I recently had a call with a client who has two young children. She talked about how hard it is to prepare a meal when she comes home from work with hungry kids who want her attention. In my experience, dinner time is actually the worst time to start making a full dinner from scratch. Of course, there are many days when the advance planning and prep doesn’t happen. On those days I rely on a well-stocked pantry and freezer to give me a head start.

Following are a few of my staples and what I do with them:

Good quality salt: It’s amazing how a sprinkle of really good quality salt and bring a dish to life. ex. tomato & cucumbers with a sprinkle of salt (YUM!) I like grey celtic sea salt or pink himalayan salt.

Nuts: A wonderful source of healthy fats like omega-3 essential fatty acids. One ounce of almonds or walnuts has almost as much protein as a glass of milk. Use them for salads or in pasta.

Frozen greens: Spinach, kale, collards, etc. When you’re rushed, it’s easy to carb-load and skimp of veggies, having them in your freezer makes it much easier. Add to: eggs or fritattas, pasta, Of course, fresh is better but sometimes it’s just one step above survival.

Pasta: I like to have a variety of pasta in my pantry. Some of my favorites are buckwheat soba for a quick sesame peanut noodle and brown rice spaghetti with tomato, caper and pine nuts.

Capers and olives: Makes anything seem elegant; pasta, salads, chicken dishes, fish, etc.

Tortillas: I love to have these around for quick burrito, quesadilla, wraps, breakfast sandwich, or for dips. Try corn or rice variety for a gluten-free option.

Homemade Stock (also known as broth or bone broth): This delicious and incredibly nutritious elixir, which I keep in my freezer in small batches, is easily defrosted and makes the base for a flavorful, quick soup (add in some of those frozen veggies.

Artichoke hearts and/or stuffed grape leaves: Make any salad seem fancier, or create a quick antipasto with the olives and sun-dried tomatoes that you have on hand.

Wild frozen shrimp: They defrost quickly (you can cook them slightly frozen, just be sure to cook through) and use on salad, pasta, over quinoa, etc.

Canned Fish and Beans (low mercury, BPA free if possible): One of my favorites is canned wild salmon. For a quick fish salad, salmon burger or even tossed into pasta. Beans are also great for salads, pasta or as a main course. Rice and beans with greens is a staple in our house!

Eggs: Believe it or not, you COULD keep eggs in your pantry (but only if they were unwashed, unpasteurized, farm fresh eggs). Nevertheless, I am never without eggs. They are so versatile and what’s better than breakfast for dinner?!