I’ve written about how to stock up a real food kitchen, and that includes a whole list of fresh fruits, veggies, almond milk, and eggs that last in the fridge for a few days.
But what about pantry staples that will last much longer than that? If you don’t typically rely on processed foods or a lot of grains or beans, what can you keep in the pantry for those quick meals on a busy night?
Fortunately, there’s plenty of healthy shelf-stable foods that will last just as long. Here’s my list of nonperishable foods that I like to have on hand for quick snacks and easy meals in a pinch, not to mention an emergency stash.
My Favorite Healthy Shelf-Stable Foods
If you took a peek inside my pantry, you’d find all kinds of on-the-go snacks, supplements, drinks, and more. For years I made many of these from scratch, and still do, but there are so many great natural food brands widely available now at places like Costco and Thrive Market that I’ve built up a stash of favorite convenience items too.
It’s always good to be prepared! Here’s a list of my favorites I always stock up on.
Everyone loves beef jerky (especially my kids!), but it can be hard to find a healthy version. Most brands are full of nitrates, chemicals, and artificial preservatives. Instead, I stock up on:
- Paleovalley Beef Sticks: I love these because they taste amazing and the Paleovalley brand is so committed to quality. Both the grass-fed beef sticks and pasture-raised turkey sticks are naturally fermented, flavored with organic spices, and come with a good dose of gut-friendly probiotics. Tip: Use the code WELLNESSMAMA10 with this link to get 10% off your order, or get them on Amazon.
- Wild Zora Bars: These are my “meal in a bar” option as they contain lots of dried veggies and even fruit as well for that perfect sweet and savory balance. They are on Amazon or you can save by using the code WELLNESSMAMA15 on their website.
- Salmon Jerky: I eat as much seafood as I can get my hands on! This Epic salmon jerky is delicious and provides some variety and a break from beef. Subscribe and save from Amazon, and it’s also usually available from Thrive Market.
Of course, if you have ground beef and a few basic spices lying around, I highly recommend trying out making your own beef jerky at home. Here’s my recipe for how to do it.
Canned sardines are the perfect healthy shelf-stable food. They’re budget friendly, they last for years, and they’re absolutely packed with nutritional value. Sardines are a great source of healthy omega-3 fats, calcium, phosphorous, and protein. Plus, they’re low in mercury and other heavy metals, especially compared to larger fish like tuna.
Nothing is more convenient than a packaged bar that you can carry around with you in case hunger strikes. Unfortunately, so many “healthy” energy bars out there are filled with sugars and soy.
I love making my own protein bars, like these chocolate coconut energy bars and chia seed bars with dates and coconut oil. However, the homemade kind doesn’t have the shelf stability that packaged products do.
So how to find a healthy packaged on-the-go snack? Kion energy bars are my first choice, as they don’t use any unnatural preservatives at all — just sea salt, vitamin E, and chia seeds. Plus, they use quality ingredients and sweeten only with organic honey. (You can hear take on why Kion is such a great company in my interview with CEO Angelo Keely here.)
Seeds and Nuts
If you don’t eat a lot of grains and beans, nuts and seeds make a great pantry substitute. They’re filling, nutritious, and contains lots of healthy fats.
My pantry must-haves that I stock in bulk include:
- Chia Seeds: For making chia seed pudding, our go-to filling breakfast or snack
- Pepitas: A key ingredient in the cilantro pesto I make to top my salads.
- Baruka Nuts: I have the standard almonds, etc. on hand but I am always trying to get more variety in our diets. These are our new favorite nuts that the kids also love. I get them here.
- Broccoli Seeds: This one might seem a little different, but they are great option for sprouting on the counter for a concentrated fresh source of nutrients. See this post to learn how easy it is.
Note: Make sure your pantry stays cool and dark, or consider storing in the freezer for long-term storage so they don’t go rancid.
Okay, so technically this is a freezer-stable treat (please don’t keep them in the pantry!), but it’s just too good to skip over and fits the emergency meal category.
My kids know that the smoothie cups from Daily Harvest are reserved for mom. I love that they’re pre-portioned and full of healthy ingredients, so I’m still getting my nutrients while I take care of everyone else. Plus, they have great flavors like strawberry + peach or mint + cacao.
I also love gifting these to friends who just had a baby, as it’s an ideal plant-based emergency meal that takes no time at all.
Of course this is a convenience option that can be an investment, so it’s on my must-write list to try making my own freezer smoothie cups soon.
When you need a nutrient boost, it’s hard to beat a fresh green juice of kale, celery, and other healthy greens.
But if you can’t get to the store (or simply don’t want to leave the house), it’s not a bad idea to have a powdered alternative on hand.
Whole foods are hard to replace, but certain greens powders are close enough. As with any supplement, there’s a big range of quality out there. Some brands contain hidden sweeteners, gums, artificial colors, and undergo harsh processing to get onto the shelves.
We always stock Organifi brand green juice. It’s filled with superfood ingredients like chlorella, spirulina, beets, green tea, ashwagandha, and turmeric for a detoxifying, immune-boosting tonic. I also keep their Gold powder on hand to make golden milk in a hurry.
Tip: Use the code WELLNESSMAMA for 15% off your order.
Soups & Bone Broth
Bone broth is a nutritional powerhouse that I like to keep on hand at all times! It’s full of easily digestible amino acids, gelatin, and other gut-healing nutrients that also benefit our hair, skin, and joints.
This is only the case if you’re using true bone broth, and not the watered down “stock” commonly available in grocery stores. Bone broth is special because the bones are roasted for flavor, then slowly simmered in water for hours (sometimes days) to extract all those amazing nutrients from the bones into the broth. It makes for a great protein-rich base to any soup, stew, or sauce you’re making.
While you can easily make your own bone broth at home (recipe here), it takes a few days and isn’t shelf stable. I stock two kinds of pre-made bone broth:
- Kettle & Fire: My favorite line of shelf-stable soups and broth. They make bone broth by long simmering quality grass-fed bones and is closest to homemade in terms of taste and nutrients. Find them here or on Amazon.
If I had to choose a favorite supplement, collagen would be very high on the list! Gelatin (the cooked form of collagen) helped my son tolerate dairy again, and it’s done wonders with my hair, skin, and nails.
Collagen is more than just a beauty booster, though. It’s an essential protein that plays a big role in joint health and digestion. In fact, its the secret ingredient that makes bone broth so potent!
One benefit of hydrolyzed collagen powder over bone broth is that it’s soluble in any liquid — and you can barely taste it (if at all). It stirs easily into hot coffee and blends seamlessly into cold smoothies as a wonderful hidden booster that your kids won’t even know is in there.
There are lots of good brands out there, but I love Vital Proteins. They source their collagen from grass-fed, pasture-raised cows, which is really important for overall quality.
Healthy Dressings and Mayo
Most pre-made salad dressings and mayonnaise use highly processed vegetable oils. Look instead for an avocado oil-based dressing or mayo from brands like Primal Kitchen.
It’s also easy and cost-effective to make your own dressing or mayo at home just with some olive oil, vinegar, and spices. Here are some of my recipes:
Meal Replacement Drinks
This one might surprise you, since meal replacement drinks on grocery store shelves are typically full of junk. A clever brand called Ample found a way to use healthier, real-food ingredients to a high protein, low sugar beverage that doesn’t need refrigeration. Just add water, shake, and go.
These do come in a plastic bottle, so I use them sparingly, but for emergency meals or an allergy friendly meal on the road, they’re a lifesaver. Even at $7.00 a bottle, they are less expensive and certainly more nutritious than most fast food meals we might resort to.
These are also a key part of my emergency food stash. I like the berry option since it’s dairy-free and contains an extra boost of probiotics. I order them from the Ample website (get 15% off your first purchase with code WELLNESS MAMA) or from Amazon.
Snacks and Meals You Can Make With Pantry Staples
While some of these pantry staples are snacks or meals by themselves, some of them need a little imagination to turn them into something you can serve to the family.
Here are my favorite recipes for those days that you can’t get to the store and need to rely on your pantry basics:
- Spread canned sardines over healthy crackers. Add a little cheese if you’re okay with dairy!
- Got a can of diced tomatoes lying around? Combine it with your bone broth and you only need a few other basics for this quick and easy tomato soup.
- If you’ve got eggs, applesauce, coconut flour and a few basic spices, you already have everything you need to make these apple cinnamon muffins. So easy, the kids can pretty much do it on their own!
- Want a quick and healthy breakfast tomorrow? Plan ahead and make chia pudding. I like using coconut milk, but you can use whatever milk you like (and flavor it with whatever you have on hand. Almond butter, chocolate chips, almonds and bananas are all great additions!)
- Speaking of breakfast, these almond flour pancakes are ridiculously easy. All you’ll need is almond flour, eggs, and spices.
What are your must-have pantry staples? Did I miss any of your favorites?