Pantry Meals

How to Make a Meal With What You Have


What's in your pantry, fridge and freezer? This collection of pantry-friendly recipes offers ideas and tips on how to make a meal with what you have without a special trip to the grocery or a search for some uncommon ingredient.
So if your pantry includes a can of chickpeas or your fridge a head of cauliflower or your freezer a bag of frozen spinach, here's how you make a meal right now out of what you've got.

How to Make a Meal with What You Have ♥ KitchenParade.com, what's in the fridge, freezer and pantry.

This page is a brand-new addition to my popular series, How to Save Money on Groceries. I'm still adding ingredients, let me know what you'd like to come next! A pound of hamburger? Rice? A pound of beans?

The Right Question: Whaddaya Got?

Six o'clock looms. Everyone's hungry, everybody needs to eat.

Is "What's for dinner?" the right question?

Is "What're we hungry for?" a misguided approach?

The answers are definitely "no" and "yes" – if the goal is to reduce food costs, that is.

For the smart cook who's intent on managing household food expense, the more useful questions are less about choice and instead focus on the reality of the here and now.

So try these questions on for size.


  • What's in the fridge?
  • What's on hand?
  • What have you got?
  • What's to eat without running to to the store?
  • What's there to make at home despite tempting carry-out and drive-throughs?
  • What one thing can inspire a cooked meal, the one thing to build off?

Questions like these put words to a frugal mindset, whether one of practicality or necessity.

Cooking from the pantry means cooking with what you already have.

Right now, in the moment. Today, tomorrow and maybe into next week and next month.

Maybe like now during unprecedented times of health and economic insecurity.

But in more normal times too.


  • Maybe for someone too tired to stop for groceries after work.
  • Maybe for somebody scraping by until the next paycheck.
  • Maybe for a family that's moving and wants to clear out the pantry.
  • Maybe for a minimalist who wants to simplify meal time.

Can pantry meals make memorable feasts? Maybe, maybe not. A feast is not the point.

The point is to cook a meal with What You Have. Making Do. Finding Substitutes. Taking Liberties. Scraping By. Gettin' On With Gettin' On.

With this small, tightly curated collection of recipes from Kitchen Parade and A Veggie Venture, I hope to help.

Goals for This Recipe Collection

I cook from All Recipes by All Ingredient and A Veggie Venture's Alphabet of Vegetables of vegetables every single day.

But this page is different.

It features only the recipes based on our most-loved and most-useful shelf-stable ingredients (think canned vegetables, canned beans, dried pasta, grains and rice, say) and frozen foods (especially frozen vegetables) and a few surprises.

And because fresh vegetables remain not only important in a healthy diet but readily available, I'm also including some fresh vegetables that keep well too.

Here are my goals.

  • Start with pantry & freezer ingredients that easily springboard into an actual meal
  • Offer just a handful of recipes per ingredient, each with relatively few other ingredients
  • Identify the other ingredients to finish the meal, a one-stop look vs paging through recipe after recipe.
  • Think through substitutes, how to identify the purpose of ingredients to guide decisions on omissions and substitutions
  • Soup! Because soup is easy to make, fills you up, keeps well and often freezes well ... and its basis is, well, water, nothing more likely to be easily on hand than water.

What follows are shortlists of recipes that start with a single ingredient, some fresh, some shelf-stable or from the freezer.

Quick Tips for Pantry Cooking

  • THAW MEAT SAFELY Keep a pound of chicken, a pound of hamburger in the freezer. To safely thaw the meat in 60-90 minutes, submerge the package in cold (yes, cold, not hot) water. For up to a couple of hours, the meat can thaw on the counter. But I like to put the bowl of water and meat into the fridge at breakfast, it'll be thawed and ready to cook by dinnertime without risk of the meat getting too warm as it thaws out.
  • STOCK UP When you're shopping, shop for staples with an eye on the future. Instead of buying just one can of dried beans (or frozen broccoli or dried pasta ... etc.), buy three or six or even a case.
  • CHEESE Cheese freezes well, especially dry cheeses like parmesan. I buy big blocks of cheese from warehouse clubs, cut them into pieces, wrap the pieces individually in wax paper to freeze in a large ziplock freezer bag. Block cheeses freeze better than sliced and grated cheese; after freezing, cheese slices may not separate well and grated cheese may turn clumpy.
  • CILANTRO & PARSLEY Bundles of fresh cilantro and parsley can keep for 2-3 weeks. Just keep the bundle intact, trim a little bit off the stems and insert into a drinking glass with a little water. Refresh the water every few days.
  • GREEN ONIONS Fresh green onions keep for 2-3 weeks when treated like fresh flowers, see How To Keep Green Onions Fresh for Weeks.
  • LEMONS & LIMES Freeze whole lemons to use later, one at a time. One will thaw in under an hour on the counter or in 30 seconds in the microwave.
  • SHARE YOUR PANTRY TIPS! I love learning what works for readers and would love to share your best tips so others can benefit from your experience. Just leave a comment or send a quick e-mail via recipes@kitchen-parade.com.



Simple Meals to Make
from
Common Pantry Ingredients

~ Can of Chickpeas ~
~ Frozen Spinach ~
~ One Egg ~
~ Head of Cauliflower ~
~ Bag of Lentils ~
~ Rotisserie Chicken ~
~ Pound of Hamburger ~
~ ~
~ new ingredients added every week ~
~ what should be added next? ~
~ All Recipes by All Ingredient ~
from Kitchen Parade

~ Alphabet of Vegetables ~
from A Veggie Venture, my food blog about vegetables

~ About This Recipe Collection ~



Canned Chickpeas

(assumes salt and pepper are on hand)
    SALAD SUPPER
  • Chicka Chicka Chickpea Lunch
  • chickpeas + lemon + parmesan
  • Quick. Weeknight Easy. High Protein. Vegetarian.

  • SALAD SUPPER
  • Chickpea & Chicken Salad
  • chickpeas + cooked chicken + yogurt + lemon + red pepper + olives
  • Weeknight Easy. Weight Watchers Friendly. High Protein.

  • PASTA DINNER
  • Broccoli Rigatoni with Chickpeas & Lemon
  • chickpeas + pasta + broccoli + lemon + parmesan
  • Weeknight Easy. Bright & Fresh.

  • SALAD SUPPER
  • Warm Butternut Squash & Chickpea Salad with Tahini Dressing
  • chickpeas + roasted squash + lemon + tahini + parsley/cilantro
  • Fresh & Seasonal, Perfect for a Cozy Mid-Winter Dinner. Easy Weeknight Supper. Weight Watchers Friendly. Not just vegan, Vegan Done Real. Naturally Gluten Free. Leftovers Freeze Well.

  • ONE-SKILLET DINNER
  • Chickpeas with Tomatoes, Spinach & Feta
  • chickpeas + tomato paste + canned tomato + chickpeas + feta
  • Vegetarian. Quick Supper. Budget Friendly. Good for Meal Prep.

  • VEGGIE BURGERS
  • Chickpea Cakes with Cucumber-Yogurt Sauce
  • chickpeas + yogurt + egg + bread crumbs + green onion + cilantro + cucumber
  • Fresh Flavors. Easy Weeknight Vegetarian Dinner. Low Fat. High Protein. Weight Watchers Friendly.

  • FLAVOR-PACKED & FLEXIBLE
  • Chipotle Chickpea Salad
  • chickpeas + mayo + lime + chipotle in adobo sauce + tomato + bell pepper + cilantro
  • Rave Reviews! Fresh & Seasonal. A Summer Classic. Great for Meal Prep. Easy Weeknight Supper. Low Carb. Low Fat. Scales from Small Plates to Large Platters. Weight Watchers Friendly. Easily Vegan. Naturally Gluten Free.

  • VEGAN MAKEOVER
  • Vegan Chickpea Gumbo
  • chickpeas + pepper + celery + canned tomato + okra + hot sauce + liquid smoke
  • Fresh & Seasonal. A Cajun Classic. Great for Meal Prep. Low Fat. Weeknight Easy, Weekend Special. Weight Watchers Friendly. Vegan. Easily Gluten Free. Leftovers Freeze Well.

  • WARM COMFORT FOOD
  • Hot & Sour Chickpeas (Chana Masala)
  • chickpeas + ginger + canned tomato + lemon
  • Quick. Easy. Vegan. Leftovers Freeze Well.

  • SANDWICH SPREAD
  • Chunky 'Choke & Chickpea Chow
  • chickpeas + canned artichoke + pickles + bell pepper + celery + capers + mayo + mustard
  • Weight Watchers Friendly. Vegetarian or Easily Vegan. Leftovers Freeze Well.

More Recipes Calling for Chickpeas
~ chickpea recipes ~
from Kitchen Parade

~ chickpea recipes ~
from A Veggie Venture

~ Return to Pantry List ~



FROZEN SPINACH

(assumes cooking oil, onion, salt and pepper are on hand)

    BREAKFAST CASSEROLE
  • Easy Make-Ahead Breakfast Casserole
  • spinach + frozen hash browns + spices + cheese + eggs + salsa
  • A Master Recipe, Specially Suited for Easy Adaptations.

  • BREAKFAST CASSEROLE
  • Bacon & Egg Breakfast Bake
  • spinach + bread + eggs + milk + ketchup + cheese + bacon
  • Make Ahead. Reheats Well.

  • SOUP!
  • Spinach Soup with Perfect Hard-Cooked Eggs
  • spinach + flour + stock + spices + milk
  • Vegetarian. Low Carb. High Protein. One Pot. And Decidedly Delicious.

  • Spinach Soup with Perfect Hard-Cooked Eggs ♥ KitchenParade.com, homemade spinach soup on the table in 30 minutes, including still-warm easy-to-peel hard-cooked eggs.

    EGGS for DINNER
  • Spin Dip Baked Eggs
  • spinach + red pepper + cream cheese + milk + eggs
  • Budget Friendly. One Pot. Weight Watchers Friendly.

  • EASY MEALS
  • Personal Pan Lasagna or Crockpot Lasagna
  • spinach + spices + ricotta + spaghetti sauce + lasagna noodles + cheese

  • QUICK SUPPER
  • Greens & Grits
  • spinach + grits + mushroom + canned tomato + maple syrup + chipotle in adobo sauce
  • Vegan. High Protein. Gluten Free. Weight Watchers Friendly.

  • CHEESY CASSEROLE
  • Turkey Florentine
  • spinach + butter + bouillon cube + other veggies + milk + flour + milk + cheese + cooked turkey or other meat
  • Budget Friendly.

  • BURGER NIGHT
  • Spinach Burgers
  • spinach + ground meat + spices
  • Leftovers Freeze Well. Budget Friendly. Good for Meal Prep.

  • ONE-SKILLET DINNER
  • Chickpeas with Tomatoes, Spinach & Feta
  • spinach + garlic + tomato paste + canned tomato + chickpeas + feta
  • Vegetarian. Quick Supper. Budget Friendly. Good for Meal Prep.

  • MAKE-AHEAD CASSEROLE
  • Creamy Spinach with Artichokes
  • spinach + cream cheese + butter + lemon juice + spices + canned artichokes
  • Good for Meal Prep. Add Cooked Protein for Full Meal.

  • ONE-SKILLET ADAPTABILITY
  • Warm Lentil Salad with Spinach & Goat Cheese
  • spinach + lentils + celery + bell pepper + vinegar + goat cheese
  • Weight Watchers Friendly. Low Fat. High Protein. Gluten Free. Vegetarian. One Pot.

More Recipes Calling for Spinach
Fresh & Frozen

~ spinach recipes ~
from Kitchen Parade

~ spinach recipes ~
from A Veggie Venture

~ Return to Pantry List ~



JUST ONE EGG?!

(assumes cooking oil, salt and pepper are on hand)

    MAKE PANCAKES!
  • Lifetime Pancakes
  • one egg + yogurt + flour + sugar + baking powder + baking soda + cinnamon
  • Scales from Small Batch to Big Batch. Budget Friendly. Leftovers Freeze Well. Skip the Syrup for Savory Pancakes.

  • My Mom's Pancake Recipe
  • one egg + buttermilk or regular milk + flour + sugar + baking powder or baking soda
  • Lots of Pancake Tips. Light and Fluffy.

Make Tonight a Pancake Night ♥ KitchenParade.com. Move over Taco Tuesday and Pizza Friday!
More Pancake Recipes
~ Make Tonight a Pancake Night ~

~ Return to Pantry List ~



Head of Cauliflower

(assumes cooking oil, onion, salt and pepper are on hand)

    SOUP!
  • Quick Cauliflower Soup
  • cauliflower + stock
  • So Few Ingredients, So Good. Budget Friendly. Good for Meal Prep. One Pot. Gluten Free. Weight Watchers Friendly. Low Carb.

  • No-Cream Creamy Cauliflower Soup
  • cauliflower + stock

  • Spicy Cauliflower Soup
  • cauliflower + carrot + spices + stock

  • COMFORT FOOD
  • One-Skillet Cauliflower Casserole with Cheese Sauce
  • cauliflower + milk + flour + mustard + cheese + bread crumbs
  • Budget Friendly. Good for Meal Prep. One Pot. Vegetarian. Weight Watchers Friendly. Low Carb.

  • One-Skillet Cauilflower with Cheese Sauce, a healthy cauliflower casserole ♥ AVeggieVenture.com. Weeknight Easy, Holiday Special. Budget Friendly. Quick to Make. Low Carb. Weight Watchers Friendly. Vegetarian.

    LOW-CARB RISOTTO
  • Cauliflower Risotto
  • cauliflower + leek + stock + bacon + cheese
  • Budget Friendly. Good for Meal Prep. One Pot Meal. Gluten Free. Weight Watchers Friendly. High Protein. Almost Low Carb.

  • JUST ADD PROTEIN
  • Cauliflower Spanish "Rice"
  • cauliflower + bell pepper + garlic + canned tomato
  • Budget Friendly. Good for Meal Prep. One Pot. Vegetarian. Gluten Free. Weight Watchers Friendly. Low Carb.

Still More Recipes Calling for Cauliflower
~ more cauliflower recipes ~
from Kitchen Parade

~ more cauliflower recipes ~
from A Veggie Venture

~ Return to Pantry List ~



A Bag of Lentils

(assumes cooking oil, onion, salt and pepper are on hand)

    CONCEPT RECIPE
  • Lentil Skillet Suppers
  • red or black lentils + pepper + ginger + cilantro + spices + shrimp or tofu
  • Fast & Flexible. Budget Friendly. Good for Meal Prep. One Pot. Vegetarian. Gluten Free. Weight Watchers Friendly. High Protein.

  • CONCEPT RECIPE
  • Veggie Burritos with Cilantro Sauce
  • lentils + jalapeño + potato + tomato + spinach + lime or lemon + cilantro + spices + tortillas
  • Budget Friendly. Good for Meal Prep. One Pot. Vegetarian. Weight Watchers Friendly. High Protein.

  • GIANT POT OF SOUP
  • Homemade Lentil Soup
  • lentils + garlic + celery + carrot + spices + canned tomato + ketchup + sherry
  • Leftovers Freeze Well. Budget Friendly. Good for Meal Prep. One Pot. Vegan. Gluten Free. Weight Watchers Friendly. High Protein.

  • SET IT & GO
  • Slow Cooker Vegetarian Lentil Sloppy Joes
  • lentils + canned tomato + tomato paste + bell pepper + vinegar + garlic + spices
  • Smells So Good! Budget Friendly. Good for Meal Prep. One Pot. Vegetarian. Gluten Free. Weight Watchers Friendly.

  • SINGLE SKILLET
  • Lentil, Pepper & Spinach Supper with Crispy Tofu & Indian Spices
  • lentils + bell pepper + garlic + ginger + spinach + spices + tofu
  • Budget Friendly. Good for Meal Prep. One Pot. Vegan. Gluten Free. Weight Watchers Friendly. High Protein.

  • ONE-SKILLET ADAPTABILITY
  • Warm Lentil Salad with Spinach & Goat Cheese
  • lentils + celery + bell pepper + vinegar + goat cheese + spinach
  • Weight Watchers Friendly. Low Fat. High Protein. Gluten Free. Vegetarian. One Pot.

  • JUST ADD PROTEIN or ROASTED VEGETABLES
  • Best-Ever Lentil Salad
  • lentils + carrots + turnip + garlic + mustard + vinegar + olive oil
  • Budget Friendly. Good for Meal Prep. One Pot. Gluten Free. Weight Watchers Friendly. Low Carb.

  • Best-Ever Lentil Salad with an unusual cooking technique ♥ A Veggie Venture

    STOVETOP or SLOW COOKER
  • Sweet Potato Curry with Red Lentils, Roasted Peppers & Spinach
  • lentils + garlic + curry paste + sweet potatoes + tomato sauce + roasted red pepper + spinach
  • Budget Friendly. One Pot. Vegan. Gluten Free. Weight Watchers Friendly. High Protein.

  • MEATLESS MONDAY
  • Falafel Burgers (Lentil Burgers)
  • lentils + oatmeal + garlic + egg + spices + yogurt + mint
  • Budget Friendly. Good for Meal Prep. Vegetarian. Gluten Free. Weight Watchers Friendly. High Protein.

More Recipes Calling for Lentils
~ more lentil recipes ~
from Kitchen Parade

~ more lentil recipes
from A Veggie Venture

~ Return to Pantry List ~



Rotisserie Chicken

(assumes cooking oil, onion, garlic, salt and pepper, common herbs & spices, vinegar are on hand)

    SOUP
  • My Chicken Noodle Soup
  • chicken + stock + thyme + carrots + celery + pasta
  • Budget Friendly. Family Friendly. Good for Meal Prep. One Pot. Weight Watchers Friendly. Low Carb. High Protein.

  • MAKE STOCK!
  • No-Big-Deal Homemade Chicken Stock Don't toss that carcass.
  • chicken carcass + water + time + that's really it
  • Budget Friendly, Basically Free. Freezes Well. Good for Meal Prep. One Pot.

  • CASUAL SUPPER
  • Chicken Nachos with Homemade Pickled JalapeƱo Rings
  • chicken + jalapeƱos + bell peppers + canned beans + lime + spices + tortilla chips + nacho toppings
  • Budget-Friendly Party Food. Weeknight Easy, Weekend Special. High Protein.

  • Chicken Nachos ♥ KitchenParade.com, quick 'n' easy with rotisserie chicken, black beans, grilled peppers, jalapeños, cheddar and more.

    COMFORT FOOD
  • Easy Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas
  • chicken + canned chiles + bell pepper + corn + cheese + flour tortillas + yogurt + salsa verde + spices + tomato + cilantro
  • Hot Food, Fast. Budget Friendly. High Protein.

  • CHILI!
  • White Chicken Chili
  • chicken + poblano + bell pepper + canned chiles + white beans + corn + milk + sour cream + tabasco
  • Fresh & Seasonal. Hearty & Filling. One Pot. Weight Watchers Friendly. High Protein.

  • SALAD SUPPER
  • Chicken Greek Salad
  • chicken + lemon + cucumber + tomato + olives + spices + lettuce + feta
  • Fresh & Seasonal. Budget Friendly. Gluten Free. Weight Watchers Friendly. High Protein. Low Carb.

More Recipes Calling for Rotisserie Chicken
~ more chicken recipes ~
from Kitchen Parade

~ Return to Pantry List ~

About This Recipe Collection

I'm not a child of the Depression but I am the child of a child of the Depression. My mom's father was ill for many years from World War I mustard gas poisoning and died young, leaving a 35-year old widow with three children and a small military pension. They were poor and for some while, lived in an apartment in the North End of Winnipeg so small, so derelict, years later my mom and her siblings still called it The Hole.

Family situations rub off and get transferred to the next generation. I'm not the scrimper nor saver my mother was by a long shot and I am privileged to never – yet – have been truly hungry.

But I do know that when you're cooking from the pantry, you don't start with a recipe or even worse, those eye-crossing lists of 67 pantry-friendly recipes that are popping up now.

Instead, you start with what you have and go from there.

And frankly, even during good times, this is how I cook every day. I start with ingredients, usually what we already have on hand or often what's in season or what we might be hungry for. It's why I painstakingly hand-code these two index pages, so that other cooks can easily find just the right recipe starting with a single ingredient.



These recipes are collected for my multi-part series
~ How to Save Money on Groceries ~

How to Make a Meal with What You Have ♥ KitchenParade.com, what's in the fridge, freezer and pantry.

Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Quick Suppers are Kitchen Parade favorites and feature recipes easy on the budget, the clock, the waistline and the dishwasher. Do you have a favorite recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail via recipes@kitchen-parade.com. How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. Never miss a recipe! If you like this recipe, sign up for a free e-mail subscription. If you like Kitchen Parade, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. If you make this recipe, I'd love to know your results! Just leave a comment below.

© Copyright Kitchen Parade
2020

Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.

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