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Stock the Essentials

With a well-stocked kitchen, you can make practically anything.

With a well-stocked cupboard, refrigerator, and freezer, meal planning becomes a breeze because a variety of foods on hand ensures there are endless ways to create something good to eat. So stock up and let your imagination go wild. To get you started, here are what we consider the essentials.

In the Cupboard:
bottled low-fat pasta sauce
bottled roasted red bell peppers
breads, pita bread
canned and dried beans
canned artichoke hearts and bottoms
canned fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
canned minced clams
canned tomatoes
canned water-packed tuna
cooking spray
dried fruit
evaporated fat-free milk
flavored vinegars
good-quality olive, vegetable, and sesame oils
grains, rice, noodles, and pasta
low-sodium soy sauce
maple syrup
onions, shallots, and garlic
staples such as all-purpose flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt
unsweetened cocoa
various wines and spirits

In the Fridge:
1% low-fat, 2% reduced-fat, and fat-free milks
butter or margarine
fresh herbs
fresh veggies
green onions
low-fat or fat-free cream cheese
low-fat or fat-free sour cream
plain low-fat or fat-free yogurt
strong-flavored cheeses
sweet bell peppers
variety of jams and jellies
variety of mustards
In the Freezer:
bottled dried herbs and spices
dried breadcrumbs
fresh ginger
frozen chopped spinach
frozen orange juice concentrate

Product/Shelf Life/Excess Storage Risk

High-acid canned goods (fruit- or tomato-based) / up to 18 months / metal from can dissolves into food

Low-acid canned foods (meat, fish, vegetables) / up to five years / quality deterioration

Oil / one year / rancidity

Starchy staples (rice, pasta, beans, flour) / up to 18 months / quality deterioration; pest infestation; mold growth

Sugar / several years / if it gets wet, will clump and may grow mold