Since I spent all day writing this stuff out for a friend who needs a lifestyle change, I thought I’d publish for anyone else who might want to start doing low carb and/or cooking more at home. First up: basic kitchen essentials! Basic tools and getting your pantry started.
Basic kitchen utensils you’ll need:
2 cup measuring cup
microplane or lemon zester
crock pot (small basic one is OK)
square baking dish or pan
large heavy bottom frying pan nonstick is fine
small nonstick skillet for frittatas!
couple of soup pans, 2 qt
large wide bottom chili pot (or dutch oven if you want to spend $50+, it’s worth it!)
Basic pantry (NO canned veg other than what’s here!):
extra virgin olive oil EVOO (look for dark bottle, around $10 per ltr)
kosher salt (my recipes call for kosher, NOT table salt)
L&P worcestershire sauce (it’s the best)
olive oil mayo (half the fat, all the taste)
seasoned rice wine vinegar
4 boxes chicken stock (low sodium for you)
4 cans diced toms (I like Hunts fire roasted w/ garlic)
Herdez Salsa Verde (NOT spicy) for green chicken, white chili and green chili
1 tube tomato paste (it keeps the longest, look in Italian section)
capers (for chicken piccata)
2 cans Bush’s chili starter (any flavor, but medium is perfect)
2 cans white beans (great northern)
2 cans seasoned black beans
1 jar sundried tomatoes (for a recipe)
1 jar large pimento stuffed green olives (for recipe)
1 bottle Korean BBQ sauce (BiBiGo is great)
Keep canned soups on hand at all times. Progresso low sodium soups are pretty good. Whatever you get, make sure it’s low sodium.
sliced cheese (real, NOT American!)
heavy cream (for sauces, keeps forever)**
deli meat, smoked turkey, ham, etc.
**Stay away from low fat dairy. Get full fat cheese, cottage cheese, sour cream and yogurts. To avoid sugary yogurts, get the kroger Carbmaster. It’s not as good as yoplait, but it is also not full of sugar. OR get plain full fat greek yogurt and top with some honey. It’s been shown that full fat dairy is better for you in the long run than reduced fat stuff.
Veg always on hand:
garlic (the prepared garlic in a jar is OK if you’ll use that more)
lemons (for piccata and I use for lots of things)
Low carb fresh veg for meals:
cauliflower (toss with EVOO, S/P and roast at 425 for 15 mins)
green beans (cut off stems and sautee whole in EVOO with minced garlic and S/P)
greens (baby kale is surprisingly good) Sautee with EVOO, garlic and S/P.
asparagus same as green beans but add some lemon zest and finish with lemon juice
Salad: (eat one per day)
OIL & VINEGAR dressing. NO CREAMY DRESSINGS.
Use 2 parts extra virgin olive oil to one part seasoned rice wine vinegar. Season with S/P. Add in some dried basil if you want or even a dollop of dijon if you feel frisky. Whisk thoroughly to emulsify. This can be held at room temp.
Frozen sides and veg are FAR superior to canned veg because of the sodium. Low sodium canned veg is disgusting. Frozen veg keeps all the nutrition and has far less sodium, even if you get it with flavouring.
Basic frozen veg to have on hand:
spinach (get it in the bag so you can use what you need)
stew veg (for easy crockpot stew)
frozen cauliflower is ok for adding to a recipe, not great alone
frozen greens are fine
frozen green peas are the only peas I use
DO not get frozen green beans or asparagus. That stuff gets GROSS when frozen.
You can also get frozen recipe ready veg such as diced onions and peppers, and they are OK, just not as flavourful as fresh. But if you want to sub in the frozen to save you time and effort, that’s just fine.
There are myriad frozen sides out there, but some outstanding ones I’ve found recently are:
Birdseye Protein Blends – usually a grain and veg, various flavours
Green Giant Fire Roasted veg
any veg mix as long as it’s not loaded with sodium
FYI, you can freeze 9 grain bread! It keeps forever and you can’t tell it’s been frozen. Restaurant trick!
frozen chicken tenders
frozen thin chicken breast if you can find it
frozen boneless skinless chix thighs
For beef I rarely buy it frozen. I buy it on sale and freeze. For quick chili, keep ~1# packs of 90/10 low fat ground beef or ground chicken on hand.
Other meats you’ll need for various recipes:
flavoured pork tenderloin
bone in, skin on chicken breast
Stew meat or chuck steak
flank, skirt or flat iron steak (look for it on sale!)
If you can’t take leftovers to work (I hear this is a thing??), I suggest going to a boxed frozen solution. One particularly good frozen box meal I found is Stouffers Fit Kitchen. They are good sized portions with a TON of protein and reasonable sodium. They are not the cheapest frozen meals, but they are cheaper than buying lunch every day. Even if you go with the small frozen meals and just buy a small salad, you’ll be doing better nutritionally. Eating sandwiches is better than fast food, but you still get mostly carbs with all that bread. If you could cut down the sandwiches to twice a week and do frozen+salad the rest of the time, you’ll see a difference.