6 Staples Your Pantry Needs

Look at non-perishable foods in a new light

Photo: Pile of raw beans

The dried foods aisle may seem like the doldrums of the grocery store (or meant only for doomsday preppers) but non-perishables can make meals tasty at a frugal price point. At your next grocery visit, give these nutritious and wallet-friendly buys a second pass.

Dried Legumes & Grains
Barley, peas, lentils, and beans deliver complex carbs and lean proteins, the dynamic duo for satisfying meals. Plus, they’ll help you get filling fiber (which most Americans don’t get enough of). A one-cup serving of barley has 32 grams of fiber. At less than 18 cents per serving, that’s a healthy bargain!

Shelf-Stable Milk
If you’re thinking of adding non-dairy milk to your diet, pick the shelf-stable kind over pricier refrigerated varieties. Add unsweetened almond, oat, quinoa, or rice milk to smoothies or have a glass with peanut butter and jelly.

Canned Fish
Some of the healthiest diets, including Nordic and Mediterranean, rely heavily on fish-in-a-tin. Worried about a strong, fishy taste? Instead of eating them out of a can, test out herring, sardines, sodium-free anchovies, or tuna in pasta dishes or sandwiches. They’re milder than you think! Opt for water-packed, not oil-packed, versions to avoid hydrogenated fats.

Capers & Olives
Perfect for replacing salt in meals or enjoying as pre-dinner snacks, olives and capers are a flavorful and flavonoid-filled pantry addition. Spread low-fat cream cheese, sliced tomatoes, and capers on whole grain crackers or use olive tapenade as a low-calorie sandwich condiment.

Wild Rice
Jambalaya, Korean rice bowls, paella, or wild rice salad—the possibilities for rice are endless. Opt for wild or black varieties to get more fiber and antioxidants than brown or white varietals.

Dried Milk
It may be the least glamorous of non-perishable foods, but even culinary whizzes use powdered milk to thicken five-star sauces and soups. While liquid milk is too thin to add creamy texture, dried milk is good alternative to cornstarch, cream, or flour.