Having healthy, nutrient-dense ingredients always on hand make your food choices easier. These ingredients will keep you full of energy, feeling great, have better digestion, and radiant skin! Here are 12 essentials that can be transformed into many different delicious meals. Time to give your refrigerator a makeover!
1. PROTEIN AND BACON
I always keep meat in the freezer and 2lbs in the fridge to defrost, or ready to use. At least every other week I will prepare a large cut of meat, like pulled pork or a lamb shoulder, or a beef roast, or a whole chicken. These larger portions can be turned into at least a few meals throughout the week, which makes for less meal prep time! Bacon is a great item to keep a high stock of so that you can eat it with veggies in a jam, or use it to flavor most dishes and it provides it’s own oil (grease) that can be used to cook the rest of your meal accompaniments in! It’s also high in healthy fat. Note: try to purchase bacon that is from pasture-raised hogs that aren’t fed corn and soy, especially GMO corn and soy! It can be challenging to find a bacon that meets these standards, but call around and ask questions at your local farmer’s market.
Greeeeeens: Kale, Spinach, Chard, Collards… are all amazing and highly nutritious ingredients to have at all times. I put them in a smoothie every day (BIG handful), chop them up into thin strips for salads, or braise them with ginger, garlic, salt and bone broth for a lovely side dish (or main dish if you add meat to the braise).
3. BANANAS AND BERRIES
These are probably my last ingredient to run out of during the week as I buy a bunch of bananas every time I go to the store and as soon as they start to ripen, cut into chunks and freeze. This is great for smoothies, ice cream in a flash, or sliced up and drizzled with chocolate for a great dessert. Frozen berries are essential for great smoothies, as long as your smoothie has more greens than berries! I also give them to my little boy when teething, or for a snack on a hot day, he can’t get enough! Fresh berries I purchase always, I rotate my berries based on what one is in season and the lowest price
4. AVOCADOS AND OLIVES
Faaaaat is GOOD for you!! Healthy fat, that is! Without fat, your body will not stay satiated and the desire to feel full will still thrive and tempt you to make poor choices with your otherwise healthy meal. Adding a 1/2 avocado or a handful of olives to your meal will leave you feeling great. Other ‘fat options’ for meal sides are coconut or ghee, coconut oil, or olive oil.
5. SAUERKRAUT AND KOMBUCHA
My husband is convinced I’m about to ferment everything in our fridge! Fermented drinks and vegetables are so underestimated and historically normal with each meal. Each culture would have their ‘signature pickled side’ that was served along lunch and dinner. We have gone far away from that. Full of enzymes, probiotics and major gut healing properties, fermented vegetables will leave you feeling like a superhero. The easiest fermented vegetables to purchase or make are sauerkraut and pickles. Since sauerkraut is particularly easy to make, I always have it on hand and I’m saving lots of $$$ by making my own organic, raw version at home. Kombucha is an amazing drink also full of gut healing properties and digestive assistance. It is a nice treat, soda substitution and there are so many different ways you can flavor it. Husband can’t get enough of it, he is like a child at Christmas always waiting for the next batch to finish!
6. SWEET POTATOES/SQUASH
Every week I roast a bunch of sweet potatoes (I prefer the white ones) for quick meal sides such as bacon grease potato wedges, baked fries, or blended with ghee or coconut oil for a delicious mash. I also purchase a seasonal squash to mix it up. The starch in sweet potatoes is much lower than a potato and is nutrient-dense. My body loves them. I prepare sweet potato pancakes almost weekly and my little one gobbles them up (and we do too!)
7. BONE BROTH
I feel like a character from a period piece saying that I always have a big pot of ‘stock’ going. it makes it so convenient for a quick meal (pulling some out and reheating in a small saucepan with chopped vegetables and kelp noodles), to add to braises, sauces, and roasting meat. I will make large batches of beef or chicken bone broth and freeze half. Currently I have an on-going beef bone broth batch that I keep straining every 2 days, then adding more water and a couple new bones. You can reuse the bones a few times (beef more than chicken) which is very cost-effective and the minerals and gelatin from the bones are sooo good for you and gut-healing. In case you’re wondering why I keep mentioning the ‘gut,’ I will write another article soon about this very topic but in short: your gut health is key to your overall health! Keep the gut happy, keep YOU happy 🙂
Available almost year-round, apples are an easy snack with nut butter and can be roasted with cinnamon for a healthy dessert. One of our favorite treats is an apple sliced and dipped in coconut butter! Apples are top of the list for the ‘dirty dozen’ so even after washing a conventional apple, sometimes up to 13 pesticides can still be detected- scary! So even if you’re not into buying all-organic (which I hope you will one day!), please at least buy organic apples. You will do yourself and your family a huge favor.
9. OILS AND HERBS AND LEMONS
Flavor flavor flavor! An easy way to make your ‘usual’ dish stay exciting is to rotate your cooking fat and herbs! Fresh herbs are ideal for optimum flavor enhancement. When cooking with oils, be conscious that each oil has a smoke point. For example, frying or sautéing with Olive Oil is not ideal because it’s smoke point is 325-350 so the oil will smoke and become toxic. Ghee, Avocado Oil, or Coconut Oil are great alternatives. If you like the olive oil taste, you can add it after you’ve prepared your dish. I drizzle it on steamed or roasted vegetables, cauliflower mash and salads. Lemon juice is also great for roasting, adding flavor to vegetables, and drinking each morning with hot water for a quick detox and waking up your digestive system.
Onions. carrots, and celery are essential for most meals. I use them in bone broth, sauces, meatballs, soup, salads, braises, roasts, and smoothies (minus the onion!). Always having these on hand makes for easy meal prep. When I don’t know what I want to make for dinner, I always start with sautéing these while my mind starts going. Some of my best dinner recipes have developed from the sautéing of these three basic ingredients.
Quick breakfast, lunch, snack, or dinner! Eggs can be prepared so many different and delicious ways, are highly nutritious and a great source of protein. Pastured eggs are available at farmer’s markets, but if they are not available to you or are too expensive, organic and free-range is the next best option. You may also be fortunate to find them at your local farmer’s market for a great price. My new favorite way to prepare eggs is in a muffin tin! I will throw leftover or fresh vegetables in each tin then top with mixed salt and pepper eggs (1 egg per tin) and bake at 350 for 20 minutes. Then you have ready-to-eat egg frittatas on hand in the refrigerator!
12. RAW CACAO/DARK CHOCOLATE
I had to add at least one ‘dessert item’ on here so that you wouldn’t think I was a total hippie who grazed off the land. I looove dark chocolate, but honestly eat much less of it than I used to since I began eating so clean. When you get enough fat and nutrient-dense meals, the craving doesn’t even come very often. The time I most want it these days is when I’m exhausted. I crave the energy boost from cacao. Even then, I’ll throw some cacao nibs in my smoothie, or chop to top my homemade ice creams.
(These ‘others’ are not my main ingredients but I didn’t want you to think my fridge only consisted of 13 items!) Others include: honey, black tea, dandelion root tea, coconut milk, nuts and seeds, other seasonal fruits and vegetables, raw milk, raw kefir, raw cheese, maple syrup and other baking ingredients. I will do a separate post on essential ingredients for healthy baking, and another post on healthy condiments.
I hope this article helped you envision many amazing meals that can be created from these few ingredients. If you haven’t begun the switch to clean eating and real food, a great start is to have a forkful of a fermented vegetable daily, cutting your sugar intake in at least HALF, and adding healthy fats to each meal.
Start cooking! Leave questions, comments, or complaints below. Wait, just kidding on the complaints 😉