There are many scenarios in which you may also find yourself needing to “shop” your pantry to come up with a meal plan or dinner ideas.
-need to make your budget stretch
-are stuck at home sick
-trying to do a no-spend month
-need to rotate through your current stock
-are a new mom who doesn’t want to get out of the house
-are recovering from surgery
-planning for imminent zombie attack
-are quarantining from a worldwide pandemic 😉
You get the point. The unexpected could happen anytime.
Take Inventory of What You Have
Our family typically comes up with a 14-day meal plan that coincides with payday. Whenever I sit down to come up with a new meal plan for that period, I ALWAYS shop my fridge, freezer, and pantry first.
If you have fresh food in your fridge, obviously use that first. Come up with a few meals you can make with those fresh ingredients.
First, take inventory of what you have in your pantry. If you need some help on WHAT you should be stocking, here’s a list of our regulars. Click the image to grab your free printable download.
Either print out the list, or grab some pen and paper and write down ingredients you have (and how much).
Once you have a handle on what you have in your pantry, fridge, and freezer, make a list of the meals you COULD make with these ingredients.
If you’re struggling with creativity (not all of us watch Chopped! regularly 😉), Lindsey told us about Supercook. Simply input the ingredients you have, and it shows you tons of results.
Of course there’s Pinterest. (Check out our Pantry Meals board here.)
Once you have a solid list of meals you could make, put stars by the meals that should be used first. The fresher the ingredients, the quicker they should be used. If you have browning bananas, freeze them or make simple muffins or banana bread.
If you have fruits and/or veggies on the verge of spoiling, use them or freeze them.
Cereal (dry if necessary)
These little oat bites are one of our favorite snacks. They combine all your favorite trail mix fixins’ in one cute little grab-and-go oat package. Easily customizable and a fun activity for kids to help with. (If you’re stuck inside for daaaayyys) 😊
-Chips & Salsa
-Peanut butter & crackers
-no sugar added canned fruit
Dinners to make from pantry ingredients
Our family typically has anywhere from 1/8 of a grassfed cow in the freezer to at least 4-5 pounds of beef, a couple pounds of poultry, and maybe some clearanced organic hot dogs or chicken sausage from Aldi. Not everyone freezes meat, and you may not have access to a ton of meat when you need to meal plan from your pantry.
These dinners will primarily be vegetarian or vegan, since most of these pantry ingredients fit those categories naturally.
You can sub out different varieties of beans, rice, etc. Pinterest is a great tool to use if you have an abundance of an ingredient that you don’t know how to use in a variety of ways. We’ll highlight a few popular pantry ingredients and run through some easy dinner ideas for each.
Pasta can be made with:
- marinara sauce
- olive oil
- jarred alfredo sauce
- butter and garlic
- jarred red peppers/artichokes/olives/capers/etc.
Another awesome pasta recipe: Sesame Noodles (Gimme Some Oven)
Chickpeas/Garbanzo beans Dinner Ideas
- Chickpea Cakes (Healthy Recipes Blogs)
- Chickpea Nuggets (The Kitchn)
- Greek Chickpeas and Lemon Rice (Olive Tomato)
- Instant Pot Moroccan Chickpea Stew (Recipes from a Pantry)
- Black beans and rice (Dinner at the Zoo)
- Taco Soup (Canned beans, canned tomatoes, canned corn, broth, spices)
- Black Bean Burgers
- Black bean soup
- Lentil Soup
- Red Lentil Curry (A Spicy Perspective)
- Red Curry Lentils (Pinch of Yum)
- Lentil Tacos (Running on Real Food)
- Lentil Loaf (Nora Cooks)
- Quinoa Vegetable Soup (Cookie and Kate)
- 5-Ingredient Garlic Quinoa (Simply Quinoa)
- White Bean Quinoa Chili (Rainbow Plant Life)
- Garlic mushroom rice (Jarred/canned mushrooms, garlic powder, white or brown rice)
- Stir-fried Rice (Canned pineapple, rice, soy sauce, canned/frozen veggies if you don’t have fresh available)
Other Pantry Staples Recipes
- Salmon Patties
- Beans & Cornbread
- Tomato Soup
- Peanut butter sandwiches
- Chicken salad (canned chicken)
- Tuna Patties
- Tuna Noodle Casserole
Some modifications you could make include using onion powder/garlic powder etc. if you don’t have fresh ingredients. Use oil for butter where it makes sense. The flavors may be slightly affected, but there are times where you have to make do with what you have.
Eggs are something you may or not have on hand at all times. There are definitely times I need an egg for a recipe and I’m out. Luckily there are several options for egg replacements in recipes. Lindsey’s family is gluten-free, so they typically have some type of egg replacer product in their pantry. If you don’t, here are some ways to substitute.
- 1/4 cup applesauce
- ¼ mashed banana or pumpkin
- 1 Tablespoon of chia seeds mixed with 3 Tablespoons of water (let it rest 10-15 minutes)
- ¼ cup buttermilk
- 1 Tablespoon of flaxseeds mixed with 3 Tablespoons of water (let it rest 10-15 minutes)
- 1 tsp baking soda mixed with 1 Tablespoon of vinegar
- 2 Tablespoons of arrowroot powder mixed with 3 Tablespoons of water
- 3 Tablespoons of aquafaba (the liquid your canned beans come in)
We hope this guide to meal planning from your pantry helps you get through those times where using what you have is essential. Don’t forget to pin it for later so you can reference this post in the future!