Building a Delicious Whole Foods Pantry Basics Week 4: Shortcuts for Busy People

Let’s face it. We’re all busy people with sometimes hectic schedules. Prepping great healthy meals sounds fantastic in theory but often bumps up against time constraints and lack of energy. Sometimes you just don’t want to deal with the hassle and either want to pop something into the microwave or throw something together in minutes. Here’s how to have healthy shortcuts on hand for your whole foods pantry when you feel like taking a break from cooking or just want to make it simpler and quicker.

Week 4 Shopping List

In this fourth installment of building a whole foods pantry, we’ll cover time saving basics fundamental to a stocked whole foods pantry (i.e. fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, tubers, nuts and seeds). This week’s list will provide ingredients for breakfasts, snacks, lunches, dinners and even a dessert so you may be able to cut back on or cross out less healthy foods you would have bought for those meals. This week’s items will be relatively inexpensive too. Here’s the list of 5-7 items to throw in your cart when you next head to the grocery store.

Also, if you’re out of or running low on last week’s items, feel free to top them up again because they’ll go great with this week’s list.

Disclaimer: While not all suggestions for the pantry shopping list will be whole foods, they will account for roughly 90% of the overall recommendations and help support the whole foods way of eating.

Week 4 List:

  • Canned diced tomatoes, canned crushed tomatoes, canned tomato paste
  • Canned beans and lentils
  • Frozen fruit
  • Frozen vegetables
  • Store-made salsa, guacamole and hummus – go for the produce aisle version over the snack aisle jars full of additives and sugar

Optional Buy

  • Frozen fish fillets, mussels, shrimp and other seafood
  • Tinned sardines and anchovies

How to Maximize Your Purchases

With these 5-7 items, you can mix and match to cover quick breakfasts, snacks, lunches, dinners or even a dessert for most of the week – especially when combined with previous shopping list items. You have all the staples needed for quick and easy meals. Additionally, this week’s haul makes great ingredients in a range of everyday dishes. Here’s how to use what you bought.

4 Breakfast Ideas:

  1. Yogurt. For breakfast, combine yogurt, a handful nuts and a handful of frozen berries or other frozen fruit for a nutritious meal and a sweet burst of flavor. This will power you through the mornings.
  2. Smoothies. Blend frozen fruit and yogurt for a smoothie or shake. Add in peanut butter or sunflower seeds.
  3. Oatmeal. Don’t forget that you can add frozen fruit to your cold or hot oatmeal. This is especially great if you’re a grab and go breakfast eater as the fruit will thaw quickly in transit.
  4. Breakfast beans. Mix a drained can of white beans with half a can of crushed or diced tomatoes. Add a dash of Worcester sauce (or substitute balsamic vinegar). You can optionally include garlic or onions. The beans are already cooked so you only need to reheat them. british-baked-beans-16-800x1200

4 Snack Ideas:

  1. Salsa. A basic salsa starts with tomato, chopped onions and vinegar – all ingredients featured in week 1 and week 2 shopping lists. Use your canned diced tomatoes for the base or just used the store-bought version you picked up. Eat with tortilla chips, whole grain crackers or as a topping for meals.
  2. Guacamole and chips. Use store bought in a pinch for quick snacks.
  3. Hummus and whole grain crackers or veggie dippers. Just pop off the lid of your store bought hummus. Easy peasy.

    fresh hummus and pita bread
    Photo by Naim Benjelloun on
  4. Bean dip. Drain and puree canned beans with a little olive oil and salt to make a quick and easy bean dip for tortillas or veggies.

5 Lunch and Dinner Ideas:

  1. Burrito bowls, tacos, nachos. Make this for lunch or dinner. Just drain and rinse black beans and top with meat or veggies or just add salsa and guacamole.
  2. Chili. Use your drained and rinsed cans of black beans, canned diced or crushed tomatoes, garlic, and onions as a base for this hearty meal.
  3. Soups/stews. Take any can of beans, drain and rinse them, then add frozen veggies, a drizzle of olive oil, salt, and some veggie broth. Use canned diced or crushed tomatoes in place of broth for the soup base or add canned tomato paste. Nuke or heat for a quick basic soup you can easily build upon.
  4. Bean salads and bowls. These are super easy. Drain and rinse your canned beans, add frozen corn, half a can of diced tomatoes, and drizzle with vinegar and olive oil. Add onto it to make it heartier.

    Black Bean Salad from Taste of Home
  5. Easy stir fry. Use your frozen veggies to whip up a stir fry. Serve over quinoa or other quick cooking grains that are done in minutes. Optional: add in precooked shellfish.

1 Dessert Idea:

  1. Frozen fruit and yogurt pops. Blend these together and freeze. Use ice trays with popsicle sticks in a pinch.
From Allrecipes

Ingredient ideas:

Canned crushed or diced tomatoes or canned tomato paste. Use as a base for soups, stews, salsa and sauces. Add to bean salads and bean bowls. You’ll never stop finding uses for canned tomatoes in all their forms. Just watch the added salt content.

Frozen fruit. Perfect for adding to smoothies, yogurt and oatmeal. Easy to store and divide out for baking. They are great for using in desserts.

Frozen vegetables. These take minutes to thaw and heat. Use them in soups, stews, stir fries and curries. Frozen corn goes great in Tex Mex bean bowls, bean salads, and salsa.

Store-made salsa, guacamole and hummus. Great for quick snacks or toppings on Tex Mex meals. Opt for the freshly made variety in your produce aisle over the jarred versions full of sugar and additives.

Frozen fish fillets, mussels, shrimp and other seafood. These thaw and cook pretty quickly and even faster if you buy them precooked. Easy to toss into stir fries, soups and stews.

Tinned sardines and anchovies. Sardines make awesome fish tacos in minutes and are great little snacks by themselves. Add them to stews and soups. Use anchovies in pestos, salads, and bean bowls for a salty, savory flavor that can’t be beat. They’re definitely not just for pizza.

Going Forward

The trick to eating healthy is learning how to enjoy real food over your less healthy food habits. Experiment with the time-saving foods or dishes suggested this week. Then put the items on this week’s shopping list into your regular shopping rotation, taking out less wholesome purchases or cutting down on them. Remember to cut down on the refined carb heavy pasta and bread-filled meals. Start rotating in bean or rice dishes. Freshen up your lunches too by dropping the heat and serve meals or fast food for homemade bean salads and burrito bowls. Cut down on the sugary snacks by replacing them with chips and salsa or chips and guacamole. Your body will thank you with better health and vitality.

Your Whole Foods Pantry So Far:

  • Tomatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Nuts
  • Chick peas
  • Black beans
  • Oats
  • Rice
  • Berries
  • Avocados
  • Peanut butter or other nut butter
  • Vinegar
  • Plain yogurt
  • Time savers –
    • Canned tomatoes – crushed, diced
    • Canned tomato paste
    • Frozen fruit
    • Frozen vegetables
    • Store-made salsa, guacamole and hummus
    • Frozen fish fillets, mussels, shrimp and other seafood
    • Tinned sardines and anchovies

This is a pretty decent beginner’s pantry – and one bursting with options to build upon. In the following installments, shopping lists will continue to build up your basic pantry and recipe repertoire. Soon you’ll feel like a whole foods pro.

Like this article? Share it so that others can learn these health secrets and start living their best lives now.


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