The Anatomy Of A Healthy Kitchen

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It’s safe to say that New York City has more supermarkets per square mile than any other city in the nation (we think?), which can make for a very convenient, but also very daunting, grocery-shopping experience. Somehow, every time you walk into one of the billions of stores, there still manages to be a line that snakes around the aisles, and back into the produce section. This can be enough to make even the most avid health fanatic want to forget buying groceries altogether, and opt for Seamless delivery instead. After my fair share of trial and error, I’ve made the weekly trip pleasant by adhering to these three rules of thumb:

1. Shop in the AM.  Whenever possible, head to the grocery store bright and early to avoid the crowds. Avoid Monday evenings—they're the worst.
2. Come armed with a list. A list not only keeps you smart in the kitchen, but also gets you in and out of the store in 30 minutes flat.
3. Join your local CSA.  For the months your Community Supported Agriculture program is in session, you can support local farmers and skip the grocery store scene all together. (More on CSAs here.)

I spend the majority of my time in the produce aisle, picking up about 10 fresh veggies, three to four types of fruits, and lots of herbs. I also pick up anything that is running low in my pantry. Keeping some staples on hand is the most helpful thing you can do to start cooking more at home, even if you don’t have the space for every nut or grain. I’ve built my collection of pantry items and superfoods over time; try adding one to your grocery list per week instead of amassing everything all at once. Here is how I typically stock my kitchen:

In the Fridge
-Fruits & Veggies - I load up on dark, leafy greens, carrots, peppers, apples, ginger, scallions, and cilantro every week. I’m pretty much obsessed with anything that can be added to my veggie bowls.
-Organic Eggs
-Organic Non-GMO Tofu
-Unsweetened Almond Milk - I like Whole Foods' 365 Brand.
-Hummus
-Dijon Mustard
-White Miso Paste - I make a big batch of miso-ginger dressing every week.

On the Counter
-More Fruits & Veggies - I always have bananas, avocados, sweet potatoes, dates, onion, garlic, shallots, and lemons on hand.
-Superfoods - I store chia seeds, hemp hearts, unsweetened coconut flakes, flax seed, goji berries, raw nuts, and superfood powders in clear glass jars on my counter, which encourages me to sprinkle them on top of smoothie bowls and salads. You can pick these up in bulk bins at stores like Whole Foods.

In the Freezer
-Frozen Fruits - Mixed berries, pineapple, bananas, and mangoes are perfect for smoothies.
-Raw Nuts & Seeds - I store extra almonds, walnuts, cashews, pepita seeds and sunflower seeds in the freezer, which helps prolong shelf life and frees up limited cabinet space.

In the Pantry
-Flax Crackers - Mary’s Gone Crackers are a personal favorite.
-Beans - Canned chickpeas and cannellini beans are my favorites.
-Flours, Grains, & Noodles - I stock a variety of gluten-free dried goods, including rolled oats, quinoa, brown rice, brown rice noodles, buckwheat flour, and buckwheat noodles.
-Oils - I always have coconut oil, olive oil, a vegetable oil, and toasted sesame oil on hand.
-Spices - Beyond salt and pepper, I use garlic salt, red pepper flakes, turmeric, and cinnamon almost daily.
-Vinegars - I love Bragg’s Raw, Organic Apple Cider Vinegar, rice vinegar, and white balsamic.
-Sweeteners - I use raw honey and maple syrup regularly.
-Tamari - A gluten-free soy sauce.
-Raw Almond Butter
-Tahini

Stocking my fridge was my first step toward changing how I ate at home. When I have tons of fresh produce and a stocked pantry, I realized how easy it was for me to make simple, delicious meals. Making a green smoothie or overnight oats every morning is a great way to start the day, and having chopped veggies and hummus in the fridge changed my post-work snacking routine. I continue to make small changes every week, which help me to make healthier choices every day.

—Lily Kunin

Lily Kunin is the editor of the NYC-based food blog Clean Food Dirty City. Inspired by the chefs in her family as well as her friends who are looking for easy recipes, she creates meals that are simple, clean, and flavorful. Follow her blog on Instagram @cleanfooddirtycity.

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  • Charlotte

    love this! thanks for all the great informative and nutritious food posts ITG!

  • beeswaxnoneofyour

    Nice list! I always keep Tabasco, herbes de provence and Herbamare herb sea salt in my cupboard as well.

  • magicmollys

    Hehe.

  • tera

    I DO buy these! Then end up eating Velveeta shells and cheese or peanut butter on crackers, because.... washing, cutting, (slicing my finger instead), cleaning up...
    Or someone invites me out last minute, and I am never going to be someone who says "mmm can't. My veggies are looking at me and I have to eat them today or they will not be fresh".

    • juliannex

      I have 2 tips:

      1) Smoothies for breakfast. Since starting this, I easily eat 4 cups of raw fruit/veggies plus a handful of nuts for breakfast. (Add protein powder too.) Use frozen fruit/veggies to reduce prep time. Consult a smoothie recipe book to expand your horizons. I wouldn't have believed it, but kale, bok choy, and frozen California mix work very well in a smoothie.

      2) A technique I learned from the book "Eating on the Wild Side" that will at least keep your veggies fresh longer.

      Take a zip-lock type bag and prick holes in it--10 holes for quart-size, 20 for larger bags. When you bring veggies home from the store, immediately put them in these perforated bags, pushing out extra air before you seal the bag, and then refrigerate. When you've used all the veggies, turn the bag inside out, rinse off, let dry, and reuse.

      As a side effect, having the veggies in these bags keeps them better organized and much more appealing than mushed down and going slimy in the grocery store bags. My crisper drawers look like neat veggie file cabinets, and I can store larger greens like kale and bok choy in the main compartment instead of trying to smash them into the crisper.

      These bags prolong freshness by giving veggies the correct amount of humidity and oxygen. I use this for lettuce and greens of all types, celery, carrots, ginger, and other root vegetables, scallions, and fresh herbs. It really works!

      • Sarita

        The ziplock bag trick is one I'd never heard of. I'll have to try it. Just yesterday I had to toss out a bag of arugula because what was left was slimy. Blech.

  • Ashly Eyler

    I freeze my nuts all the time! They last so much longer, especially the nuts you use around the holidays (pecans, walnuts, etc.). When I was visiting NY (Time Square) I felt like there wasn't many grocery store options, at least not the type I'm used to in WA (biiiig, spacious, many to chose from). So it was difficult to shop in NY for me, at least in the area I was staying. For me, even though we have a ton of shops / spacious, etc. I HATE grocery shopping when there are a ton of people in the store, I feel claustrophobic lol. So I usually shop LATE at night, like 10pm or later, when there's hardly anyone there. The only down side is the deli is usually closed, but I can get everything else during that time and I feel like I have the entire store to myself lol. Great post and awesome tips!

  • Bella

    What a lovely, informative, practical post, especially for those starting out living on their own and those of us trying to adopt/maintain a healthy lifestyle.

  • Btrxncl

    Recently, I started making up huge batches of my own trail mix and keeping small bags with me at work, in my gym bag, etc. It has made a huge difference in my snacking habits. I never have to resort to the vending machine or an ill-advised bakery item out of desperation at 3pm. I can have a handful for breakfast in the morning if I don't have time to make oatmeal or eggs, so no more last minute bagels or muffins. I use organic almonds, pistachios, unsweetened dried cranberries and cherries, unsweetened coconut, and other superfood additions like raw cacao nibs and goji berries, but the key is to use ingredients you love that you'll actually look forward to eating!

  • Guest

    You must have an enormous kitchen/pantry/fridge.

  • http://www.clevergirlreviews.com/ Clever Girl Reviews

    Good all around advice!

  • Kourtney

    The term "organic" means nothing. Also. it's very rare to come across foods that have not been genetically modified. Most seeds are GMO nowadays. I'm not saying you can't eat healthy, but make sure you do more research on the things you're eating and the greenwashing that goes on.

  • jess

    don't forget frozen broccoli, peas etc. that have been snap frozen soon after picking retain their vitamins better than those in the fresh produce section of the supermarket.

  • http://www.sparklesandshoes.com/ Kelly

    I just pinned this for the next time I head to the store!

    xx Kelly

  • Danielle

    man... I wish I could hypnotize myself to eat this healthily! I buy organic ect but I always feel like time is not on my side so I often try for quick eats that are not healthy (i.e. a bagel with cream cheese). I lack such a variety when I shop/eat especially when it comes to fresh produce. Hats off to you for incorporating such a colorful array of foods! This is very inspiring.

  • Fi

    dried beans & chickpeas, although more effort to prepare, are much tastier and cheaper than tinned :)

  • http://blog-de-la-licorne.blogspot.sk/ Gabrielle RoseBonniee

    Nice post. Yummy :)

  • lemonpie

    I love this post. I already live and eat very similar to those guidelines, but it took me a while to figure out a good system. I imagine this could be very helpful for many!

  • fentonclary

    Thank you for this article and your point about CSAs - they're such a great way to get good, local produce and support farmers. Regarding your first sentence, just want to get the facts straight - New York City has an unbelievable dearth of fresh produce and supermarkets, making it very difficult to access vegetables and fruit for almost 1 million NYC residents. These areas with lack of access to non-processed food are called "food deserts".

    "An estimated 750,000 New York City residents live in food deserts, while about three million people live in places where stores that sell fresh produce are few or far away. Supermarkets throughout New York City have closed down in recent years due to increasing rents and shrinking profit margins, but the disappearance of urban grocery stores has had the most serious impact on low-income communities." You can read more about it here: http://bit.ly/1i2Pey7.

    • http://BikePretty.com/ Bike Pretty

      As I read the first sentence I was wondering about exactly that, like "what about the food deserts?"

  • http://instagram.com/cherryredgirl Cherryredgirl

    Nice post.
    I love her IG account!!!

  • mathilde GUIGOU

    Thanks,
    I just love vegetables and fruits and nuts....
    Raw food is a great way of living...
    Sometimes too much in the papers but....

    In France we have so many naturals products...

    French kisses

    Mathilde

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