I have always enjoyed putting together a meal with whatever I have in my pantry. Think about it: Grab a few cans of tomatoes and a pound of spaghetti from the cupboard, some onion and garlic from the allium bin, and a pound of ground beef from the fridge.
Next thing you know, in just about a short thirty minutes, those simple ingredients are transformed into a delicious pasta bolognese that is flavorful, filling, and comforting.
There is no doubt that these are some crazy times. Between the social distancing, empty supermarket shelves, and financial uncertainty we are all worried about what the future holds.
While I know it is easier said than done, I believe that this is the time to do the best we can, go with the flow, and let it be. For me, this means spending more time in the kitchen using whatever I have on hand to make healthy homemade meals for my family.
Today, I am here to share tips on how to stock your pantry, as well as recipes I am making with those items.
A Few Tips On Making It Work:
Before I go on, I want to lay the ground rules as most of us do not have the luxury to do a quick grocery trip to pick up that one ingredient that we need so:
- Be ready to substitute: If you are missing an ingredient feel free to use a substitution for it. This is the time to get as creative as you can.
- It’s okay to skip on garnishes: While I believe that garnishes (such as fresh herbs) add so much flavor to a dish, it is okay to skip them or use dried versions (if possible.)
- Organize your pantry and fridge so you know (and clearly see) what is in there: It is now more important than ever that we organize ourselves and know what we have so we can strategically use them before they go bad.
- Make a plan: I’ll admit I am not an organized person, but when you have a limited supply as we do now, I think the only way to make it work is to have a plan in place. Start building your meals around the fresh vegetables and pantry staples you have on hand.
What To Stock in The Pantry?
My definition of essential pantry items are foods that enable you to make meals using items out of your cupboard, refrigerator, and freezer items. But before I list my pantry essentials, ask yourself two questions:
- What do I feel comfortable cooking?
- What do I want to eat?
It’s not possible to come up with a formula that works for everyone, so feel free to pick and choose what works for you to create your own version of these pantry recipes.
If you don’t like an item you can always swap it with something you like. Below are the basics that I am keeping in my pantry:
In The Cupboard
- Oils & Vinegars: Olive oil (for salads), grapeseed/coconut/vegetable oil (for cooking), apple cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar, white vinegar, and wine vinegar (red or white)
- Canned Goods: Beans, chickpeas, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, corn, chicken/vegetable stock, canned fish
- Condiments & Spices: Basics like salt and pepper, chili powder, cinnamon, breadcrumbs, soy sauce, mayonnaise, and mustard
- Grains & Bread: Pasta, ramen noodles, quinoa, bulgur, white or brown rice, wild rice and whole wheat bread, English muffins or your favorite sandwich bread.
- Beans and Legumes: Dried beans (if you are not a canned bean person), lentils (red, green, split), chickpeas, etc.
- Flours & Yeast: All-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, almond flour, cornmeal, cornstarch, arrowroot starch, masa harina, active yeast, and rapid yeast
- Sweeteners & Flavor boosters: Natural sweeteners like maple syrup, coconut sugar, applesauce, dates, honey or if you are using refined sugars, granulated sugar and brown sugar.
- Breakfast & Snacking Items: Steel-cut oats, ground oats, nut butters (peanut and almond butter), jam, nuts, and granola
- Dry Produce: Onions (yellow and red), shallots, garlic, sweet potatoes, and Yukon gold/russet potatoes
In The Fridge:
- Dairy & Butter: Butter, milk, plant-based milk, Greek yogurt, sour cream, cheese (cheddar, feta, cream cheese, etc.)
- Eggs & Meat: Eggs, chicken, ground beef/turkey
- Vegetables: Celery, carrots, peppers, cabbage, avocados, cucumber, broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms, salad greens, and fresh herbs
- Fruit: Apples, bananas, oranges, grapefruit, grapes, tangerine, berries, lemon and limes
In The Freezer:
- Frozen Vegetables: Peas, spinach, corn, broccoli
- Meats (Frozen): Ground meats (beef, chicken, or turkey), frozen fish (salmon, shrimp, and white flaky fish)
- Frozen Fruits: Berries, mango, pineapple
- Other Frozen Goods: Puff Pastry, phyllo dough, and pizza dough
Easy Pantry Recipes For Breakfast:
Steel Cut Oats: If you are a fan of starting the day with a big bowl of oatmeal, try a big bowl of steel-cut oats. They are a fiber-rich carb that is low in fat and high in protein, vitamins, and minerals (Source). You can make it using my Overnight, Slow Cooker, or Instant Pot methods. Each method takes no more than 5 minutes of hands-on time.
The best part is that you can top it off with whatever fruits, nuts, granola you have on hand.
Breakfast Eggs: Crowd-pleaser, veggie-packed egg dishes like Mexican Breakfast Casserole, Spinach Feta Frittata or mushroom-lovers’ Portobella Frittata are not only filling but also easy enough to put together when you need a simple breakfast.
Homemade Bread: If you are having a difficult time finding bread, give my No-Knead Bread recipe (or my Olive Bread Recipe) a try even if you have no experience with baking your own bread. With only 4 ingredients it takes 10 minutes of hands-on time. You can make a few loaves, slice them up, and freeze the rest for later.
Sandwich and Pasta Pantry Recipes
Pasta: For a vegetarian pasta dish make a batch of my Homemade Tomato Basil Sauce and serve it over a bowl of pasta with some shredded cheese. If you need a crowd-pleaser, try Homemade Spaghetti Bolognese, Mushroom Pea Pasta, or Baked Ziti with Meat Sauce.
Pantry Recipe Ideas For Soups and Salads:
Soups: Soup recipes such as Vegan Lentil Soup, Healthy Chicken Wild Rice Soup, Stuffed Cabbage Soup, Chicken and Vegetable Soup, and Vegetable and Beef Soup (can also be made in Slow Cooker) are great for feeding a crowd and as a bonus, they freeze well too.
Chilis: Chili recipes such as White Chicken Chili (or Instant Pot White Bean Chicken Chili), Vegan Chili, and Quinoa Chili are packed with chili spices, beans, and good-for-you protein. I usually make a big batch, serve some and freeze some for later.
Bean Based Salads: Growing up my mom used to say, if you have beans in your pantry you can feed your family in no time. I cannot agree more. Bean-based salads such as Texas Caviar, Five Bean Salad, and Black Bean and Corn Salad are not only a great side dish but also make the perfect lunch on the next day.
Grain, Seed, and Pasta Based Salads: Make a batch of wild rice to make Wild Rice Salad, bulgur wheat to make Bulgur Pilaf or some quinoa and make Southwest Quinoa Salad or some pasta and make Mexican Street Corn Pasta Salad.
Pantry Meals For Dinner and Lunch:
Vegetarian Meals: Recipes such as veggie-packed Mexican Quinoa, Quinoa and Vegetable Stew, Cauliflower Curry, Ramen Bowl, and this Spring Abundance Bowl make nutritious and filling vegetarian meals that don’t require hours in front of the stove.
Meat-Based Meals: If you are dealing with meat lovers (such as my husband), then try Ground Turkey Meatloaf, Oven-Baked Meatballs and Potatoes, Chicken and Potato Bake (only 7 ingredients), Slow Cooker Butter Chicken, and Breaded Fish.
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Pantry Recipes: Pasta Bolognese
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 large or 2 small onion, chopped
- 1- pound ground beef 85% 15%
- 1 28 ounces can of diced tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 sprig of thyme tied in a bundle
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 cup red wine optional
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 1/2 cup fresh basil roughly chopped
- 1 cup Parmesan cheese shredded
- 1 pound (16 oz.) dried spaghetti or linguini
- Heat oil in a Dutch oven (or any other heavy bottom pot) in medium heat. Add onion. Cook until wilted, 5-7 minutes.
- Add in the ground beef. Using a wooden spoon break it into smaller chunks. Cook, stirring frequently until it is browned, 7-8 minutes.
- Stir in the tomatoes and tomato paste. Cook, stirring frequently for 5 minutes.
- Add the garlic, oregano, thyme, bay leaf, salt, pepper, red wine, and chicken stock. Give everything a stir. Bring it to a simmer.
- Reduce the heat to medium-low, put the lid on, and let it cook for 20-25 minutes, making sure to stir occasionally.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to boil and cook the spaghetti according to the instructions on its package.
- Once the spaghetti is ready, drain it in a colander.
- Discard the thyme bundle and the bay leaf from the Bolognese sauce.
- Add drained pasta into the sauce. Stir it all together making sure that the pasta is generously coated with the sauce.
- Stir in the fresh basil and top it off with grated Parmesan cheese.
- You can make the sauce a day in advance. Simply cook the pasta on the next day and top it off with the sauce, cheese, and garnishes.
- You can freeze the sauce in an airtight container.