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Top 10 Ingredients I Always Have on Hand

Top 10 Ingredients I Always Have on Hand

Stock the Basics to Save Time

By Elyse Kopecky


Keeping your pantry and fridge stocked with the basics is the key to pulling off wholesome meals on a daily basis. If you have to run to the grocery store to pickup a last minute ingredient, you’re a lot more likely to opt for takeout. Prevent a “hangry” meltdown by keeping my top 10 essential ingredients stocked for last minute nourishing dinners.

Of course I always have way more than these 10 ingredients on hand (see photo below for inspiration), including plenty of seasonal produce. This is just a starting point for beginner cooks and busy families. For more advice for time-crunched families, check out Run Fast. Cook Fast. Eat Slow.

Every Tuesday we post nutrition advice, culinary tips and tricks, or a new recipe on the Run Fast Eat Slow blog. Be sure to subscribe to our newsletter (scroll to the footer to enter your email) to receive updates straight to your inbox.

Top 10 Pantry and Fridge Ingredients 


With eggs on hand you are set to whip together an easy and incredibly nourishing breakfast, lunch, or dinner. There are endless ways to devour the incredible egg. Eggs have all nine amino acids, making them an easily assimilated, complete protein and a source of B12 and vitamin D. Skip highly processed protein powders and opt for real food protein for optimal absorption and better digestion.


Sweet Potatoes (Yams)

I always, always gotta have a stash of yams in my fridge. Every Sunday I roast two trays of chopped sweet potatoes for tossing into rice bowls and egg scrambles or I make sweet potato fries. I also love to add mashed yams to baked goods like waffles and cookies (see our Sweet Potato Breakfast Cookie recipe in Run Fast. Eat Slow. or Sweet Potato Waffles recipe in Run Fast. Cook Fast. Eat Slow.) Yams are our top pick for a side dish the night before an endurance endeavor since they provide easy-to-digest complex carbs.


Carrots, Onions, Celery

Sorta cheating by grouping these three together as one, but they’re inseparable. With carrots, onions, and celery on hand you can make a variety of flavorful and nourishing soups and sauces. Every week I make a big pot of soup and a simple Bolognese or marinara sauce with these ingredients as the base. They can also be used all together in stir-fries, chili, curries, etc. Our family buys carrots in bulks because they’re great for snacking with hummus and easy to toss into smoothies for a morning veggie boost.



I adore this creamy fruit (yes, avocado is a fruit!). You can’t beat an avocado sprinkled with sea salt as an afternoon snack. Avocados are rich in one of the healthiest fats out there: monounsaturated fatty acids, which are superb for long-lasting energy and for fighting inflammation. Their rich fat content makes it easier for the body to absorb fat-soluble nutrients, which is reason enough to add them to any veggie-loaded meal. I toss sliced avocado on rice bowls, egg scrambles, and salads and on a weekly basis I make guacamole for an appetizer (with fresh garlic, insta-immune booster!).


Whole Milk Yogurt

My weekday quick breakfast fix is whole milk yogurt topped with granola and chopped apple or fresh berries (summer). On days when I don’t have a yogurt bowl for breakfast I find myself craving it for a late night snack. Yogurt with Picky Performance Granola, which is generously loaded with nuts and seeds, is high in minerals that are essential for endurance athletes. I also keep yogurt on hand to add to smoothies for a natural protein and fat boost.


Butter and Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Bring on the butter! Fat is a crucial macronutrient for athletes for long lasting energy and satiation. Many athletes don’t get enough healthy fats in their diet. Real food fats are essential for balanced hormones, better digestion, nutrient absorption, fighting inflammation, cardiovascular health, and bone strength. Nothing beats a smear of high-quality butter (which is rich in vitamins and minerals) on freshly baked bread. For baking wholesome treats I prefer butter (see Superhero Muffins in Run Fast. Cook Fast. Eat Slow.). For sautéing or roasting veggies and salad dressing, I use my other favorite fat, extra virgin olive oil. Studies show one tablespoon of olive oil has more anti-inflammatory powers than Ibuprofen.


Frozen fruit (bananas, berries, pineapple)

I always have a stash of fruit in my freezer for my daily smoothie fix. Smoothies are a great way to sneak nutrient-dense veggies into breakfast. My go-to smoothie is made with banana, blueberries, beets, ginger, whole milk yogurt and virgin coconut oil or nut butter (see Can’t Beet Me Smoothie in Run Fast. Eat Slow.) 

If your mornings are too rushed, to imagine whipping up a well-balanced smoothie, check out this awesome deal ($60 off) from our friends at SmoothieBox exclusively for Run Fast Eat Slow fans. 


Rice, Quinoa, Pasta

Keep rice, quinoa, and pasta on hand for easy dinners. At least once a week I make Power Bowls, which is a rice bowl topped with whatever veggies I have on hand, a fried egg or other leftover protein, and guacamole or sliced avocado. I use quinoa in hearty grain salads for work lunches (here’s the recipe for Shalane Flanagan’s favorite salad while training for the NYC Marathon). We are also a pasta loving family, so spaghetti and penne are essential pantry staples for quick weeknight meals (last night we had spaghetti tossed with pesto, sardines, and broccoli…my kiddos love it!).


Rolled Oats

Oats are an incredible food for athletes since they’re easy to digest (ideal for breakfast before a long run) and provide long-lasting energy. Oats are also high in antioxidants and blood sugar balancing fiber, plus they may boost your immune system. They’re a super flexible ingredient to keep on hand since they can be used for hot cereal, yogurt bowls, and wholesome baked treats. For a hot and satisfying breakfast in an instant, try Picky Performance Oatmeal and for a snack while on-the-go, you can’t beat the flavor and ingredients in Picky Performance Granola (just launched on our Shop!).


Grass fed ground beef

Peer into my freezer and you’ll find a stash of ground beef and ground bison from local farms. Grass-fed red meat is incredibly nutrient dense. When I’m in training mode I find myself craving burgers. That’s because beef and bison are rich in iron, a mineral your red blood cells need to carry oxygen to your hardworking muscles. Grass-fed red meat is also rich in protein, omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, and CLA. I use ground beef to make a quick Bolognese sauce (see Marathon Bolognese in Run Fast. Cook Fast. Eat Slow.) and you’ll find beef in family’s favorite soups and chili recipes (see Beef and Lentil Minestrone in Run Fast. Cook Fast. Eat Slow.)


Fuel Happy!!



This is what a week's worth of produce looks like in our home...


Main photo by Alan Weiner 

Follow @elysekopecky

Follow @ShalaneFlanagan