Simple Pantry Meals & 5 Items to Keep on Hand


Two weeks, friends! It’s less than two weeks now until the launch of my new cookbook, Eat at Home Tonight! And today I’m sharing tips from another one of my favorite chapters about simple pantry meals.

I’ve shared some snippets of the cookbook with you here and there and I’m just so excited about its problem-solving potential! Last week on facebook live I shared my favorite tips for 15-minute meals and why this is such a great tool for thriving in the dinner hour.

Simple Pantry Meals

This week I tackled the empty fridge dilemma with 5 key pantry ingredients to have on hand. We all know that dinner requires more than just having ingredients, so I shared some of my tips on creating several dinners with those ingredients.

If you missed it, you can always catch the replay

5 Items to Keep on Hand …

I always try to keep 5 key ingredients in my pantry. They make eating at home possible when the fridge is empty and there’s no way I’m going to the grocery store.

These are my 5 go-to items for simple pantry meals

1:  Canned tomato products

These last a really long time and they’re so versatile. I typically have a collection of canned tomato products

  • Crushed – I don’t even buy spaghetti sauce anymore. I just start with crushed tomatoes and add sauteed onions, garlic, seasonings or whatever else I have and it’s done in no time at all.
  •  Diced – These go in almost anything, especially Tex Mex dishes.
  •  Sauce – It’s a great base for soups, spaghetti sauce and pizza sauce.

2. Grains

Grains are great for rounding out your meals. I’ll add here that if your house is anything like mine, you’ll want to keep several of these on hand all the time. Otherwise, when you go to grab one, one of the kids will have already helped themselves and you may have to get even more creative.

  • Rice – Is there a cuisine that doesn’t have multiple quick dishes from rice? I think not!
  • Quinoa – This is such a healthy option, and even faster than rice!
  • Pasta – Obviously pasta is a must have for Italian meals, but it also works great for Tex Mex flavors or everyone’s favorite mac & cheese.
  • Tortillas – These are a pantry workhorse. The possibilities to create a dinner with tortillas are limitless!

3. Canned beans

Yes, dried beans work also, they’re just not as fast as canned. My three favorites are chickpeas (or garbanzo beans), black beans and kidney beans. They’re also a budget-friendly way to pack some protein into a meal.

4. Eggs

Quick, easy, nutritious, and lots of possibilities here too! Unless of course, you’re living with a Gaston! You can find out about that by watching the Facebook Live replay.

5. Freezer staples

So technically, the eggs and freezer staples are not pantry items, but they can make a huge difference in quick meals. And they’re such a staple at our house that I consider them pantry staples. My favorites include:

  • Frozen cooked chicken
  • Frozen cooked ground beef
  • Chicken tenders or thin cut chicken breasts that cook quickly
  • Frozen veggies

… and what to do with them

Let’s say we have 2 nights. What exactly do we do with these items?

To go Italian I would start with crushed tomatoes as a base for pasta sauce. The add some ground beef, any veggies I may be able to find in the fridge, seasonings and of course, pasta.

For Tex Mex, tortillas are usually my first thought.  If I’m out of those then eggs are a favorite for something like Migas.

Since I was out of both of these when I recorded facebook live, I opted for rice bowls. I would cook the brown rice in the Instant Pot. You can get the directions for that on the video too.

When the rice is done I would add whatever beans I had on hand and add some diced tomatoes. And then maybe diced green peppers, salsa, cumin, chili powder, bell peppers, corn.

Those are just some basic ideas to throw together a pantry meal. It really doesn’t have to be a panic dinner and the challenge of it can kind of be fun. You could even get the kids in on it and watch them brainstorm like it’s a TV contest.

My Refrigerator is Empty Tonight

If the thought of coming up with pantry meals on your own is intimidating, then I happen to have another solution for you. Chapter 2 of Eat at Home Tonight is titled “My Refrigerator is Empty Tonight”. And I wrote it just for you!

There’s a collection of recipes in this chapter that take the guesswork out of pantry meals. It includes

  • Mexican Rice and Bean Bowls
  • Creamy Pesto and Sun-Dried Tomato Bow Ties
  • Italian Tomato Soup with Pizza-Grilled Cheese Croutons
  • Elvis Breakfast for Dinner
  • Curried Chickpeas

and several others to get your creative juices flowing and dinner on the table.

So go ahead and pre-order your copy of Eat at Home Tonight if you haven’t done so already. Think of it as a fun gift to your future self. And in less than 2 weeks it will arrive at your door.

And once your cookbook arrives, then an empty fridge is not a thing to be feared!

Eat at Home Tonight Challenge

eat at home tonight challenge

While we’re waiting for the cookbook to be released, go ahead and sign up for our Eat at Home Challenge Facebook group. We already have quite a few members and it’s going to be lots of fun taking this challenge together.

You can find all the details about it on our Eat at Home Challenge page. And by the way, it’s completely free and a fun way to connect with others who are trying to eat more meals gathered around their kitchen tables.

Oh, and daily giveaways are part of the 7-day Challenge! And they’re great items too – like an Instant Pot, a KitchenAid Stand Mixer, a freezer!

Which of the recipes listed above do you think you’ll start with? The Mexican Rice and Beans is my go-to that I’ve made so many times I have it memorized. How about you?

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