Real Food Tips: 21 Essentials for Freezer, Pantry & Fridge

The timing for this post is perfect because my freezer has never been so beautifully stocked in my life. I’ve actually been wanting to share that my husband and I are lucky enough to be going on the trip of a lifetime tomorrow.

While our children stay home with the grandparents, we will spend the next 15 days exploring Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, and China. I absolutely love to travel and desperately want to see as much of the world as possible, so this trip is honestly a dream come true for us!

Our fully-stocked freezer

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So what does this have to do with my freezer one might ask? Since we have two different sets of grandparents who are generous enough to fly here and baby-sit, I decided to take it upon myself to hook them up.

Not only is my wine rack fuller than it’s ever been, but my freezer is stocked to the max with homemade soups, breads, tortillas, breakfast items, muffins, etc. I also bought and froze lots of locally and humanely raised meats like whole chickens, flank steaks, ground meat, bacon, and pork tenderloin. I even found some fresh North Carolina seafood that I threw in the freezer, too.

The idea is that they won’t have to worry about buying any food other than fresh fruit and veggies while we are gone. Oh, and this will also guarantee that my children will mainly be eating “real food” approved items in our absence…c’mon you know that has something to do with all this, too. :)

So without further ado, here are 21 “real food” freezer, pantry, and fridge essentials including pictures from my own kitchen (click images and then click again to zoom in)!

7 “Real Food” Freezer Essentials

I hope to keep it stocked so nicely for us to enjoy when we return! I also made a “freezer inventory list,” which would be nice to have on hand if we could keep up with it as well.

  1. Frozen organic berries for making smoothies or berry sauce
  2. Whole-grain flours like whole-wheat & masa harina and whole-wheat breadcrumbs
  3. Pre-made stored dishes like soups, sauces, stocks, raviolis, smoothie pops and other leftovers
  4. Pre-made baked goods like pancakes, waffles and muffins
  5. Extra whole-grain breads and tortillas for when you can’t make it to the bakery or don’t feel like making a fresh batch
  6. Locally & humanely raised meats and seafood that you stock up on when you find a good source and have the chance to buy it
  7. Frozen organic vegetables like peas and corn (frozen are more nutritious than canned)

Our pantry

7 “Real Food” Pantry Essentials

  1. Nuts (like raw cashews, almonds, & pecans) and seeds (like raw pumpkin & sunflower). The pantry works for short-term storage, but if you don’t go through these items fairly quickly then store them in the freezer.
  2. Dried fruit like raisins, dried apricots, and dried apple rings. Also 1-ingredient organic applesauce is great to have on hand when you are out of fresh fruit.
  3. Baking ingredients like honey, vanilla extract, spices, oils, salt, and baking powder/soda.
  4. Whole-grain products like whole-grain sandwich bread, whole-wheat pasta, brown rice, quinoa, whole-wheat couscous, whole-wheat pretzels/crackers, etc.
  5. Whole grain cereals like raw oats (for oatmeal), homemade granola, shredded wheat, and whole-grain corn puffs.
  6. Fresh fruit that doesn’t need to be refrigerated like bananas, peaches, apples, pears, tomatoes, etc. We actually keep these items in a big fruit bowl on the kitchen table.
  7. Staples like potatoes, onions, garlic, dried/canned beans, and canned tomato products.

7 “Real Food” Fridge Essentials

Our fridge
  1. Dairy products like milk, cheese, cream cheese and plain yogurt
  2. Eggs
  3. Perishable fruits & vegetables
  4. 1-ingredient peanut butter & “all-fruit” type jelly
  5. Cooking fats like unsalted organic butter, clarified butter (ghee), and lard
  6. Snacks like olives and pickles
  7. Spread and sauces like hummus, tzatiki, soy sauce, maple syrup, mustard, and homemade salad dressings

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184 thoughts on “Real Food Tips: 21 Essentials for Freezer, Pantry & Fridge”

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  1. Can you comment when working on meal planning and fighting high sugar numbers-pre diabetic male, age 55 who eats no fruit and only lettuce and corn in the veg category. I understand avoiding carbs but with his restrictions, what can he eat?! Help

  2. I am getting lost on this website and love it!! It’s my new years resolution for 2014 to make the switch.

    I am curious about one thing. Brown rice. A diet enthusiast told me recently that brown rice is one of the major cancer causing foods. Have you heard this or can you comment?


    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Bonnie. Sadly, there are worrisome levels of arsenic, a major carcinogen, in brown rice especially that grown in the southern US where arsenic was sprayed liberally on cotton fields. :( Rice grown in California, and imported rice such as jasmine and basmati are safer choices. And, contrary to what we know about it nutritionally, white rice is a safer choice because it is stripped of its outer layers which would retain greater amounts of arsenic. It is a dilemma in my household as we eat mostly vegetarian and have depended on it heavily. Though we still consume it, mainly brown basmati and jasmine, we’ve been doing a lot of quinoa instead. Sorry to confirm. ~Amy

  3. Thanks for the ideas! I am looking forward to doing a clean out of my pantry, fridge and freezer on the weekend and replacing things with real food :) Very inspiring!!

  4. Hello! I love all the information you are sharing, the recipes sound devine, and I would love to feed my family organic, whole grain, and humanely processed meats, but we live a very small town with limited resources for these types of foods. We have a locally owned grocery store and a small/limited inventory Wal-Mart store. Finding these items to use in these recipes would be near impossible. What realistic suggestions do you have for a family that doesn’t have the luxury of a big city with whole food stores or a large grocery budget to cover the expense of buying natural and organic?

  5. Hello there! Do you ever buy fresh berries, and then freeze them? If so can you give me some basic pointers? flash freeze? etc? Thanks!

  6. I use glass milk bottles that I have run through the dishwasher to sterilize ad allow to dry thoroughly. They hold a lot, avoid the use of plastics, and are relatively cheap at just a $2.50 deposit. Also use mason jars and other re-used glass jars for smaller quantities. NEVER throw out a glass jar!!

    1. Genious! I never thought to do this and buy milk in glass jars! I am going to do this for dry beans/grains this week. And it looks nice on the counter, thanks for the tip!

  7. Great website!!! Thanks for sharing. Could you share what type of storage containers you use to freeze your meats, soups, breads, fruit, etc? Also…what storage containers do you use for storing your pantry items? My family and I are starting to eat fresh foods and I know making meals and buying fresh food and storing it will help. Thanks!,

  8. I’m trying to get my family to eat healthier but so many dinner and even most lunch recipes call for some kind of meat. We are NOT vegetarians but organic meat is not something we can buy all that often. I’m looking for recipes that don’t call for meat or that you can use a substitute, whether it’s beans or what have you. Seems like this should be simple but we usually have some kind of meat at lunch and dinner and it’s usually store bought. I’m not sure how to change the way we eat. I should mention there are 8 of us in our family.

    Thanks :)

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      HI Jacquie. Have you combed through our recipe index: The Leakes reduced their intake of meat, as well, so there are a many recipes that are meatless. For others, it is just as simple as leaving out the meat…like in spaghetti and meatballs. Also, it is not as difficult as most people think to get adequate protein in our diets: Adding various beans, lentils, nuts and seeds will go a long way to add flavor and protein to dishes. Grains, such as quinoa, are highly nutritious and are a complete protein in and of themselves. It may take some experimentation but you will find the alternatives that work best for your family. This post might also help: Best of luck! ~Amy

  9. Hello,

    I just discovered this site today, and love it! My husband has a lot of dieting ideas that come from the 1990s, like all fat is bad, etc. I am trying to convince him that just eating non-processed foods is the way to go. We’ve been trying to eat whole grains mostly. Whole grain bread is fine, but I really don’t like brown rice. I had parboiled rice the other day, and was wondering what your thoughts on that were?

    Thanks so much!

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Melinda. We’ve not tried parboiling. A nice and highly nutritious alternative to rice is quinoa. ~Amy

  10. Wow I guess I should have really reviewed what I typed . Sorry for all the mistakes. Hope my comment makes sense.

  11. A friend of mie has inspired metro look into the ‘real food’ concept and I was lucky enough to stumble onto your Westie. This is a great resource for us newbies. I have read ‘the start here’ page. My question is should I start with cleaning out my pantry, freezer, and frig first or grocery shop or plan my mels. I guess I am on information overload so not sure what my tre next step is fom here.

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Regan. You have to choose a methodology that works best for you. That said, if you’ve covered the “start here” page, then what worked for me was beginning some meal planning. Once I did that, I could decide what to keep or get rid of in the short term in my pantry making room for what I would add for my meal preparation. You can do the same with your fridge. Instead of just tossing things out which seems wasteful even if it doesn’t represent stellar nutrition, you might consider a food pantry donation. Best of luck and welcome!! ~Amy

  12. Like one of the previous posters, I’m newly married and on a semi-tight budget…I also have Celiac disease and can’t digest anything with wheat, barley, rye, or oats (which eliminates many processed foods right off the bat, but not all of them). On top of that my husband is an athlete who eats A LOT… he’ll typically eat what I consider a full meal every two hours or so.

    I’ve noticed a number of your meal plans include whole wheat/whole grains. Do you have suggestions for someone who is severely allergic to these things?


  13. I’m very interested in starting this “real food” plan. I’m newly wedded and on a very tight budget…so in terms, I have fallen victim to processed foods because of their affordability and easy preparation. I know changing our food habits is going to be a process…something I’m going to have to gradually introduce to my kitchen since we are so tight with money right now. Anyways..does anyone have any local grocery stores they recommend? I know Giant has an all organic food aisle or two, and also theres Trader Joes, anyd more recommendations besides farmer markets?

    Also, I have found myself victim to processed foods because of the easy meal prep it comes with… Both my husband and I work full time and find ourselves exhausted at the end of a work day. I understand those microwavable frozen “steamer dinners” are filled with preservatives and are not considered by any means “real food”…is there anything that comes close, however? I hope that was not confusing…basically I’m asking, are there any “frozen meal options” out there that are considerably good for you?

    Any advice out there for a beginner?

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Mallory. Welcome! Getting started is half the battle. Start with this page which will then direct you where to go for answers to most your questions: Regarding frozen meal options, sadly, most contain lots of additives, preservatives, salt, and ingredients that are dubious. It would be difficult to find any that meet the real food criteria. Good luck. You so can do this! ~Amy

  14. LOVE this blog! It’s totally helping me get my family on the path to eating way less processed foods :). I also love when you post the products you use such as the lunchbox containers, the smoothie pop silicone things and the napkins. I’m wondering if you use any special containers/bags for freezing? I’d love to find something besides my few glass 9×9 casserole dishes that I can freeze pre made meals in and then put them directly into my oven. Any ideas would be great!

  15. Could you recommend a brand of “all fruit” jelly that you mentioned? I have seen some, but they aren’t organic. Or then on the flip side….I have seen organic, but they include organic sugar as the first ingredient so I am thinking not the best option. Sorry if this is a silly question……totally new to ALL OF THIS and just trying to make better choices for my family. Thanks for all your help sorting out the all the confusion in the world about food!

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Jill)

      Hi Jen. I use the St. Dalfour’s jelly and it is sweetened with fruit juice as opposed to sugar. Jill

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Jill)

      Hi Anne. It would depend on the ingredients as you suggest. If it is simply just soybeans, I would make sure it’s organic so that you know it does not contain GMO’s. Jill

  16. 4 giant and complex countries in 15 days?!? (Though I guess Singapore is tiny.) You are racing! In the future, you might find it more rewarding to just see 1 country but actually see multiple parts of it and really experience it with some depth.

    I also hope that you consider the environment when you travel. High-end travel is an environmental disaster in terms of water and other resources consumed (by the grounds and the humans), the food flown in, etc, etc, etc. It’s also a horrible message to send to spend more on 1 night in a hotel than locals live on for an entire year.

    And please consider not using animals as a form of entertainment on travel. They weren’t meant to be ridden on, used in shows, etc. For you to ride on an animal, it has often been taken from the wild and then been through a torturous “taming” process in the countries you are visiting.

    1. Wow Margot you sure seemed to glean a lot of information about our trip from one short paragraph! In the past we have explored countries in more depth, and will be doing so again this summer. But in the case of our trip to Asia, I was delighted to have at least briefly experienced the various countries. Now I know which to revisit and explore in more depth.

      In terms of our lodging, in Singapore we slept on cots in a relative’s apartment (6 people total) so that was free. But elsewhere I think the locals would rather us send “a horrible message” by contributing to their local economy than not. Just a hunch :)

  17. Ashley — as far as it being more expensive — it doesn’t have to be. We are on a tight budget (family of 4) and we spend about 120.00/wk on groceries (buying over 90% organic). I just keep things simple.
    Lunches are usually leftovers from dinners and breakfasts, snacks are usually fruits and veggies. We buy very little meat as that can really drive the cost up (it’s white meat/fish). Minimal dairy as well (yogurt and cheese are more nutritionally dense than milk, and too much dairy — more than 2 servings a day– isn’t a good idea This also holds true for risk of prostate cancer btw). And I bake and freeze things like banana bread, zucchuni muffins, pumpkin scones, dinner leftovers, soups, pineapple carrot muffins, rolls, “pop tarts”, pancakes, etc to pull out as need for breakfasts and lunch boxes.
    I think meats, dairy, and snacks like chips and crackers really drive up the cost of most grocery bills.

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Jill)

      Hi Amy. Ghee is clarified butter. Essentially, more of the milk solids are removed from the butter than what is initially removed during the butter making process. Jill

  18. Just wondering… Do you use special canning jars for freezing your soups/sauces? P.S. You’re amazing with your commitment to this! I’m towards the beginning of my journey…

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Jill)

      Hi Vin. I usually just freeze my soups and sauces in regular containers, either glass of BPA free ones. I haven’t had any problems doing it that way. Best of luck to you. Jill

  19. I’d love to get this in a printable list that I can put in my binder for when I’m planning my trips to the grocery stores… I’ve started exercise & dietary changes in an effort to regain my health & lose weight. I need all the help I can get!

  20. I live in the Charlotte area as well and I’m curious where you get your local meats, milk, and fruits/veggies? Also, have you ever purchased a cow? Curious about your experience.

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Jill)

      Hi Jenn. Our milk is from Lakeview Farms. They offer a home delivery service (, but, they also sell their milk in Earthfare and Whole Foods. Local meats, fruits and veggies are mostly purchased at Farmer’s Markets. There are quite a few in the Charlotte area…check out this article that lists a few… You can also find local sources for meat here… Hope this helps…good luck. Jill

  21. We just made the switch to eating healthier, but I’ve noticed it is SO expensive!!b I’ve had to almost double my grocery budget, which I’m not sure how sustainable that will be long term. Any tips on how to save and eat healthy? Thanks!!

    1. Yay, Ashley! It doesn’t have to be really expensive! Read the “100 days on a budget” challenge they did a couple of years ago. You can find the link near the top of the page.
      My top 3 tips:
      1) Cook beans from scratch and work them into your menu every week.
      2) Makea weekly meal plan so you only buy what you need in the store
      3)Do as much from scratch cooking as you can (chicken stock, bread, jam, applesauce)

  22. I wanna know exactly how you store all your freezer items? I feel like when I put stuff in the freezer it doesn’t last very long…

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Jill)

      Hi Janis. I have a standalone freezer to store most things that I plan to keep for a while. I think this helps because it is not being opened several times/day. I store my stuff in either airtight containers or sealed baggies. I also make sure anything that is warm is completely cooled before I seal it and freeze it. Best of luck. Jill

  23. What exactly do you make with masa harina. My husband is Mexican and they use it to make tamales at Christmas time. I honestly didn’t know is could be used to make anything else. Thanks for all your great tips!

  24. Bob’s Red Mill sells non-GMO masa harina (dry). Ours had to be ordered through Azure Standards because i haven’t even found it at Whol!e Foods or Sprouts here! You could order directly from BRM too, of course.

  25. I absolutely LOVE your site, thank you for all of your very informative posts!!! I’ve gained great wisdom from your posts and recipes. Keep up the great work, you are very appreciated. PS Enjoy your trip.

  26. Hi Lisa,
    I also live in the Charlotte area and was wondering where you get your meat from. I have been wanting to buy local meat for so long now and could really use a recommendation! Thanks! I recently found your website and love it like crazy! I hope to use it for the whole family, especially my 3 impossible to please kids!

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Jill)

      Hi Kristin. Grateful Growers is one I know Lisa uses. They sell at the Matthew’s Farmer’s Market as well as I believe at Hillbilly Produce. They have a website if you want to check it out. I also get some items from Lakeview Farms who does the milk delivery. They have some local beef selections. Whole Foods is now also carrying some Baucom’s Best I saw a few weeks ago and they have other local selections as well that they clearly label as local. Jill

  27. Hi!
    I never keep my whole wheat flour in the freezer! This was news to me! Thanks for the tip. What type of container do you use to store yours in?? I make all my bread, tortillas, baking, snacks…ect. from scratch and usually buy the big 20lb sacs and dump it into a big metal container in my pantry. I am not sure that much would fit in my freezer. How long is it good for at room temp?

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Jill)

      Hi NurseLisa. I actually just buy the 5 lb bag so I store it in that in a ziploc. But, perhaps you could divide it into several smaller containers and store it that way. Jill

  28. Uh oh. I’ve got an open bag of masa harina in the pantry. Does that really need to be refrigerated? Ick…It’s been a couple of months, I think. Wonder if it’s gone bad?

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Jill)

      Hi Christine. Yes, it can go rancid. You might want to smell it to see if it’s still good. Jill

  29. How long can you keep the homemade dressings before they should be thrown out? I hope you have a fabulous and restful vacation!

  30. Hannah-

    I would suggest trying hemp and flax. We have been moving to a glute-free diet and raw dairy (minimal) to see if it helps my hubby’s tummy (shhhhh ;)) feel any better. I have been buying shelled hemp seeds and organic flax that I grind with my Magic Bullet. I use the mixture for pancakes, muffins, and even breading on fish and chicken when we are in the “fried” mood (we actually bake with the hemp/glax breading). You can also sprinkle some on salad and in yogurt. The hemp is very mild, more similar to grains as compared to coconut and almond. I found a big bag at costco…
    Good luck!

  31. I have recently been thinking about how I need to stock up on pantry items, thanks for the great list!

    Another pantry essential for my family is homemade popsicles made with fresh squeezed juice… my kids LOVE them!