We have all done it before. We set the best intentions to eat healthy and cook meals at home, only to work all day, rush to pick the kids up from practice, and we arrive home to an empty refrigerator and pathetic pantry. Time to dig through the freezer or call for takeout. Sometimes that is the reality, but with some planning and careful shopping, you can make those dinners more of the exception, rather than the rule.
Planning is an important key to clean eating and cooking at home. You don't have to plan out every meal (you can if you want, but frankly that doesn't work for me - I change my mind a lot, and don't like being stuck eating something that sounded good a week ago, but not now). Rather, I arm myself with healthy ingredients that I can use to create quick, tasty and healthy meals. I use down-time and weekends to prep my healthy ingredients (chop veggies, wash fruits, boil eggs, brown ground beef, roast chicken, cook brown rice, etc) for easy meals during the week, when time is crunched.
Here are a few of the things I reach for when I go to the store, to help you kick up the health of your pantry:
Vegetables: I always have on hand - onions, carrots, celery, leafy greens (spinach, kale, lettuce), avocados, bell pepper, (other veggies, I buy what is in season) tomatoes, cabbage, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, seasonal squashes (zucchini, yellow squash in summer/fall and pumpkin, spaghetti squash, butternut, acorn in the late fall/winter), marinara sauce, tomato paste, salsa
Fruits: (buy what is in season or frozen) oranges, grapefruit, apples, pears, kiwi, berries, watermelon, cantaloupe, peaches, plums, pineapple, mango, applesauce
Protein: Nuts (almonds, walnuts, peanuts) and Nut Butter (almond butter, peanut butter), dry beans (or canned - black beans, pinto beans, white beans, garbanzo beans), lentils, eggs, salmon, lean meats like beef, chicken, pork