Tag Archives: grains

grain bowl recipe

Build Your Own Grain Bowl

Build your own grain bowl and make an easy, low cost, tasty meal that will help your busy family eat smart. Follow the steps below and use ingredients from your #BetterPantry and you will have a delicious meal that your family will love in no time!

Step 1 – Pick a Base

Choose a whole grain to start your grain bowl. There are lots of tasty whole grains to choose from like brown rice, quinoa, bulgur, or pasta. Whole grains are a great source of heart healthy fiber that will keep your hunger satisfied.

Step 2 – Add Vegetables

Pick your produce and aim for at least one cup of veggies and ⅓ cup of beans for your bowl. Mix and match some of your family’s favorite vegetables so everyone can get in those key nutrients. Mixing raw and cooked vegetables will create an interesting texture profile. You can use frozen veggies as a quick alternative if you are unable to make it to the store to buy fresh produce. Canned black or pinto beans, red kidney beans, or garbanzo beans that you already have stocked in your pantry make a great addition to any bowl.

Step 3 – Add Protein

Add a few ounces of protein. Add lots of flavor by picking a nicely seasoned protein. Pick a lean meat, such as chicken or turkey, seafood high in healthy fats, like salmon, or a fried egg.

Step 4 – Add Sauce

Add a sauce on top to tie your bowl together and add one last flavor punch. Choose from a wide variety of sauces you can find in the supermarket, or might already have in your pantry or fridge. Just a few examples are salsa, teriyaki sauce, balsamic vinaigrette, olive oil, lemon juice, or BBQ sauce.

Here is an example grain bowl to give you an idea:

      1 cup of quinoa

      ½ cup of steamed asparagus

      ½ cup of steamed broccoli

      1/3 cup of white kidney beans

      a few ounces of leftover rotisserie chicken

      a drizzle of balsamic vinaigrette

Get started mixing and matching today to find your favorite grain bowl.

Share your creations in the comments!

Build a Better Pantry Part 3 – Freezer Foods

Now that we’ve posted about foods to stock in your pantry and refrigerator, it’s time to “chill” and talk about foods to keep in your freezer. Here are some reasons why your freezer can be your best friend:

  1. It’s a wonderful time-saving device when you don’t have time to cook from scratch
  2. Once defrosted, frozen foods are just as tasty as they were when fresh
  3. Perishable foods last longer when frozen

Freezing is a smart way to avoid wasting food (and money). Foods (like meat) that are approaching their expiration date can be safely stored in the freezer, and thawed once you’re ready to use them. Although perishable foods do last longer when frozen than when kept at room temperature or in the refrigerator, don’t forget that they won’t last forever. This chart is very helpful for knowing how long your frozen foods are good for. Smart tip: write a date on every item you stick in your freezer. That way, you’ll know whether or not it’s still safe to eat.

Also keep in mind that there are right and wrong ways to thaw frozen food items. Read up on the right way to thaw frozen food to make sure you’re not putting yourself at risk for getting sick from your food.


Better Pantry Freezer Foods

Grains myplate_white_grains-1

  • Loaves of whole grain bread
  • Muffins: make a large batch and store in the freezer for a quick breakfast on busy mornings.
  • Pizza dough: having frozen portions ready to go in the freezer makes homemade pizza nights quick, easy, and kid-friendly.

[Loaves of bread can be kept in the freezer to extend shelf life. Make sure loaves are wrapped tightly with plastic and foil to keep any air from seeping in. Muffins and unrisen dough should also be sealed tightly in plastic bags.]

Fruit myplate_white_fruits-1

  • Berries: blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries
  • Mango
  • Tropical fruit mix

[Buying frozen fruit is a great way to keep from wasting money on fresh fruit that spoils before you can eat it. Fruits that are out of season, especially berries, are actually cheaper when bought frozen instead of fresh. Fruit is frozen at its peak in freshness, so you know you’ll always be getting the sweetest, ripest fruit. Be sure to buy frozen fruit unsweetened so that it doesn’t have extra sugar added to it.]

Vegetables myplate_white_vegetables-1

  • Broccoli
  • Asparagus
  • Corn
  • Peas
  • Green beans
  • Spinach
  • Onions
  • Mushrooms
  • Blends of several different veggies

[Frozen vegetables are really convenient – they are already prepped and ready to cook so that you don’t have to worry about any rinsing or chopping. Just like fruit, out of season fresh veggies can be expensive. Buying the frozen option can save on cost without losing flavor.]

Protein myplate_white_protein-2

  • Chicken
  • Beef
  • Pork
  • Fish (tilapia, flounder, shrimp, salmon)
  • Ground meat (beef, chicken, turkey)

[If you find a good sale on meat, stock up and freeze the extras to use later on.]


  • Hard or semi-hard cheese
  • Cottage, ricotta, and cream cheese
  • Milk
  • Sour cream
  • Yogurt

[Freezing dairy products can cause changes in their texture. For that reason, these items work best when added into recipes instead of being eaten alone. For more basics on freezing dairy products and how freezing may change their quality, click here.]


  • Nuts
  • Jams and jellies: check out these tips and recipes to make your own “freezer jelly” at home.
  • Coffee

Not only can you freeze the individual “ingredients” listed above, but prepared meals like stews, soups, and casseroles can be frozen and reheated later on. Check out this helpful fact sheet, paying special attention to page 2 for tips on freezing and serving prepared meals. See, your freezer really is a wonderful thing!

What’s in your freezer? How long has it been since you cleaned it out? Now might be the time to sort the fresh items from the freezer-burned!

Build a Better Pantry Part 2- Refrigerated Foods

In our first post of the series, I shared healthy, versatile shelf stable foods to keep in your pantry. Today we are talking all about your refrigerator and what you should keep stocked in there. (We’ll save the freezer and room temperature perishable foods for future posts.) Unlike most of the pantry items, food on this list should be used and replaced frequently since it may go bad quicker than your pantry staples.

A nice example of a Better Pantry fridge.  But, can you spot the food safety hazard in this picture? First correct response in the comments will get a special prize!

A nice example of a Better Pantry fridge.
But, can you spot the food safety hazard in this picture? First correct response in the comments will get a special prize!

Better Pantry Fridge Foods

Grains myplate_white_grains-1

  • Not many grains are kept in the fridge, but you can keep whole grains in the fridge to keep it fresher longer.

Fruit myplate_white_fruits-1

  • Plums
  • Grapes
  • Nectarines
  • Kiwi fruit
  • Lemon or lime juice- Adds flavor without salt or fat. Make your own salad dressings or marinades.

Vegetables myplate_white_vegetables-1

  • Carrots- but make sure to buy regular long ones and peel them yourself. Baby carrots are almost twice as much.
  • Leafy greens, especially spinach and heads of lettuce
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Broccoli
  • Summer squash
  • Cucumber

[These are usually your best choices for fresh fruit and veggies (that needs to be refrigerated. I’ll get to the room temperature ones in another post). Remember, seasonal produce is best for price, taste and nutrition, so these choices may vary at different times of year.]

Protein myplate_white_protein-2

  • Eggs- Cheap, versatile, nutritious. Eggs may have gotten a bad rap over the years, but I think they are one of the best healthy foods on a budget.
  • Whole chicken- It’s cheaper to buy the whole bird and cut it up yourself. You’ll have different pieces for different meals and the bones make tasty homemade broth (similar to this recipe).
  • Fresh seafood- Contrary to popular belief, you can find affordable fresh seafood. Take a moment the next time you’re at the store and compare prices with chicken or beef. You might be surprised. Why should you eat more seafood? Find out more here!
  • Lean ground meat- Turkey, beef or chicken, ground meat is one of the easiest to cook with and is usually inexpensive.
  • Other low cost meats- There are many cuts of meat that cost less because they are less tender. Braising or slow cooking help turn these cuts into mouthwatering meals.

Dairy myplate_white_dairy

  • Low-fat or non-fat (skim) milk
  • Low-fat or non-fat yogurt- Choose the plain variety and add fresh or frozen fruit to sweeten it up yourself.
  • Low-fat blocks of cheese- Stick with the brick! Pre-sliced or shredded cheese costs more and may have less calcium than block cheese.


  • Mustard- Low calorie, full of flavor. Mustard is a great choice for a condiment, much better than mayo or ketchup.
  • Hot Sauce- Ask anyone who knows me, I can’t live without hot sauce! Again, its low calorie, full of flavor and a little goes a long way. Just watch out for sodium, but if you keep the portions small, it should be fine.
  • Yeast- If you are a baker, you need yeast for homemade breads.

Did I leave anything out you think is an important, low-cost refrigerated pantry staple? Let us know in the comments.