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Cooking Tips

The 7 Clean Ingredients That Can Save Any Dinner

Stock your pantry and freezer with these clean go-to items and you'll never be at the mercy of a bad or boring dinner again.

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As the saying goes, fresh is always best. But there’s nothing wrong with having an arsenal of frozen and shelf-stable backups at the ready. In fact, it’s a smart way to make sure you can always feed yourself a healthy, clean meal—even when your day falls apart.

Here’s what I always have on hand in my kitchen:

Thai Curry Paste

A lot of curry pastes are clean without additives. Normally a curry has so many ingredients! This is a great shortcut. Add a dollop of curry paste, plus coconut milk or water, and whatever vegetable or protein you’re cooking becomes so flavorful.

Try it in: Speedy Thai Curry Soup with Zoodles

Frozen Brown Rice

I make batches of my own rice ahead of time and freeze them, but you can buy a quality frozen brown rice from Trader Joe’s.

Try it in: Sweet Tomato & Basil Eggplant Rounds with Brown Rice

Premade Spice Mixes

I love this because you don’t have to buy lots of different spices to layer flavor. Sprinkle a little on veggies, or add to salmon or whatever you’re roasting. It makes things a little more interesting than, say, just a piece of fish with salt and pepper. (Just be sure to find a mix made without additives.)

Try it in: Five-Spice Meatballs with Rice Noodles & Honey Lime Sauce

Frozen Cauliflower Rice

I prefer frozen over fresh, because fresh can go bad so quickly. It’s great for a quick clean fried rice.

Try it in: Cauliflower Fried Rice

Canned Fish

Look for high-quality, sustainably sourced fish in jars or BPA-free cans. I prefer mine packed in olive oil.

Try it in: Salmon-Caper Pockets

Frozen Vegetables

Frozen vegetables are underrated! They are completely nutritious, and you can get organic varieties easily. I often buy mushrooms frozen because they are a pain to clean fresh.

Try it in: Smoky Pork Chops with Maque Choux-Style Vegetables

Canned Beans

Opt for BPA-free canned beans. Use them as the foundation of a green bowl or quick-cook taco with sautéed vegetables or organic eggs.

Try it in: Black Bean & Cheddar Taco Salad with Pico de Gallo

With some planning and the right ingredients on hand, all of your meals can be ready in a matter of minutes. Assemble and go! Watch an example of how batch cooking can pay off during lunchtime:


In Clean Eating’s online course, Batch Cooking 101: Cook Once, Eat All Week, Pamela Salzman, certified holistic health counselor and cooking instructor, revolutionizes the concept of make-ahead meals with easy-to-learn recipes and seven weeks of in-depth lessons on shopping, planning and cooking. Ready to learn more? Sign up here.