Healthy eating habits/Creating Quick and Easy Meals using Common Pantry Items

Example of a Pantry List, Healthier Alternatives and Guidelines for Storage


Summarized Table

Pantry list Healthier Alternatives Guidelines for Storage
Oil Olive oil, Avocado oil Unopened: well-sealed tin or dark bottle. [1]
Garlic, Onions & Potatoes Store in individual breathable wire meshes baskets.[2][3]
Stock –Broth/ Cubes Low salt, low-fat and low calorie varieties Store liquid broth and solid stock cubes away from heat, moisture, sunlight, and at constant temperature. Once opened: broth must be stored in a sealed container and refrigerated. [4]
Spaghetti sauce Low salt, low-fat varieties

Pick tomato-based sauce over cream (i.e. Alfredo) and pesto sauce varieties.

Once opened: Store in a sealed container in the refrigerator.[3][5]
Dry pasta Whole-wheat pasta Store in original packaging.Once opened: store in a tightly closed container. [6]
Dry Beans Store in original packaging. Once opened: place in an airtight container. [7]
Rice Brown rice, wild rice, bulgur or pearl barley Store unopened rice in its original packaging. Once opened: store in a clean, airtight container. [7]
Canned items (i.e. tuna/ tomatoes) Tomatoes- no salt/ less sodium varieties.Tuna- water-packed options; eat in moderation to avoid too much mercury intake. For a better explanation why mercury is present in tuna click here. Discard if unopened cans are leaking, rusting, bulging or severely dented. Once opened: place food in a clean covered plastic or glass container, store in the refrigerator.[3][4]
Bread Brown, wholemeal Store freshly baked bread in a paper bag and sliced bread in original plastic bag [8].
Peanut Butter Low salt, less sweet options Once opened: is fine on the shelf but can be kept in the refrigerator to extend shelf life.[9]
Milk Low fat, skim milk Long life milk can be stored out of the fridge, unopened for 6 months. Once opened: store like you would fresh milk in the refrigerator.[10]
Eggs Egg whites When purchasing: Check eggs before purchase: avoid cracked & dirty looking eggs. Store in their carton in the pantry or toward the back of the fridge where it is coldest.[1]
Meat Lean options, trim off fat. Look for products with the heart foundation tick of aproval. Purchase the product before date of expiry. Refrigerate promptly after purchase.[1]
Cheese Low fat and reduced salt options. Choose hard cheese over cream cheese. If consuming cream cheese, choose fat-free or low fat options. Place in original wrapper where possible and refrigerate. To maintain flavour, store fresh cheese in a covered container to protect from strong odors. Harmless mould may develop on hard cheese (i.e. cheddar) and can simply be cut off along with 2cm of cheese around the mould. However, if the mould is orange or black in color, cheese should be discarded.[11]

Benefits of proper food storage


It can help you:

Pantry 1
The is another picture of a pantry, organized and ordered. All items are faced forward and items in containers are labeled clearly

General guidelines and tips



  • Storage conditions should be dry, cool and dark
  • Always store foods in the coolest cabinets away from the oven, water heater, dishwasher or any hot pipes
  • Despite long shelf life and advertised special prices, buy only what you expect to use within the recommended storage times. Excess foods may become waste
  • To prevent deterioration of foods that are removed from their original packaging, store in appropriate metal, glass or plastic containers
  • Check the expiration date of foods. Always throw out damaged cans, without tasting the food first
  • Keep containers and can foods clean and free of dust
  • Treat storage areas for pests and clean the pantry periodically to remove food particles
  • Follow the "first in, first out" policy, meaning that you rotate items so that older items are used first


  • Always store meats, poultry, eggs, fish and dairy products in the coldest section
  • Do not overload the refrigerator
  • Clean the refrigerator to remove spills and spoilt food
  • Store foods in airtight wraps or containers to prevent food from drying out and maintain quality
  • Avoid using containers and plastic bags not made for storage
  • Do not reuse plastic bags originally contaminated with raw meats, poultry or fish
  • When storing raw meats, wrap securely and place on a plate to prevent juices from dripping and contaminating other food
  • Always rotate frozen foods; use the oldest first for best flavour and quality
  • More refrigerator information, click here

Benefits of cooking your own meals & choosing healthier alternatives

Flow chart of meal ideas

Examples of meals and snacks (using the pantry list)


Meal ideas

  • Pasta Bolognese
  • Shepherd’s pie
  • Pizza bread
  • Tuna rice bake
  • Lentil soup (with pasta)

Snack ideas

  • Peanut butter sandwich
  • Omelet



Use the internet for recipe ideas


Type the words “Quick and easy meals using common pantry staples” in the search engine. Or visit to find recipes by ingredients that you have at home.

Prepare a large batch of your favorite/ chosen recipe (e.g. double/ triple the recipe). Refrigerate or freeze foods in covered shallow (less than 3 inch deep) containers. Label food storage container with the date so that foods can be used within a safe time frame.

Get creative


Make a second meal/ side dish using left overs by adding items you already have at home, and by doing so, stretch your dollar. For example, use leftover pasta Bolognese sauce to create shepherd’s pie or pizza bread; and use left over pasta to add a delicious body to soup.

Reference List

  1. a b c CSIRO. Refrigerated storage of perishable foods. Retrieved from,
  2. Jewel Pie. 18 storage ideas for potatoes, onions and garlic. Retrieved from,
  3. a b c Home and life style network (2013). Healthy Pantry Staples Checklist. Retrieved from,
  4. a b Gim, S. J. (2006). Spring cleaning: Shelf life of common pantry items. Retrieved from,
  5. Eat by date. Shelf life of spaghetti sauce. Retrieved from,
  6. Eat by date. Shelf life of pasta. Retrieved from,
  7. a b Sennebogen, E. (2013).10 must have pantry Staples. Retrieved from,
  8. Keeping bread fresh. Retrievedfrom,
  9. Still Tasty. How long can you keep peanut butter. Retrieved from,
  10. Eat by date. Shelf life of milk. Retrieved from,
  11. Eat by date. Shelf life of cheese. Retrieved from,