Written by Laura DeWitt, RD, Nebraska Extension Assistant – SNAP-Ed
Planning meals ahead of time helps us save money, save time, eat healthier, and avoid food waste. The first step in planning meals is to have a plan for the food we already have in our kitchen.
In order to feel good about my family’s food choices, I like to try to keep my household pantry stocked with foods from each of the five MyPlate food groups. Then it is much easier to make nutritious MyPlate meals at home and get the vital nutrients each food group provides, each day.
Some of the staples I stock in my pantry include canned beans, diced tomatoes, dry lentils, and popcorn. Think about the 2-3 meals your household eats most often, and stock the staple foods that make up these meals to start a working household pantry.
Stock Your Cupboard, Refrigerator and Freezer
Common MyPlate food items to have on hand:
- Fresh lettuce, potatoes, tomatoes, onions, carrots, broccoli
- Frozen vegetables
- Canned vegetables (no-salt-added variety, if available, or drain liquids to reduce salt content)
- Canned tomatoes and tomato sauce (no-salt-added variety, if available) and pasta sauce
- Apples, bananas, berries, grapes, melons, oranges, other fresh fruits on sale/in season
- Frozen fruits (no sugar added)
- Canned fruit packed in 100% juice or water
- Dried fruit (raisins, cranberries)
- Brown or white rice
- Pasta (try whole wheat)
- Whole wheat or whole grain bread
- Tortillas (try whole wheat or corn)
- Low-fat (1%) or fat-free (skim) cow’s milk or soy milk
- Low-fat (1%) or fat-free (skim) yogurt
- Reduced-fat cheese like mozzarella, 1% or skim cottage cheese
- Dry beans, lentils and dry peas
- Canned black beans, pinto beans (no-salt-added variety, if available)
- Poultry (chicken or turkey)
- Fish (canned tuna and salmon, frozen unbreaded fish fillets)
- Peanut butter
- Nuts and seeds
- Lean beef or pork (look for “round” or “sirloin,” 90% or better on ground meat)
- Low-fat mayonnaise
- Low-fat salad dressing
- Vinegars – apple cider, red wine, balsamic
- Chicken/beef/vegetable broth (low sodium)
- salt, pepper, Italian herb seasoning (salt-free), cinnamon, cumin, chili powder
- canola, corn, olive, peanut, vegetable
If you’re not sure where your next meal will come from and struggling to get enough food for your family, there is help. Visit a local emergency food pantry or apply for SNAP (formerly food stamp) benefits. Contact information is below.
Use Emergency Food Assistance:
Food Pantry Info and More – Nebraska 2-1-1
Commodity Foods: 1-800-942-1171
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP): 1-800-430-3244
Access Nebraska is a quick, easy way to find and apply for Nebraska public assistance benefits, including SNAP benefits. Visit the website at: www.ACCESSNebraska.ne.gov
Food Bank of Lincoln/Food Bank for the Heartland: The Food Bank of Lincoln/Food Bank of the Heartland offer many food assistance programs that serve low-income people across Nebraska. These programs include SNAP Outreach, Kids Café, Food for Seniors, BackPack Program, Mobile Pantry, Fresh Produce, Neighborhood Food Program, Pre-packed Bag Distribution, and Housewarming Project.
For SNAP application assistance, case trouble-shooting and/or SNAP Program information please call the Food Bank of Lincoln/Food Bank of the Heartland SNAP Outreach Hotline at: 1-855-444-5556
Please call your local food pantry before you go to confirm that the hours have not changed and to know what you need to bring with you.
Most pantries require a valid photo ID, proof of residence (utility bill with address printed on it works), and a Social Security card for each member of the family.
Most emergency food pantries stock non-perishable items as well as a variety of fresh, perishable items such as meat and milk.
FOOD SAFETY TIP: Keep food safe by refrigerating perishable groceries immediately. Keep cold foods cold to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria (germs) that can make you sick. Your refrigerator should be at a temperature of 40 degrees F or below. Use a refrigerator thermometer to be sure.
Not sure what to do with all of the packages of ramen you have in your cupboard?
Peanut Thai Ramen
Source: Nutrition Education Program, Nebraska Extension. For a PDF version, or Spanish, visit https://food.unl.edu/peanut-thai-ramen
- 2 pkg. oriental Ramen noodles
- 2 c. oriental frozen vegetables
- 1/4 c. peanut butter
- 1/3 c. hot water
- 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
- 1 tsp. sugar
Video Link https://go.unl.edu/o7k8
Add an apple or banana, and 1% or Skim Milk for a complete meal.
For more assistance with creative, easy uses for pantry staples, contact your local NEP or visit our website at: https://food.unl.edu/nutrition-education-program-nep
This post was reviewed by Carrie Miller, MS, RD, Extension Educator