The key to good meals at home is having a well stocked pantry. There are lots and lots of options for filling the pantry, but keeping a few classic, basic items on hand ensures that you have what you need to fix a meal. Here are the items I always keep around. These things are true work-horse ingredients. They’re flexible and timeless.
1. Canned Tomato Products
My favorites in this category are crushed tomatoes and diced tomatoes. Crushed tomatoes can be the base of nearly any type of Italian sauce. Use it to top pasta, in a pasta bake, for pizza, on sub sandwiches, to top chicken or meatloaf. Endless possibilities!
Diced tomatoes are much easier to keep on hand than fresh and go in all kinds of Mexican and Italian dishes, as well as many others.
Other tomato products worth keeping in the pantry include tomato sauce, paste and salsa.
Canned beans make for quick meals, but you may also want to have dry beans on hand. Dry beans can be cooked and frozen, then used just like canned beans.
Use beans in soups, casseroles, quesadillas or other Tex-Mex style dishes and much more.
Chicken, beef and vegetable broth are all essential pantry ingredients. Make your own and freeze it or use canned or boxed varieties. Broth can be used in making soups and stews or in cooking grains or pasta.
4. Aromatics – Onions and Garlic
Onions and garlic are both essential in many, many recipes. They add so much flavor to any dish, but really bring out the best when you’re pulling together a quick easy meal. They elevate the most simple ingredients to something delicious.
5. Grains and Pasta
Rice, quinoa, couscous and all shapes of pasta are great building blocks for meals. Top them with your protein of choice mixed with veggies. Let your imagination guide you!
6. Freezer staples – Meats and Veggies
In our modern world, the freezer acts as a (very) cold pantry. I prefer fresh vegetables, but I do keep frozen veggies on hand. It’s nice to know we can have vegetables even if we’ve eaten all the fresh and I haven’t made it to the store.
Frozen vegetables can also be roasted in the oven with great results. Toss the still frozen vegetables (green beans, carrots, butternut squash, broccoli etc) with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast on a baking sheet at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until done.
Having cooked meat stashed away in your freezer is a fantastic way to make quick and easy meals. Cooked chicken can be ready to add to a soup, stew or casserole in just a few minutes of thawing in the microwave. Cooked meatballs (make these homemade for the best flavor) are versatile for all kinds of dishes – sweet and sour meatballs, sub sandwiches, topping for pizza, served alongside rice or pasta.
These are items that show up on Eat at Home Weekly Meal Plan grocery lists over and over again. They work in lots of different meals and you can find them in any grocery.
If you’re looking for a way to simplify dinners at your house, check out Weekly Meal Plans. We do the planning for you so you can focus on time around the table with your family.