An easy way to save time in the kitchen and stay healthy is to make sure you have the right products in your house! In this first post of a three-part series, I’m sharing a list of items I almost always have in my refrigerator.
I had lunch with a relative a month or so ago and while eating she asked: “will you be my health coach?” I was taken aback; although I enjoy sharing healthy recipes and tips, I never considered being someone’s “coach.” Of course, I was also flattered that she asked, and excited to start using my experience to help her take up healthier habits.
Because this is something I never thought I’d be doing, I had no idea where to start. We had a nice discussion over lunch, where I got to know what’s going on with her and what her goals are, then when I got home later that day, my mind was racing with ideas. I decided to open up a word document and start jotting all these thoughts down.
These notes eventually turned into a long list of tips for her, with different categories including some of my favorite meals, advice that has helped me, and items always in my refrigerator, freezer, and cupboard. I wanted to share these tips with you, too, as you continue on your health journey. First up–items always in my fridge!
This is a pretty long list with details, so you understand what I typically use each item for. I made each item bold, so you can easily skim the list if you’d prefer.
We eat eggs frequently (breakfast for dinner is our favorite), so we always have at least a dozen in the fridge. Over the past couple months, a lady at church has actually been bringing me a carton of eggs each week from her chickens. Local and free–I’ll take it! Except, unfortunately, we won’t be getting many eggs over winter, because their chickens slow down laying them.
Typically, my favorite way to cook eggs is fried in some ghee and on top of avocado toast. Zack likes to brown a pound of ground sausage, then add eggs to it to make a scramble (if I’m eating with him, I’ll usually sneak in some veggies, too).
After completing a few Whole30 programs, I realized dairy doesn’t always agree with me. If I eat or drink too much, I end up getting pretty bloated and have low energy. When I want a splash of milk in my coffee, some creamy oatmeal, or a baked good, I use unsweetened almond milk.
Spinach and/or kale
If you kept up with my gardening posts this summer, you’d know I had endless amounts of kale. I also grew some spinach, which finally came up after planting seeds a couple of times. I got this salad saver at a flea market a few years ago, which is where I keep chopped spinach and kale. If I have some of both, I’ll keep kale in a ziploc bag with a few paper towels (kale seems to last longer than spinach, so I make sure to put the spinach in the nice container). I eat salads occasionally, but mostly I add greens to different meals, such as meatballs, soups, and egg scrambles.
Zack eats lettuce more than I do, and we always have a head of iceberg on hand. I’ll add it to salads for some crunch and to balance out dark greens. When I get the chance to go to the farmers market, there’s an awesome lettuce stand where I’ll get a container of mixed greens–which is even better that iceberg.
I try to mix up the fruit I get each week, depending on seasonality and what I’m in the mood for. I don’t buy too much of it, because it tends to go bad before I get a chance to eat it all, but I always have at least one or two types of fruit. Some of my favorites include clementines, apples, berries, and grapes (those GIANT green grapes are awesome).
Lemons are also a fruit I always have on hand. I don’t keep the whole lemons in the fridge, but I usually have about two of them cut in half in a little lemon container. I squeeze these into some warm water with apple cider vinegar, collagen, and honey each morning.
I know there are a lot of people who despise olives, but I’m someone who is obsessed with them. I’ll add them to salads or just snack on them, and lately I’ve been loving kalamata olives and garlic stuffed green olives.
Chicken, veggie, and beef broth base
I use broth frequently in meals, especially during fall and winter because I make a lot of soup. Rather than filling up my cupboard with cans or cartons of broth, I like to use Better Than Bouillon, which are small jars of concentrated stocks you add to hot water.
The ingredients aren’t super clean–it has corn syrup and sugar–but I’ve decided I’m fine with it. The convenience of the product makes up for it in my opinion, and I know a couple grams of sugar in my soup won’t kill me. Plus, I have a hard time finding broth in cans or cartons that don’t also have questionable ingredients.
Like the broth bases, I keep a jar of minced garlic in my fridge, too. Sometimes I’ll use fresh garlic in meals, especially for things like tomato basil soup, when I roast the garlic, tomatoes, and onion. For the most part, though, it’s much easier to scoop a teaspoon of garlic out of a jar that’s already minced.
My mom makes and cans the BEST salsa each summer. We almost always have a jar in our fridge to snack on with tortilla chips or to add to meals. If you want to make homemade salsa yourself, I shared her recipe on the blog.
Pure maple syrup
I don’t eat pancakes or waffles often, but pure maple syrup comes in handy when making baked goods. You can almost always substitute maple syrup for processed, white sugar. Just make sure to get pure maple syrup, not the Aunt Jemima stuff full of anything but syrup.
There are some things I never realized should be kept refrigerated, coconut being one of them. I learned not long ago that shredded coconut will stay fresher if it’s stored in the fridge, so I keep my Bob’s Red Mill coconut in a big jar in mine, to add to baked goods, oatmeal, etc.
Like coconut, I never realized nuts should be kept in the fridge. The oils in nuts can go rancid if stored too long at room temperature, so it’s best to keep them in a sealed container or bag in your fridge (or freezer). They’re perfect for an on-the-go snack or to add to different recipes and my favorite nuts are macadamia, pecans, almonds, cashews, and walnuts (those all link to Thrive Market. I usually purchase my nuts from there or Aldi).
I’m not a huge condiment person–I think they can really take away from the true flavors of a meal, plus they are often full of sugars and other additives. There are a few condiments I use often though, including hot sauce (Frank’s is my favorite), salad dressings (I like Tessa Mae’s and Primal Kitchen), coconut aminos, and worcestershire sauce.
I LOVE leftovers. I don’t “meal prep” all that much, but I do try to make extra food at most meals to have for future breakfasts and lunches (or dinner, because there’s a lot of nights I just don’t feel like cooking). You can almost always find multiple dishes of leftovers in my fridge.
These are all items that I almost always have in my fridge, but there are a few that I sometimes have in there, too.
My love of avocados varies depending on the week. Some weeks I’ll have them almost every day on avocado toast or in guacamole, but other weeks I forget about them and they end up over ripening before I get a chance to eat them. When I do have some, I usually keep them in the fridge, which helps to slow down the ripening process.
Celery, carrots, peppers, and cucumbers are a great snack with some homemade ranch or hummus. Like avocados, I have to be in the mood for them and there have been times when a raw carrot stick just does not sound good at all. Every once in a while, though, raw veggies are something I snack on. Besides snacks, I do often have raw veggies in the fridge for specific recipes, but besides kale, spinach, and lettuce, there aren’t any vegetables I consistently buy.
Kimchi is a fermented Korean food, usually made up of cabbage, radishes, and carrots, with lots of spices. It can be really spicy, but I’ll have a little bit of it with meals occasionally.
We had a ton of cucumbers all at once from our garden over the summer, so I did some quick refrigerator pickles with them. We have a few jars in the fridge, but I only eat these every so often.
Homemade ranch or avocado dressing
When I have the time over the weekend, I’ll whip up some homemade ranch, or even better, some avocado dressing. I have the homemade ranch recipe on the blog and use the avocado dressing recipe out of It Starts With Food (this one is similar). Mostly, I’ll put these dressings on salads or have them with raw veggies.
Like I mentioned above, too much dairy isn’t a good idea for me, but there are times where I just really want a yogurt parfait with homemade granola. I’ll use plain Greek yogurt, which is also great as a sour cream substitute if you’re making tacos or a burrito bowl.
Applesauce is one of those products that I struggle to use all of before it goes bad, which is probably because I always buy it in way too big of a container. I mostly use it as a substitution in healthier baked goods.
Dark chocolate chips
My goal is to share tips to help you live a healthy, happy life, and that means making sure to not deprive yourself of “unhealthy” food and drink. I’d like to say I buy chocolate chips for recipes, but mostly I like to snack on them. I try to buy them with a high cacao percentage and either get Ghirardelli or the Aldi brand.
I don’t eat a ton of dairy, but I love to snack on crackers and cheese sometimes. Aldi has an awesome selection of cheese!
We don’t always have bread in the house, but if I can find a loaf of good sourdough somewhere, I’ll definitely buy it. Because we don’t eat it very fast, I keep it in the fridge to help it last longer. My goal is to start making my own sourdough eventually.
I brew my own kombucha (I’ll be sharing the instructions on the blog soon), but I don’t drink it super fast, so I just have a few bottles in the fridge every so often. I’ve seriously saved so much money by brewing my own.
Beer and wine
I love a hoppy IPA or a glass of wine and enjoy them a couple times a week.
This list doesn’t include the food Zack keeps in the fridge, which is usually lunch meat and sliced cheese and other condiments. For the most part, though, he eats the same food as me.
You probably noticed there’s a lot of links throughout this list; this is because I wanted to make it easy for you to find the products I’m talking about. I purchase most of my refrigerated products at Aldi, then go to Walmart for whatever I can’t find. I’ll also purchase items like maple syrup, shredded coconut, nuts, and condiments on Thrive Market (<- click that link to receive 25% off and free shipping on your first order).
For the most part, these are all simple items that can be found at most stores and can be used in many different recipes. I recommend figuring out what items you use often, too, and make sure to always keep them in stock at your house. Next up: items always in my freezer!
Your turn: What items do you always have in your fridge?
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