No Planning Required: Set Your Kitchen Up for Quick and Easy Meals with My Two Step Plan

by Shannon Wintheiser

This post its the first in a two-part series about healthy meal planning.

Wow, that girl looks super happy, right?! Like I don't know if I've ever had a face like that walking through my Hyde Park Kroger. Usually it's head down, power-walk on, an occasionally squint or incredulous and well-deserved look thrown at a fellow shopper (hey, if you live in Cincinnati you know a Hyde Park Kroger trip is not for the faint of heart).

But my little theory is that this lovely lady is so happy because she has her list of pantry staples out, and she knows exactly what she is getting on her grocery trip and where it is. She isn't searching desperately for a store employee to point her to the poblano peppers in adobe sauce (seriously why do they make that stuff so hard to find?!) for some fancy enchilada dish she saw on Pinterest that's going to take 2 hours of her Monday night to make. And on the other hand, she isn't drifting aimlessly through aisles of produce bins chewing her lip and wondering "why the hell am I even here, I don't know what I need?!?"

I've been in both camps, and neither makes for an incredibly smooth shopping trip nor a smooth meal experience that week.  Want to look as happy as our friend here does during your next trip to the grocery store? If nothing else maybe you'll meet a cute guy (or girl) in front of the root vegetables (I recently read somewhere that you are more likely to find a mate if you look happy - not quite sure how they can prove that but I guess it makes sense). Anyway, in this post I'm going to suggest a reframe to the way you approach your weekly shopping trip (yes weekly: it can be done!).  With my two simple steps you can eliminate needless trips to the store, hours of planning and prepping, and precious brain-wave expenditure every week. This solution is for anyone who wants to cook healthy meals at home, but is sick of planning and/or making countless trips to the store. Warning: if you are a serious foodie who likes to eat adventurous, new creations every week, this might not be for you! But it still may be useful on your week off.

And for those of you who want to skip right to the grand finale, click here to enter your email and get your FREE Radiant Shopping checklist you can take with you to the store!

Step 1: Set-Up Your Kitchen with Long-Term Staples

So the first thing you need to do to set yourself up for a hassle-free food routine is to setup your kitchen. What do I mean by this? It really just involves getting those long-lasting semi-or-non-perishables that you will have in your fridge or pantry for months to come. These staples are the foundation of many good meals, and if you have them at your disposal, you'll know you can always whip up a tasty dish without an extra trip to the store or a second thought. The good part is that if you do this right, you really only have to do it once, and then you restock as things run out and other things expire.

If you are new to cooking or if you haven't cleaned house in your kitchen in awhile, you'll want to start at the beginning and make sure you get the following:

Oils and Vinegar

  • high quality cold pressed extra virgin olive oil* for salads and light sautéing 
  • unrefined coconut oil for baking and spreading
  • avocado oil or sesame oil for high heat frying
  • balsamic vinegar
  • apple cider vinegar
  • *if you don't like olive oil or want to switch it up, other good salad oils with amazing omega-3 fats are walnut oil, hemp seed oil, flaxseed oil

Spices and Seasonings

I tend to keep my staple spice list pretty simple, but you can obviously add more if you really like variety and spicin' things up!

  • himalayan or celtic sea salt
  • peppercorns
  • cayenne pepper
  • turmeric
  • curry powder
  • nutmeg
  • cinnamon
  • ginger powder
  • Herbamare (sea salt and herbs)
  • garlic powder
  • wheat free Tamari soy sauce
  • Annie's honey mustard
  • Sir Kensington's ketchup
  • pure vanilla extract (for flavoring smoothies and baking)

It might seem like an expensive trip if you get all of these staples at once, but just know that you are saving yourself time and headaches by having these things on hand, and you really don't have to buy them all that often!

Step 2: Your Weekly Staples

So the second and final step in having a hassle-free kitchen and food routine is knowing what things you need to get every time you go to the store (or at least be aware of if you are running out). With this second-tier staples list, you can be assured that if you want to whip up a healthy meal by 7pm and it's 6:15pm and you still don't know "what's for dinner" - YOU CAN DO IT!

Pantry Staples

  • gluten-free oatmeal or steel-cut oats (I get Bob's Red Mill GF rolled oats) 
  • KIND Bars, Macro Bars (only flavors with <10g sugar), or other low sugar health bars*  (<10g)
  • gluten free grains (I always have quinoa, brown rice, wild rice, and quinoa or brown rice pasta on hand)
  • gluten-free organic soups (I like Amy's ready-to-eat cans, and Pacific Foods stocks)
  • beans and/or lentils (dry or canned in at least 2 varieties)

*if you don't like bars these are totally optional! Just a quick way to get breakfast or a snack on the go. Be SUPER wary of the sugar content though - most bars have more sugar than you should consume in a whole day!

Produce

  • light leafy greens for salads
  • dark leafy greens like spinach or kale for smoothies and stir-frys
  • 2 favorite stir fry veggies (I usually pick up mushrooms, tomatoes)
  • onions
  • healthy fats for salads, snacking, and topping like avocados and raw nuts
  • 1-2 in season organic fruits
  • bananas
  • lemons and limes
  • fresh garlic
  • root vegetable(s) for roasting like sweet potatoes + whatever's in season

Superfood Additions (optional)

These are my favorite but there are many, many more!

  • chia seeds
  • ground flaxseed
  • seaweed (Nori, dulse flakes, or kombu)
  • maca powder (so helpful for female hormone balancing!)
  • cacao powder or nibs (raw chocolate - yum!)

Animal Products (optional)*

If you're a gal who needs a little meat in her life (like me), here's what you might want to have on hand. Some of this stuff you can get fresh if you know you're going to be using it that night or the next day. If not, frozen is always convenient.

  • USDA organic chicken breast
  • wild caught salmon or steel-head trout
  • wild-caught** shrimp
  • USDA organic eggs

*I go into greater detail about what to make sure you look for if you can't find organic animal products on my Radiant Shopping checklist. Get it here
**wild-caught shrimp is sometimes hard to find, so try to at least find US-farm-raised (not international) shrimp

Snacks

Having healthy snacks on hand is so important in any healthy chick's life. Some should be portable so you can take them on the go, while others might require a little refrigeration or a quick 2-min prep. Either way, if you want some great ideas on these make sure to get my free Radiant Shopping checklist here - just enter your email and you will get an email with the link to download!

What the heck do I do now?!

Ok I know that's your next logical question! Now that you have all of these super-healthy, amazing foods and spices in my house but what do I do with them?!? If you have some experience in the kitchen, you can probably think up a plethora of simple healthy meals you could create with the lists above. If you are just starting out, however, dreaming up these concoctions will require a little bit of training. But the beauty is that once you're trained or have a list to go off of, you will always know what to do to get from zero to healthy meal in no time flat, and with no warning or planning. Trust me - you can get there! Like anything else it just takes a little practice.

So to get you started, I'm continuing this two-part blog series next week with a few easy meal ideas I usually reserve just for my private clients that you can create with your new grocery list, no Michelin chef-training required! These are the meals I go to every week for lunch and dinner, and as long as you aren't a huge food snob (no judgment!) these will keep your palette happy and your body healthy, radiant, and glowing!

Stay tuned!

Like this post? I would be honored if you used the "share" text below to share it with family and friends on social media. Or, leave a comment below to let me know: what you do or what you stock your pantry with to simplify your food routine! Thanks as always for stopping by the Radiant Living Blog - it's so good to have you here!


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