted to try, and now we have a fully spice cabinet with everything from allspice to curry powder to marjoram.

When you are starting serious meal planning and, hopefully, investing a couple hours of weekend prep to make the week smoother, I recommend starting with the staples you have.  Do you have a ton of canned soup?  Buy a bag of salad and have a night with canned soup and salad!  Are black beans a staple in your pantry?  Make a chili or a black bean soup!  If you start by shopping your pantry you’ll save money and, as you go, you’ll start to figure out the things you want to add to your personal staple shelves.  If you try a new recipe once a week (something I find fun) you might end up adding some new finds to your shelves!

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