Pantry Meals

Salmon Lemon Risotto. Linda Larsen

During the winter, I try to keep my pantry well stocked with staple ingredients so even if I can't get to the store, I can still pull together a hot and hearty meal. Pantry meals are an important part of anyone's budget. And I fall back on old favorites, including one I used to make a lot when I was just married and money was tight: Mac and cheese revved up with some sauteed onion and garlic, and a bit of Dijon mustard.

Try it - it's really good!

When you store these items and keep a list of recipes you can make from them, you will never be caught off guard, whether your teenagers are 'starving' in the middle of a blizzard or you just don't want to venture out in the subzero cold. And while browsing through the foods, you'll come up with more ideas: adding sun dried tomatoes and olives to tomato sauce for pasta; mixing shrimp and canned fruits and their juices with some cooked pasta for a quick salad; grilling a mixture of ground ham, Parmesan cheese, olives, and mayonnaise on some cracked wheat bread. Here's my pantry staples list:

  • canned tomato products, including diced tomatoes, tomato sauce and paste, and pasta sauces
  • an assortment of pastas, including whole wheat pasta and, yes, mac and cheese mix
  • basmati, arborio, long grain brown, and wild rice
  • canned meats, including crab, shrimp, chicken, and ham
  • canned broths and soups
  • potatoes, onions, garlic, cabbage
  • beans and legumes, including canned and dried varieties and mixes
  • dried herbs and spices
  • mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup (unopened)
  • canned fruits, including mandarin oranges, pears, and pineapple
  • canned vegetables, including corn, chilies, green beans, wax beans
  • peanut butter and other nut butters
  • jellies, jams, raisins, dates
  • nuts, including pecans, walnuts, pine nuts
  • olives, sun dried tomatoes, tapenade
  • flavored vinegars, olive oil
  • baking ingredients, including flour, sugar, baking powder, extracts, brown sugar, whole wheat flours, cornmeal, gelatin

If you make your own mixes, you'll have an even better collection of potential recipes on hand. And remember, if you can't find or don't want to buy convenience mixes like beans and pasta, you can substitute an equivalent quantity of pasta or canned beans or both, and use your own herbs and spices.

Look through these recipes for pantry meals, then browse through your local supermarket and your own pantry. You'll come up with many recipes you can make with a well stored pantry; and I feel that's one of the best ways to feel secure in this uncertain world.

Pantry Meals

  • Risotto
    True risotto uses arborio rice, chicken broth, and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. But you can use regular rice and (gasp!) canned Parmesan cheese in this simple and comforting recipe. 
  • Florentine Crab and Bean Soup
    This simple soup tastes so rich and elegant, yet is ready to eat in about 25 minutes.
  • Skillet Spaghetti
    Leave out the meatballs, and this quick and easy skillet main dish recipe is just as delicious.
  • Black Beans and Fusilli
    Dried pasta and canned beans are an unbeatable combination for quick and delicious meals. Use any type of bean and pasta you like in this easy recipe.
  • Cracker Bread Rollups
    These easy and pretty spiral sandwich recipes are made using staple pantry ingredients, all rolled up in cracker bread to make a wrap sandwich.
  • Baked Turkey Sandwiches
    Use canned chicken instead of the turkey, and good old canned Parmesan cheese instead of the Swiss and this recipe can be made with shelf stable ingredients.
  • Beans and Pasta in Clam Sauce
    Canned clams add great flavor to beans and pasta in this delicious recipe.
  • Ham and Rice Skillet Meal
    Just leave out the broccoli if you don't have it, or substitute canned drained green beans. Keep a few very small canned hams on hand for meals like this.
  • Salmon with Fettuccine
    Use bottled Alfredo sauce and canned peas in this delicious recipe. This one is good enough for company!