Unless you've won the lottery or your mom still drops off groceries every week, sprinting down the aisle of your local Valu-Save is an inevitable part of your weekly routine. We'll assume you can handle grabbing the basics-milk, raw meat, malt liquor-but here's a handful of other foods you should toss into your cart. All are incredibly healthy and will help to ensure you've always got something good to eat stashed inside your mattress-er, cupboard.
Buy the stuff in the canister, not the packets. (It's cheaper-plus the packets are flavored, so they have more carbs and sugar.) Pick up two tubes: a big one for at home and a smaller one to stash at the office. You can nuke some for breakfast, or mix it with hot water for a quick vending-machine-free snack at work. The benefit? Oatmeal's packed with energy-boosting complex carbs, plus B vitamins that will help keep your brain running at its peak, no matter the time of day. (Hate mushy cooked oatmeal? Dump half a cup of dry into your morning blender concoction. You won't even taste it.)
Skippy and Jif are good for more than just a hefty dose of protein: All those mashed peanuts are also loaded with minerals, including zinc for immunity, disease-fighting selenium, and antioxidants to help repair workout-damaged muscles. Stick with regular PB instead of the reduced-fat sludge. When companies make lower-fat peanut butter, they take out heart-healthy monounsaturated fat and replace it with added sugar.
A.k.a. chickpeas, or those weird little gallstone-shaped balls that salad-bar girls live on. Besides adding muscle fuel to rabbit food, garbanzo beans are high in bone-building calcium as well as compounds called phytochemicals-the same disease-fighting stuff that makes onions, garlic, and broccoli so smelly. Studies show that upping your phytochemical intake can help you fight off colds, heart disease, and cancer. Not the salad type? Try mashing a handful of garbanzos with lemon juice for a quick chip dip. You can also toss some beans into a wrap, mix 'em into tuna salad, or sink them in soup to up its flavor quotient.
These Mexican flying saucers have fewer carbs than bread, more fiber and vitamins, plus they last longer-two weeks or more without green stuff in the pantry, and almost indefinitely once they've been chucked into the fridge. Use 'em for wraps, tacos, even quick breakfast burritos with a scrambled-egg core. Melt cheese into a folded tortilla for a quick McSnack, or cut a couple of tortillas into pieces with scissors and toss 'em into the oven for instant low-cal baked tortilla chips.
Roasted red peppers
Choose the seven-ounce jars (the small ones) packed in water, not oil. They taste great, are less boring than frozen peas and carrots, and won't ever get freezer burn. Great in sandwiches, stirred into scrambled eggs or soups, or lobbed into a mass of salad greens. You can also stuff them into burgers or casseroles, or eat them right from the jar. (C'mon, you know you've munched on worse-and at least peppers have almost zilch for calories.) And in case you ever have the chance to lure Angelina Jolie back to your place and need a quick snack to help get those lips moving, you can mash red peppers with sour cream or cream cheese for a fiery dip that's great smeared over whole-wheat crackers.
You can opt for canned, or try the new foil packs. (Like the stuff you rip open for Puss, but without the juicy dolphin chunks.) Tuna is an almost perfect food, high in protein and loaded with omega-3s, a type of fat that improves your sex life, fights colds and heart disease, and can even make you smarter. (Note to Nick: All the Chicken of the Sea probably wouldn't do much for Jessica.)
You choose the brand and flavor-it doesn't matter what you pick, as long as you stick with something that has 250-400 calories, 8-10 grams of protein, and at least a couple of grams of fiber. Look for a brand with lots of veggies on the label, as well as meat or beans for protein. Use a bowl for a quick late-night meal when your only other resort is making a call to Domino's. Or heat one up for a pre-meal appetizer. There's an ocean of research showing that people who eat soup at the beginning of a meal-or for a meal-are more satisfied and end up taking in fewer calories during the course of the day than non-soup eaters.
Canned sweet potatoes
If you buy only one vegetable in a can, this is the one to throw in your cart. Sweet potatoes are high in beta carotene-good for fighting cancer and keeping eyes healthy. The orange taters are also good for your wrapper, preventing sun damage to the skin (which will help keep your mug wrinkle- and spot-free well into old age). Open a can and eat them in place of other high-carb sides like mashed or baked potatoes, biscuits, pasta, or mac and cheese. Just make sure you buy the kind in light or no syrup, versus the Thanksgiving-style sweet potatoes, which are doing the backstroke in a sea of liquid sugar.