Dietitian-Approved Grocery Staples for Busy Families


As a registered dietitian, I know more than anyone the importance of good nutrition, especially during times like these where we’re wanting to ensure that we stay healthy and our immune systems are functioning well. As such, it’s important that we’re making sure to get enough fruits and veggies, lean protein options, healthy fats, fibre and vitamins and minerals. Just as important is minimizing or limiting the amount of ultra-processed, and high salt and high sugar foods that we eat (and feed our kids) too. Things like store-bought cookies, candy, chips, sugary drinks, gummy “fruit’ snacks, boxed mac and cheese, etc. These foods are fine once in a while (for fun), but shouldn’t dominate your family’s diet.

 The good news is, this is absolutely 100% possible, even in these times of grocery shopping weirdness! I limit  my grocery store visits to once a week, and am trying to make those shops tofresh perishable essentials only—things like milk, eggs, yogurt, fruits and veggies. Once a month, I do a bigger shop, stocking up on pantry and freezer essentials that will last longer so that I don’t have to replenish each week. Simply put, I try to shop the aisles once a month, and the periphery once a week.


Monthly trip pantry essentials

  • Canned or dried beans, lentils, chickpeas
  • Whole grains like pasta, farro, barley, quinoa, rice, millet, oats
  • Jars of pasta sauce
  • Canned tomatoes
  • Canned corn
  • Canned fish (tuna, salmon)
  • Flour (whole grain, coconut, almond etc.)
  • Nutritional yeast 
  • Sugar, maple syrup, honey and other baking essentials
  • Canned coconut milk
  • Vinegar (rice, red wine, etc)
  • Oils (coconut, olive, avocado)
  • Nut and seed butters
  • Nutritious whole-food based bars, such as Made with Local’s Real Food Bars
  • Whole grain crackers
  • Unsweetened fruit sauces or canned fruit in water
  • Popping corn
  • Condiments (sriracha, mayo, mustard etc.)
  • Whole grain cereals
  • Whole grain granola
  • Shelf-stable plant-based milks such as almond, oat, coconut
  • Nuts, seeds, dried fruit
  • Hemp hearts, chia seeds, flax
  • Protein powder 



Monthly Freezer Essentials

  • Frozen fruit (berries, mango, pineapple etc.)
  • Frozen corn and peas
  • Lean meat, poultry (ground beef, chicken breasts or thighs etc.)



Weekly quick-trip fresh list

  • Fresh fruits (berries, bananas, apples, pears, kiwi, lime, lemon, avocado, tomato etc.)
  • Fresh veggies (spinach, lettuce, carrots, cucumber, snap peas, peppers, mushrooms etc)
  • Fresh herbs
  • Whole grain bread/tortillas
  • Milk or refrigerated plant-based milks (almond, coconut, oat etc)
  • Coffee cream
  • Tofu and/or tempeh (these last weeks in the fridge, unopened) 
  • Eggs
  • Yogurt or vegan yogurt (such as coconut yogurt)
  • Cheese or vegan cheese
  • Fresh meat that you plan to eat right away
  • Packaged dips like hummus or black bean dip

Having an efficient grocery shopping strategy saves you time, cuts down on the number of trips that you take, and decreases food waste. It also saves you money! Along with having a standard list like this, it’s helpful to keep these few things in mind to ensure that you’re being as efficient as possible with your grocery shopping:



Consider choosing long-lasting fruits and vegetables

Some fresh fruits and veggies last longer than others. Be very selective with the short-lasting fruits and veggies you buy and make sure that you can eat it all before it goes bad (or freeze it to eat later). Otherwise, focus on frozen fruits and veggies (which I’ll talk about shortly), and long-lasting ones such as 

  • Apples (last up to 2 months.) Store in the refrigerator.
  • Oranges (last up to 4 weeks.) Store oranges in the refrigerator.
  • Potatoes (last up to 5 weeks.) Store in a cool, dark place, but do not refrigerate.
  • Winter squash (last up to 3 months.) Store butternut and acorn squashes in a cool, dry place, but do not refrigerate.
  • Onions (last up to 2 months.) Store them in a cool, dry place, separate from potatoes.
  • Sweet Potatoes (last up to 5 weeks.) Store in a cool, dry place, but do not refrigerate.
  • Beets (last up to 2 weeks.) Cut off the greens and refrigerate in a breathable bag.
  • Cabbage (last up to 2 months.) Store whole heads in the refrigerator.
  • Carrots (last up to 4 weeks.) Cut off the greens (if necessary) and refrigerate.
  • Celery (last up to 2 weeks.) Buy whole celery (not hearts) and store in the refrigerator.

Take stock of what you already have (and use this up) and then shop with a purpose

I’ve made the mistake of doubling up or tripling up on certain foods because I didn’t go through my pantry, fridge or freezer before shopping, and unfortunately what this means is that I end up wasting food. Make a list of what you don’t have and need, and also do a quick (and very simple) menu plan (even just dinner), so that you don’t over-buy (or under-buy) fresh ingredients. If you notice that fresh foods are going to waste in your house,  make sure you absolutely know how you’re going to use the new fresh foods that you buy. And if you don’t know, don’t buy it. 



Draft up a simple and quick menu plan and plan to cook once/eat multiple times

Even if you plan out your suppers for the week, this can really help with keeping you organized and decreasing food waste. Along with this, I love the strategy of bulk cooking and having leftovers, OR cooking A LOT of one ingredient and using it multiple times, in multiple ways throughout the week.  I think this is an extra important tip right now, to make sure that you’re making the most of your ingredients. 

A couple of examples are ground meat: Cook up a big batch of lean ground beef, turkey or chicken and use it throughout the week for things like spaghetti sauce, tacos, burritos or taco salads. Another great example is chicken breast – cook up 8-10 chicken breasts and use it for salads, pizzas, sandwiches, wraps, stir-fries etc. I also do this with dried lentils – I cook up a big batch and use in baking, smoothies, and to bulk up ground meat dishes. 



Have a few homemade nutritious snacks on hand always

Once a week, take some time to make some homemade granola bars, energy balls, and/or muffins that you can refrigerate or freeze for quick and easy snacks. I love Made with Local’s Granola Bar Mix, which can transform into not only wholegrain high fibre granola bars, but also energy balls, muffins, homemade granola and more. Having a few packages on-hand can save you time, but also means that you always have nutritious, wholesome and filling snacks on hand. 


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