Food & Drinks

Pantry Staples for Quick, Easy, Healthy Cooking

We include products we think are useful for our readers. If you
buy through links on this page, we may earn a small commission.
PlateJoy, Inc. is owned and operated by Healthline Media. Here’s our process.


How we vet brands and products


Healthline only shows you brands and products that we stand behind.

Our team thoroughly researches and evaluates the recommendations we make on our site. To establish that the product manufacturers addressed safety and efficacy standards, we:

  • Evaluate ingredients and composition: Do they have the potential to cause harm?
  • Fact-check all health claims: Do they align with the current body of scientific evidence?
  • Assess the brand: Does it operate with integrity and adhere to industry best practices?

We do the research so you can find trusted products for your health and wellness.

If you’ve ever enjoyed the glorious combination that is pasta and cheese, you know that quick, delicious meals don’t always take fancy ingredients to create.

When a busy schedule has you on the run, wouldn’t it be nice if every meal was so easy?

The key may be in having the right ingredients constantly on-hand. By stocking your kitchen with a few strategic basics, quick, easy meals don’t have to be a magical unicorn.

Like a well-curated wardrobe, a well-dressed pantry features foods that mix and match beautifully for all sorts of mealtime combos.

The goal: Get dinner on the table with as little effort as possible. The materials: these 15 staples.

You can think of black beans as the little black dress of dinnertime. They slip comfortably into almost anything.

Prep suggestions

Try them in:

  • tacos
  • soup
  • bean burgers
  • salads
  • veggie medleys

Try whipping up these black bean burgers for your next Meatless Monday.

Save it for later

A half-can of leftover black beans might not seem super inspiring, but it can be the start of a unique second meal.

Mash the beans and spread them on flatbread for a creative Southwestern pizza topped with tomatoes, melted cheddar, and cilantro, or toss a few atop baked sweet potatoes sprinkled with chili powder, oregano, salt, and pepper.

Health benefits

If there were an award for all-around highly nutritious foods, black beans would be a top contender. They’re high in both protein and fiber, two nutrients known for helping maintain a healthy weight. They’re also rich in antioxidants and may promote blood sugar control.


For a quick and easy meal, you can’t go wrong with the pre-cooked convenience of rotisserie chicken. Just strip the meat off the bones and you’re ready to rock.

Prep suggestions

Add a little chicken to one of the dishes below for a bit of added protein.

  • pasta
  • casserole
  • stew
  • salads
  • sandwiches

One possibility: Simmer up a 15-minute white chicken chili with rotisserie chicken, white beans, green chilies, chicken broth, and a dash of cumin.

Save it for later

If you have time, consider removing the meat from a rotisserie chicken as soon as you bring it home, then store it in the fridge. That way, dinner prep will happen even faster.

Or keep a sealed container of the meat in your freezer for up to 6 months.

Health benefits

Rotisserie chicken does tend to contain more sodium than straight-up chicken breasts or thighs, but its protein content is the same as any other chicken.

A 3-ounce serving of the meat contains 24 grams of protein for building strong muscles and supporting your immune system.

Come dinnertime, frozen meatballs can totally save your bacon — or get wrapped in it!

Prep suggestions

These meaty mealtime starters can add heft to Italian subs with the addition of marinara and mozzarella. Want to add some green? Add a handful of spinach or arugula.

Or microwave them for a shortcut to Swedish meatballs over egg noodles.

Save it for later

Once you’ve cooked frozen meatballs, it’s best not to re-freeze them. Stash them in the fridge for 3 to 4 days. Pull them out for later use in wraps, spaghetti, or albondigas.

Health benefits

Frozen meatballs aren’t necessarily brimming with antioxidants or healthy fats—but they are an excellent source of:

  • protein
  • vitamin B12
  • iron
  • zinc

Just read labels to be sure you know what you’re getting. Typically, a shorter ingredient list indicates a less processed product.


Another easy protein to the rescue: canned tuna! Unlike fresh fish, which requires cooking, canned tuna is a quick route to oodles of lunches and dinners.

Prep suggestions

For example, enjoy Mediterranean-style pasta featuring your favorite noodles.


  • tuna packed in olive oil
  • Parmesan shavings
  • fresh basil
  • a squeeze of lemon juice

Or hollow out a large fresh heirloom tomato and serve tuna salad inside.

Save it for later

A wee bit of extra tuna can hang out in your fridge for 1 or 2 days. Try mixing it with mayo and using it to top sliced cucumbers for a mini appetizer.

Health benefits

Besides its noteworthy protein content, canned tuna shines for its omega-3 fatty acids. These healthy fats have been linked to health benefits galore, from reduced risk of cardiovascular disease to better sleep.

When even pasta takes too long, turn to couscous. It can hit the table after just a 3-minute spin in the microwave.

Prep suggestions

An all-in-one couscous grain bowl makes a dinner that’s not just quick, but portable too.

  1. Mix the grains with cooked chicken (the rotisserie kind, perhaps?).
  2. Add fresh veggies like tomatoes and cucumbers.
  3. Sprinkle in a dash of feta cheese.
  4. Drizzle with olive oil and boom—dinner is served!

Save it for later

Cooked couscous lasts in the refrigerator for about 3 days. When you’ve staggered through the door after a crazy day, a container in the fridge is an instant side dish for meats or a perfect foundation for a casserole.

Health benefits

If you don’t mind splurging, opt for whole wheat couscous. It provides more fiber than the refined variety, helping optimize digestion, keeping you full, and feeding the healthy bacteria in your gut.

Sourdough is a king among bread.

Prep suggestions

It’s equally at home as the crust of an egg bake, the underpinnings of an impromptu pizza, or the heart and soul of French toast.

And of course, there’s always sourdough avocado toast.

Save it for later

Crunch, crunch, crunch… so many dishes can get a textural update from crispy bread crumbs.

Try sprinkling them on mac and cheese, stuffed squash, or green beans. To do it, toast extra sourdough bread and process it in the food processor until it turns to a crumbl-like consistency.

You can also freeze sourdough for about 3 months.

Health benefits

Who said bread isn’t healthy? Sourdough contains live and active cultures that promote gut health and may be easier to digest than regular bread because of the fermentation process.


Tortillas can go far beyond the realm of Mexican food—though they certainly don’t have to!

Prep suggestions

Besides the usual tortas, tostadas, and enchiladas, try a flour tortilla as a vehicle for a lunchtime veggie wrap.

Or, for a kid-pleasing lunchbox centerpiece, try this:

  1. Spread cream cheese on a tortilla.
  2. Add deli meat and a colorful sliced or shredded veggie.
  3. Then roll and slice into pinwheels.

Save it for later

It’s not hard to find a use for an extra tortilla or two. Finish off the package by wrapping up a leftover green salad, roasted veggies, or scrambled eggs.

Or go for a classic microwave quesadilla!

Health benefits

Each type of tortilla—flour, corn, spinach, etc.—comes with its own nutrient profile, so they’re somewhat difficult to compare.

Tortillas alone are a good source of a few nutrients like B vitamins. Plus, their hand-held convenience can help you pack in more nutrients from veggies, beans, and lean proteins. Choose a whole-grain or corn tortilla to add even more fiber to your plate.

You could simmer your own homemade marinara sauce from garden-fresh tomatoes and herbs, but for meals in a flash, jarred marinara is your friend.

Prep suggestions

Not only is it an obvious choice for spaghetti or other pasta, but it can also add tomato-y oomph to DIY pizzas, sliders, and subs.

Elevate pizza night (quickly) with purchased garlic naan bread, a schmear of marinara, mozzarella, diced roasted red peppers, and olives.

Save it for later

Close the lid tightly on jarred marinara and pop it in the fridge. If you won’t use it within a week or two, stick it in the freezer instead: it will last 6 months.

If you’ve got just a smidge to use up, slip it into chili or meatloaf. Everyone will wonder about the je nais se quoi ingredient that added such savory flavor.

Health benefits

With tomatoes as its first ingredient, marinara sauce features some of their health benefits, like ample amounts of the antioxidant lycopene. Lycopene helps quell inflammation—which may be why it’s been linked to reduced risk of certain cancers and improved vascular health.

However, be sure to check the ingredients and choose a jar with minimal added sugar.

Vegetables like potatoes and squash take ages to soften in the oven. For a quicker route to veggie goodness, opt for jarred artichokes (choose a marinated variety for pre-infused flavor).

Prep suggestions

They’re a zero-cook addition to pasta and salad, plus an elegant topper for quick-bite appetizers like crostini.

Save it for later

An opened jar of marinated artichokes should live in the fridge for the remainder of its days. These veggies can stay good for up to 3 weeks.

Health benefits

Artichokes are high in inflammation-fighting polyphenols, high in fiber, and low in fat.

Why hassle with mincing cloves? Snagging jarred garlic means meals are a snap.

Prep suggestions

Try it in:

  • soups
  • gnocchi
  • garlic bread
  • pesto

You can also try jarred garlic as the first step for a sautéed greens side dish or a surprisingly zesty pot roast.

Save it for later

Jarred garlic can make its home in your fridge as far as its expiration date, which may be as long as 3 months from purchase.

Health benefits

Including garlic in your diet could come with a host of health benefits.

A 2020 study correlated garlic with the potential prevention of cancer, cardiovascular, and metabolic diseases like diabetes. It makes the garlic breath seem a little more worth it.

Frozen mixed vegetables are a cook’s best friend for loading up meals on the fly.

Prep suggestions

Add them to:

  • soups
  • shepherd’s pie
  • fried rice
  • steamed greens

Having them on hand in the freezer means veggies can color up your diet with just the shake of a bag.

Save it for later

There’s literally no easier food to store in the freezer than frozen mixed veggies. After cooking, you can preserve leftovers in the refrigerator for 5-7 days.

Health benefits

Depending on your blend, you’ll find a mix of nutrients like:

  • vitamin C
  • fiber
  • potassium
  • folic acid
  • vitamin A

All these nutrients have a major impact! Some research has shown that vegetable consumption is inversely related to death from any cause.

Hummus can become your go-to spread for far more than veggie dipping.

Prep suggestions

Its creamy texture can serve as a mayo replacement in sandwiches and wraps or the base of sturdy salad dressings. It’s also a near-essential part of a charcuterie board, which just so happens to be a super easy meal.

Save it for later

Refrigerated hummus can stay good in the fridge for 1-2 weeks. Haul it out whenever you need a quick side dish, like crackers or crudites — or spread some on toast and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds for a healthy breakfast.

Health benefits

This gift from the Mediterranean has become the centerpiece of healthy entertaining for good reason. Tahini (sesame paste) provides healthy fats while the chickpea base comes packed with fiber and protein.

People who eat more plant-based protein may have a longer life expectancy, according to 2019 research.

Raw potatoes aren’t exactly helpful for dinner in a flash—but pre-mashed spuds in the freezer make quick work.

Prep suggestions

Any time you need a speedy side dish, grab the bag from your freezer. It’ll start you off on the right foot as an accompaniment to a mustard-baked chicken, meatballs, or a quick lemon-and-capers salmon dinner.

Save it for later

Purchased mashed potatoes can chill out in the freezer for up to 6 months. Once cooked, store them in the fridge. You can get creative with leftovers by stuffing them into samosas or enchiladas or frying them up as potato latkes.

Health benefits

Potatoes get a bad rap for their high carb count, but they aren’t as bad for you as you might think.

They have plenty of potassium, the mineral that helps your muscles and nerves contract properly, and their resistant starch might improve blood sugar control, according to a 2021 study.

For an all-purpose shredded cheese that goes on just about anything, choose cheddar.

Prep suggestions

Rich and easily meltable, it tames spice and tops off household favorites, like:

  • chili
  • quesadillas
  • baked potatoes
  • mac and cheese

Save it for later

You’ll get the best results from your shredded cheddar if you keep it tightly sealed in the fridge. Cheese can be frozen too. Leave a bag in the freezer for six to nine months.

Health benefits

Cheddar is known for its calcium. A quarter-cup serving contains 15 percent of the Daily Value.

This mineral supports:

  • healthy bones
  • blood clotting
  • heart rhythm
  • muscle movement
  • hormone balance

The cheese also contains a moderate amount of protein.

Greek yogurt, how do we love you? Let us count the ways.

Prep suggestions

Try it in:

  • parfaits
  • smoothies
  • in dips and dressings
  • as an alternative to sour cream
  • in a pudding or pie filling

Even more ideas: Use Greek yogurt to coat chicken or pork before breading or to make tzatziki sauce for falafel.

Save it for later

Greek yogurt will keep in the fridge for about 2 weeks. Technically, you can freeze it for up to 2 months, but this may change its consistency.

Health benefits

Nutritionally, Greek yogurt has so many good things going for it. It offers ample protein, calcium, and gut-friendly probiotics to name a few.

Good things may take time, but when it comes to making healthy meals, there’s no shame in a few shortcuts.

Stock your kitchen with these combinable essentials and you won’t have to bat an eye next time you need dinner in minutes.

Sarah Garone is a nutritionist, freelance writer, and food blogger. Find her sharing down-to-earth nutrition info at A Love Letter to Food or follow her on Twitter.

Source link

About the author



Click here to post a comment

  • I loved as much as youll receive carried out right here The sketch is attractive your authored material stylish nonetheless you command get bought an nervousness over that you wish be delivering the following unwell unquestionably come more formerly again as exactly the same nearly a lot often inside case you shield this hike

  • I do believe all the ideas youve presented for your post They are really convincing and will certainly work Nonetheless the posts are too short for novices May just you please lengthen them a little from subsequent time Thanks for the post

  • I enjoyed it just as much as you will be able to accomplish here. You should be apprehensive about providing the following, but the sketch is lovely and the writing is stylish; yet, you should definitely return back as you will be doing this walk so frequently.

  • Fantastic beat ! I would like to apprentice while you amend your web site, how could i subscribe for a blog site? The account helped me a acceptable deal. I had been a little bit acquainted of this your broadcast offered bright clear concept

  • Thank you for the auspicious writeup. It in fact was a amusement account it. Look advanced to more added agreeable from you! By the way, how could we communicate?

  • Wow, superb blog layout! How long have you been blogging for? you make blogging look easy. The overall look of your site is magnificent, as well as the content!

  • My brother suggested I might like this blog He was totally right This post actually made my day You can not imagine simply how much time I had spent for this info Thanks

  • obviously like your website but you need to test the spelling on quite a few of your posts Several of them are rife with spelling problems and I to find it very troublesome to inform the reality on the other hand Ill certainly come back again

  • Hello my loved one I want to say that this post is amazing great written and include almost all significant infos I would like to look extra posts like this