Do you find yourself running to the grocery store two (or more) times a week for food? Do you wish you could just shop once a week, or maybe even once every two weeks or more, and yet still have plenty of food on hand for meals and snacks?
Here’s two things that can help with that:
- meal planning
- having a well stocked pantry
I like to keep a pretty well stocked pantry, so that it can help cover any gaps between grocery shopping trips. The good thing with unopened pantry items is that many have a long shelf life, so if you find yourself in a pinch, you’ll have things on hand to eat.
Many of these items require refrigeration after opened.
So here’s a list of 10 of my favorite pantry essentials that I find super helpful to keep available:
1. Canned Chicken Breast
I buy good quality canned chicken breast, and keep it on hand to use in a pinch when I’m in a hurry, and may not have time to cook up some chicken breasts.
Here are some recipes I’ve used it in before that turned out well.
Chicken Noodle Soup Casserole
A couple of tips on using canned chicken as a substitute for fresh chicken breast: don’t use if a can is dented or bulging, just to be on the safe side. Also, always drain the liquid out of the canned chicken before using it in your recipe, so you won’t throw off the liquid balance. Finally, if you’d like to cut down on some of the sodium, you can rinse it and drain it again (sometimes I do, and sometimes I don’t), and also look for a quality product, not the bargain basement brand.
2. Canned Soup and Chili
If one of your dinners get burned or otherwise tanks, 😛 it’s a quick job to open and warm up soup or chili, add some crackers and fruit, and you have an easy meal. Now I wouldn’t eat this all the time, but everything in moderation, right! I also frequently use turkey chili as a topping for hot dogs or a dip for tortilla chips.3. Salsa and Tortilla Chips
3. Salsa and Chips
is great to have on hand, either for dipping tortilla chips in, or flavoring up soups, burritos, baked potatoes, nachos or chicken breast. If you have unexpected company and need a snack, or to beef up a less than filling dinner, open up some salsa and chips and it’s a party! 🙂
If you need a quick snack, appetizer, or run out of bread, it’s simple and filling to top crackers with cheese, peanut butter or almond butter, or for something even more substantial, chicken or tuna salad.
Yummy Chicken Salad Recipe: Pesto and Sun-dried Tomato Chicken Salad
Tortillas are great because if you run out of bread, most sandwich toppings work just as well in a tortilla. Also if you have some leftover meat from a meal, re-purpose the leftovers in a tortilla with some cheese, or make quesadillas for a quick dinner or snack. If you want to keep them in the pantry, make sure you don’t buy the ones that need refrigeration until after they’re opened.
Here are a few of my favorite recipes using tortillas: Crispy Bean Burritos (Taquitos)
Beans are such an inexpensive and versatile protein choice, and canned beans are so convenient! You can toss them in a soup, dip, or salad, or add them to quesadillas, burritos or tacos. Because they’re so cheap, they’re a key ingredient in my $57 Week of Meals for 4 post.
Some of my favorite recipes with beans: 20 Minute Taco Soup
7. Canned Fruit
Back when my parents lived close, we had Sunday dinners at their house with my siblings and their families. Every family dinner included an “appetizer” of a simple fruit salad that my mom would make, and it was always a favorite. She mixed canned pineapple, mandarin oranges, and peaches with whatever fresh fruit she had on hand, like strawberries, grapes, blueberries, bananas and kiwi. The juices from the canned fruit helps keep the other fruits fresher and moist.
I like having canned fruit on hand obviously because of the shelf life, and also for when I’m running low on fruit or vegetables for snacks, or to add to meals, I can substitute canned fruit or make up a fruit salad.
I like to plan out my dinners each week, but I don’t always plan specific sides. I tend to keep a variety of starches, and fresh and frozen vegetables on hand, to add to whatever meat or main dish I fix. Because rice can be doctored up so many different ways, it’s a valuable staple to keep stocked.
Here’s a yummy looking recipe for Cilantro Lime Cauliflower Rice by Pancake Warriors from our Think Tank Thursday party.
Rice is also perfect to “beef” up soups and casseroles! Chicken, Black Bean & Salsa Soup
9. Boxed Potatoes
Usually by the time dinner rolls around, I’m a bit tuckered out and don’t always (almost never) want to peel potatoes. Because of this, my family has tried our share of boxed potatoes, and we’ve found our favorite: Idahoan Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes. They also make a reduced sodium version so I don’t feel as bad grabbing them when I need a quick side dish.
Tuna in the pouches or cans are super handy for a quick tuna salad at lunch. It also makes yummy tuna cakes, pot pie or casseroles.
Sometimes I make cute individual servings!
So there you have it, 10 of my essential pantry staples. I’m sure I could easily come up with 10 more, but maybe next time. 🙂