Eating healthfully and shopping for long-lasting pantry and freezer foods may not seem like congruent goals. Instead, many of us make frequent trips to the grocery store or forgo healthy eating goals when our refrigerators are running low. Fortunately, a pantry or a freezer can help you stick to your nutritional goals and save you time.

Some of the best items to buy and store for long-term healthy eating include frozen fruits and vegetables, frozen meat and poultry, peanut butter, dried beans, brown rice, oats, and nuts. Canned vegetables and fruits (opt for ones without sugar) are also great choices if freezer space is limited.

There are also many fresh produce items that can last several weeks to months. Consider potatoes, onions, cabbage, winter squash varieties, carrots, oranges, and apples as just a few basic staples to keep on hand for meals and snacks.

To keep your food items safe, it’s important to store them properly and recognize when they are past their prime. While printed expiration dates are an excellent guideline, they don’t tell the whole story. FoodSafety.gov is an excellent resource to answer all your questions on handling and storing food. The website includes the FoodKeeper tool, which can also be installed as an app on your phone, which provides detailed information for specific food items including how to maximize the freshness and length of time you can store them.

No excuses now! Stock up and enjoy healthy eating, all while saving a few hours per week in the grocery store!

Theresa Santoro