Pantry Makeover! How To Have a Healthier Kitchen in the New Year

Many of us have resolved to be healthier in 2015, and at TheRTAStore, we believe the best place to start is the pantry! A few simple changes can make a big difference. Follow our practical guide to a healthier kitchen and a healthier family!

Get in the Food Storage Zone.

Dividing your pantry into zones is the first step to a healthier kitchen. Identify the categories that suit you and your family, such as cereals and breakfast items, healthy snacks, bread and lunch items, pasta and dinner items, baking necessities, etc. Sort canned goods into their own subcategories, such as soups, fruits, veggies, etc. and group them neatly on a shelf together. Label each zone so you can stay organized and quickly find what you need.
We suggest storing dry ingredients such as flour, sugar, grains and beans in clear, stackable, airtight containers. You can even go a step further by designating bins for a week’s worth of dinners. Plan and shop for your meals at the beginning of the week and group the non-perishable ingredients by recipe to cut down on prep time, and to avoid the expensive and often unhealthy “take-out” habit. Bins are also useful for corralling bread, teas and coffee, paper goods, and snack items.
Having spices accessibly on hand is a must for any healthy kitchen. Spices add flavor without added calories or sodium. A three-tiered tray is a great way to hold all your herbs and spices in a cabinet instead of taking up precious room in your pantry. Another space-saving solution is a rack mounted to your pantry door.

Know what’s in your pantry.

Once you have designated your zones, it’s time to pull everything out of the panty. That’s right…. everything. Take stock of what you have. Look at expiration dates and throw away anything well past its prime.
The same goes for anything less than nutritious, including those crème-filled cookies and your favorite corn chips covered in bright orange cheese powder. Toss the temptation and stock your cupboards with healthy snacks like nuts, dried fruit, 100% whole grain crackers, pretzels, organic popcorn, veggie chips, pudding cups, fruit pouches or fruit cups packed in juice, and high-fiber granola bars.
Check for high sodium and sugar content, artificial colors, artificial sweeteners, and other questionable additives. When in doubt, choose whole foods over processed foods. The least amount of unrecognizable ingredients, the better.

Time to visit the grocery store!

Now that you’ve purged your panty of unhealthy stuff, here a list of must-have items for a well-stocked, healthy pantry. With the right items on hand you will be all set to start the New Year off right!

• Dried beans and lentils
• Whole grain pasta
• Brown rice
• Quinoa
• Rolled or steel-cut oats
• Local honey
• Low-sodium, natural broth (chicken and/or vegetable)
• Natural peanut or almond butter
• Lightly salted nuts and seeds (almonds, cashews, walnuts, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds)
• Sulfite-free dried fruits (apricots, dates, figs, prunes, cranberries, raisins)
• Apple cider vinegar
• Healthy oils (extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil)
• Dijon mustard and organic tomato ketchup
• Organic jarred tomato sauce
• Low-sodium canned tuna or salmon
• Whole grain, low-sugar breakfast cereals
• 100% whole wheat bread
• Organic popcorn kernels
• Wheat breadcrumbs
• Unsweetened cocoa powder and/or dark chocolate with 60% cacao
• Sea salt and black pepper
• Dried herbs (bay, dill, sage, thyme, oregano, tarragon, basil, parsley)
• Spices (allspice, chili powder, cinnamon, cumin, curry, ginger, dry mustard, nutmeg, paprika, crushed red pepper, turmeric, garlic powder, onion powder)
• Granulated and brown sugar
• Unbleached, all-purpose flour
• Baking soda and baking powder

For the true DIY’er take a step back and spruce up your pantry before you begin. Nothing is as appetizing as a neatly organized, freshly painted pantry with tasteful, easy–to-clean shelf liner. What are your must-have, healthy pantry staples? Leave us a comment and let us know.