Grocery Staples

When I mentioned on here a couple of years ago that I was intimidated by the grocery store, I got the FULL range of responses. Some people thought I was being downright ridiculous, others shared their tips for how they grocery shop, and then I also had a bunch of people saying that they experienced the same thing.

What I Keep in My Pantry

I’m still not a great grocery shopper, but I have certainly gotten better. Two big contributors: 1) I learned how to cook and 2) I stopped eating out as much.

My mom did most of the cooking when I was growing up. Although I’d help her with baking, I never did with cooking. Other than doing simple things like soups and toast and scrambled eggs (but literally), I wasn’t sure about anything else. In college, I always had a meal plan. In NYC, my kitchen was so tiny that I ate out or picked up salads every day. If you know how to cook or love cooking, it’s hard to imagine being overwhelmed by even something as simple as cooking chicken. But trust me, if you really have NO idea what you’re doing, it seems daunting. I always looked at people who could whip up meals and considered them magicians of sorts. HOW could they just cook without instructions?!

When I moved to Connecticut, I was inspired by my big kitchen to start to flex my cooking muscles a bit. It was pretty challenging at first and I wondered how I could get to the point where I would feel comfortable.

If you are clueless in the kitchen like I was, I can’t recommend meal services enough. I used both Plated and Hello Fresh for a while. They seriously taught me how to cook. The best part was that they took the guesswork out of “what to have for dinner?” and even did the (dreaded) grocery store shopping for me. It forced me to learn how to build a full meal, from sides to the main thing. It encouraged me to cook things that I never thought I’d be able to do (like empanadas or pad thai). In the beginning, I was blindly following instructions but even still, I was definitely picking up tips, tricks, and skills. After about a year, I felt more confident in the kitchen. I could make a tomato sauce from scratch, pan sear a steak, bread a chicken, and cook with fish oil.

I eventually stopped the services just because it was hard to know when I was going to be home for dinner or not a week in advance. But I was so grateful for the skills I picked up!

(Things are a little different now that I’m living with my boyfriend because he’s so good at cooking and I pale in comparison. Even though this is what I would personally buy to cook for myself, this still applies to what I prefer to keep in the refrigerator and pantry!)

Depending on the week, I’ll try to figure out what lunches/dinners I’ll be having at home. Some weeks I look up a new meal online (I have been really into The Defined Dish and Inspiralized and keep whatever I don’t eat in one night as lunches for the next few days.)

Grocery Staples

– Vegetables: zucchini (for zoodles!), Brussels sprouts, Broccoli, arugula, salad/lettuce mix

– Fruit: bananas, clementines, avocado, tomatoes, lemon

– Starches: Jasmine rice, sweet potatoes, oatmeal, Ezekiel bread, English muffins

– Protein: ground turkey, tuna cans, chicken breasts, chicken sausage, salmon, sliced turkey, eggs

– Snacks: Cape Cod Chips, organic popcorn, dark chocolate squares, RX Bars

If I have a specific recipe I want to try to make, I’ll go into the grocery store with a list. If I don’t though, I know I can still pick up a few of these staples and have enough things to work with for breakfast, lunch, and dinners. I try to keep things as simple as possible during busy weeks. I load up on vegetables (roasted Brussels sprouts are my go-to), stick to one protein (like salmon), and add in a little starch (maybe some jasmine rice or a sweet potato).

Here are some of the things I make very frequently:

Breakfast: Oatmeal or avocado toast

Lunches: PB&J on English muffin, avocado toast, leftovers

Dinner: pan-seared salmon, tuna cakes, grilled chicken, zoodles and meatballs, and Buddha bowls

Would love to know what you keep in your pantry/refrigerator and what simple meals you make every week!

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Audrey | Brunch at Audrey's

It definitely took me awhile to get used to grocery shopping too. Before college, I also never cooked at home except for baking. I remember during my first break of college (fall break of freshman year!), I went grocery shopping, spent $100, and only later realised that I had mostly bought breakfast food and snacks 😛 What can I say, I love breakfast! I’ve definitely gotten better at grocery shopping though. I usually always have sweet potatoes, spinach, and peppers in my grocery cart! -Audrey | Brunch at Audrey’s

Ryann Carter

I am a picker eater and living in Charleston I have a lot to live up to. For awhile I was intimidated too, even though I’m actually a good cook, but a new kitchen, losing my beloved grocery store, and a city full of incredible restaurants made me stop for awhile. I don’t have things I keep on hand because I don’t have go to recipes yet (working on that now), but it does help. I’m definitely going to involve my kids more. Start with baking, and move on to other skills as they get older.


This was as if I was reading my own story. Ditto on all counts. I’ve been making recipes lately from the Protein Chef. Healthy, simple and delicious. I couldn’t recommend the baked garlic chicken or the healthy parmesan meatloaf recipes more. It’s my weeknight go-to.


Such great grocery staples. I LOVE grocery shopping each week. Looking back at how awful I was at it during college and shortly after I laugh about it. But now I look forward to creating my list and menu every week.

Taylor |


Growing up my mom would always make a dinner menu for the week, and then use that to make a grocery list, including breakfast, lunch, and snack staples. I would usually help her menu plan and grocery shop, so when I got off my college meal plan I was never overwhelmed by the grocery store. I didn’t realize that everyone’s mom didn’t grocery shop like that, so I was shocked when I found out that my friends didn’t really know how to grocery shop lol. My fiance used to be hopeless at it, he would have to go to the store 4-5 times a week because he would need some new ingredient almost every night lol. He’s started menu planning for the week like I do and he’s way less lost and confused when he goes to the grocery store. Knowing what you’re eating for the week and making a list make it so much easier. Some lunch staples that I always make sure to have in my kitchen are ground turkey, black beans, and avocado for a protein burrito bowl, and canned tuna for open face tuna salad sandwiches.


Michael @ Mile in My Glasses

This was a great read Carly! I love all these staples! I’m quite fortunate as my Mum was a chef and taught me how to cook as I grew up, so I’m not too bad in the kitchen! My boyfriend finds it super tricky though, which is totally understandable as food can be overwhelming!

I hope you’re having a lovely Wednesday!


I LOVE to cook and have cooked regularly most nights since getting married 5 years ago. It didn’t come that naturally, but is like any other skill: the more you practice, the better you get! Once of my favorite food bloggers is Damn Delicious – check her out. It’s a good mix of healthy and not (oops!) & is a good place to start for a variety of dishes!


Hi! Carly,
What are Budda bowls? Sometime could you please do a post on? Thanks 🙂


I second this! i’ve been seeing these pop up on social media but i’m unsure where to begin!


My go to breakfast is 2 eggs over easy, half a baked sweet potato, half an avocado or guacamole and pico. I like not having to think about it and it keeps me full until lunch. Easiest chicken recipe is to put 2-4 chicken breasts into a crock pot, dump salsa over it (try to find one without sugar for an extra healthy bonus) and cook on high for about 3-4 hours or until chicken is done. Shred and store in your fridge. Use it for so many things! I learned how to prep and be prepared by doing The 30 Clean ( Life changing!

Jess Zimlich

I love the chocolate peanut butter RXBARS…such a good guilt-free treat (and maple sea salt!). I eat a ton of Simple Mills crackers with garlic hummus and grilled chicken from the salad bar at Whole Foods (I swear it tastes better than buying it at the counter) with whole wheat pasta and marinara sauce!


Avocado toast is the BEST!!

Having worked in a grocery store through high school and college I feel like I had the advantage when it came to shopping. However I couldn’t cook for thelongest time!


I always have either chicken sausages or chicken breast tenderloins in my freezer, as well as peppers, mirepoix, kale, and Trader Joe’s guac to go. Always a good mix to throw together a quick sautee for the week.


I just got a spiralizer and started incorporating zoodles into my dinners – omg, they are amazing and SO versatile. We made a zoodle pho a couple weeks ago and it was hands down one of the best meals I’ve ever made.

Also, I’m glad you put an honest list together of what you have in your pantry – sometimes a girl has to have some Cape Cod chips!

Ally Stuart

For a months last year, my husband and I would make a different burger from the Bob’s Burgers cookbook every Friday night. It’s a great book and would be a super awesome buy if you a) plan to grill this summer and/or b) love food puns. (I would also 100% recommend the T-Fal Actifryer because it makes the BEST fries!)

My most frequently used cookbook is Martha Stewart’s ‘Martha’s American Food’. Some of the recipes are complex, but there’s such a variety of dishes there’s bound to be some staples in the book. (Mine are the recipes for blueberry/buttermilk pancakes; spicy peach chicken, and corn bread, which I make at least once a month.) Since I’m a big Martha fan, I’d also recommend her ‘Cooking School’ book, since it’s very technique focused with step-by-step photos (which I LOVE).

Happy cooking!


I’m a big apple eater, so that is always on the list. As well as in season veggies, avocados, red grapes, almonds, cacao powder, yogurt, items for homemade granola, and I have these lime chili chips that I just LOVE from Wholefoods. I love grocery shopping!

Eva |


It ttok me ages to feel comfortable cooking too, and I still don’t think I’m amazing but I’ve narrowed down a few staples:

-Quesadillas/burritos: You can make a bunch of them at once then store them in the freezer.
-Stir fry over rice: super easy, and a great way to use up the random veggies you have leftover in your fridge
-Stuffed spaghetti squash: I usually make it “mexican style” with black beans, tomato, corn, and cheese and taco seasoning
-Some variation of the “buddha bowl”: usually roasted veggies, greens (spinach or kale) protein (chicken, roasted chickpeas, tofu) over a bed of brown rice.


Hey Carly!!! First, I love your blog. I’m also a college student, but where did you get that bag/do you have a link for it???