I thought I knew what “Stretched for time” meant. And then I had twins….
Before having the kids I used to come home from work every night, exercise and still have time to get something on the table for dinner. And if I didn’t have time, my husband and I figured it out (read: ate cereal, or toast , or nothing) because we’re both grown adults who can either wait for dinner or fend for ourselves (the same goes for lunches and breakfast).
With kids…not so much. Normally I walk in the door from work with about twenty minutes until the whirlwind that is dinner, bath and bed time before dealing with a house that looks like it was hit with a not-so small tornado. And shockingly…one year olds can’t figure out meal ideas for themselves. I know-right??
BUT the good news is that all of this has made me re-consider what I keep in my fridge, freezer and pantry to ensure that I always have something on hand for breakfast, lunch and dinner to keep the hungry monsters at bay. I’ve been doing a series of posts on my Instagram (@arm.yourself) about everything I keep and thought I would do a more comprehensive post here on the whole kitchen starting with my pantry:
1. I love canned goods. I know they have a bad reputation for any number of reasons (salt content, the idea that their cheap food) but I don’t care. Canned items are normally picked at their prime and canned so they can sometimes contain more nutrients than their fresh counterparts, and they are super easy to use. I keep a variety of canned vegetable products (peas, corn, tomato paste, tomato sauce, canned tomato), fish (tuna and salmon), and legumes (beans, peas, lentils, chickpeas). If a recipe calls for a fresh variety of something eg. peas I often substitute for the canned version and just taper down the salt in the recipe accordingly.
2. Whole Grains: I always have a wide variety of whole grains available like quinoa, brown rice, barley and I don’t wait to use them in specific recipes. I pick one grain and cook a big batch in the rice cooker (the world’s BEST invention) on Sundays to use as a base for a variety of dinners, to replace egg or breadcrumbs to for vegan patties, or to throw into a salad for lunch.
3. Dried legumes: Dried peas, beans, and different kinds of lentils. Not just for pea soup!!! These are really all excellent to use in soups, or to add to rice or other grains to make a complete pantry meal. Them being dried does mean that they take a bit more time to cook, but they are still a great addition.
4. Whole grain cereals: Cereals are for so much more than just breakfast. They’re a great snack, perfect for teaching kids to pick up foods, make a great addition to homemade trail mix, and I always keep extra just in case I run out of bread crumbs (Pop them in a ziplock, smash em up and you’re good to go)
5. Nuts: I keep whole roasted (I just like them better that way) nuts in my pantry, along with sliced (I keep crushed and ground nuts in the freezer). they’re such a simple way to add protein to a breakfast, snack or salad. Top oatmeal or your salad with sliced nuts, use ground nuts instead of breadcrumbs, add them to a smoothie. the possibilities are really endless.
6. Dried fruit: I prefer fresh fruit to dried. Because dried fruit has had the water taken out of it it is higher in calories and sugar for a smaller amount compared to fresh. But when you’re looking to take fruit on the go, dried is always more convenient of an option. I always look for unsweetened varieties of dried fruit and fruit sauce and pop one into my purse or workbag as a quick easy snack. Try 2-3 pitted dates stuffed with walnuts for an easy protein and fiber rich purse snack.
1. See my Barely salad recipe in the recipe section of the website (uses barley and chickpeas)
2. Jeweled rice in the recipe section (brown rice, sliced nuts, dried fruit)
3. salmon patties recipe (salmon, canned sweet potato- optional, and breadcrumbs)
4. Make your own trail mix: 1 part whole grain cereal, 1 part mixed nuts (or seeds for nut free environments), 1 part unsweetened dried fruit (raisins, dates, apricots), and 1/2 part fun add in (definitely optional!) such as sweetened coconut flakes, dark chocolate chips.