bowl full of roasted vegetables and rice next to a cucumber

9 Essential Ingredients for Nutritious and Easy Meals

Last week I shared with you the five simple tips for healthy weekly meal planning.

Now this week I want to share some of the ingredients that are almost always on my list to help with making nutritious and easy meals.

Here are the nine essential ingredients and pantry staples you need to have for nutritious and easy meals when you're meal planning and meal prepping. #mealplans #mealprepping #easymeals #easymealideas #healthyingredients #healthymealideas

These nine ingredients are essential, at least I believe so, to creating quick and healthy meals from scratch.

I try to always keep these ingredients on hand for times when I maybe failed to meal plan. Or we just need something easy to throw together on a weeknight.

9 Essential Ingredients for Nutritious and Easy Meals

Ingredient #1: Frozen veggie

If you checked out last week’s blog post, you know that one of the keys to meal planning is to include a vegetable every time at dinner.

I always plan for some sort of vegetable to accompany our dinner. But for those times when I’m running low on fresh veg and just need a quick and easy meal, I turn to my stash of frozen vegetables.

Frozen veggies tend to get a bad rap, but they’re perfectly fine to use when you can’t get, or don’t have, the fresh version.

One of my faves is frozen broccoli florets from Costco. If you have a large freezer, I would highly suggest picking these up. The florets are huge, and you get way more florets than stumps {like you can with other brands}.

Frozen stir fry veggies are also an incredible option to keep on hand. Stir fries are a fast, healthy and easy meal to toss together on a weeknight.

Speaking of stir fry. That leads me to ingredient number two.

Ingredient #2: lean ground meat

Lean ground meat, whether it’s turkey, chicken or beef, is always excellent to stash away in the freezer.

When we were hit hard during the Corona Virus, I was glad I had stocked up earlier on ground meat.

It’s super easy to keep in the freezer and pull out when you need a quick meal.

I like having it on hand for easy meals like tacos, stir fry,, messy lasagna {no layering involved, just all the flavors of lasagna}.

Ingredient #3: frozen chicken breast

Are you starting to sense a theme with the frozen essentials here? I just honestly believe them to be the best items to keep stocked up on for emergency easy meals.

Frozen chicken breast is one of my faves, because if you have a pressure cooker, you can have any sort of meal ready in no time.

I just dump about half of a 40 oz bag of frozen chicken breast in with a little bit of chicken stock, and in 32 minutes I have perfectly pulled chicken.

You can also just defrost the chicken in the microwave and toss on the grill.

This is a staple in our household.

Ingredient #4: pasta

During Corona Virus pasta was pretty slim at the grocery store, and for good reason. It’s seriously one of the fastest {and maybe cheapest} meals you can throw together.

If you opt for whole grain pasta, this pantry staple can have you making some pretty quick and nutritious meals on the fly.

Ingredient #5: canned tomatoes

I love canned tomatoes. They’re a staple ingredient I used to never knew I needed. Until I started needing to toss together some last minute meals.

Yes, there can be some controversy about canned tomatoes, so I would suggest looking at the label in regards to sodium content. But canned tomatoes are picked and canned at the height of their freshness, so I’m good with adding them to many meals.

Some of our faves have been a taco pasta {pressure cooker FTW}. Tuscan chicken pasta {I swapped the sun dried tomatoes for canned diced}. Or that messy lasagna I mentioned earlier.

Ingredient #6: spices

I love to keep a whole slew of spices on hand for easy meals at home.

Spices can totally change the game on an entire meal. Plus they’re usually an inexpensive way to freshen up a meal that’s lacking in flavor.

Some of my favorites are

  • Italian seasoning. This one combines many of your staples like basil, oregano, rosemary and more. This can brighten up a plain pasta or pizza sauce. Or even breathe life into ground beef.
  • Dried onion and garlic powder. If you ever want to talk about a flavor boost, these two are key! I always have these on hand to mix into mashed potatoes or homemade mac and cheese.
  • Cinnamon. A must to enhance the flavor of your oatmeal, a morning smoothie, or even a pork dish.

Ingredient #7: brown rice

Remember when I talked about a good ole stir fry earlier? Yea, brown rice is going to be a key ingredient in rounding out this healthy meal.

If you have a rice cooker, or even if you don’t, make a big batch of brown rice to use throughout the week.

It can be added to stir fries. Eaten as a breakfast porridge of sorts. Or tossed in a salad.

Brown rice is a powerhouse of a healthy grain and is a fiber rich food to help keep you fuller longer.

Ingredient #8: oatmeal

Does oatmeal seem like a strange essential ingredient for nutritious and easy meals?

Well, it shouldn’t!

Oats are another incredible grain that help keep you full and help in that fiber department again.

They can be made sweet or savory. Or you can grind them up in a blender to use as a flour and use it in these strawberry oat bars. Or make some homemade granola, which can help reduce your sugar intake as well.

Ingredient #9: dark chocolate chips

You’ve likely already heard before that dark chocolate can actually have some pretty great health benefits.

I’m including these as an essential to creating nutritious and easy meals because dessert is still considered a meal in my book.

Why not add these dark chocolate chips to these chocolate cranberry orange energy bites? Or maybe this healthy oatmeal chocolate chip skillet cookie? You could put those oats from ingredient #8 to good use too.

Time to start making some easy meals!

I know there are many other ingredients I could include on this list for helping you make nutritious and easy meals, but I didn’t want things to get out of hand.

What meals would you create with one of these ingredients? Tell me in the comments!

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