“There’s nothing to eat.”
The four most annoying words uttered by husbands and children… and sometimes mom (though we always say it in our heads and never out loud, right?). There’s NOTHING. to. eat.
And so those words are usually followed by the rustling of takeout menus and the husband asking “what do you feel like tonight?” And those actions are usually followed by a bill for $25.98 and the realization that if you do this just twice per week you’ve lost over $200 per month on absolutely nothing tangible. Yikes.
Good thing I learned how to stock the perfect pantry a long time ago. If you’re a decent cook, and have a few versatile ingredients on hand, you can always nip the takeout craving in the bud – and make a healthy, delicious, home cooked meal before the delivery man arrives.
In addition to easy recipes, Life Made Delicious offers a plethora of valuable tips, including a list of what you need for last minute meals. Here’s what they suggest:
In Your Pantry
Bread (buns, loaves, pitas and Old El Paso tortillas)
Bread crumbs (for stuffing and breading fish)
Canned meats (chicken, salmon, tuna)
Pasta sauce (Alfredo and spaghetti)
Canned broth (beef, chicken and vegetables)
Soup (canned or dry)
Pickles and olives
Ketchup, mustard and mayo
Salsa and chips
Soy and marinating sauces
Vegetable oil (canola and olive)
In Your Spice Rack
At a minimum: garlic powder, basil, oregano, thyme, curry, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, bay leaves, chili flakes
In Your Fridge
Cheese, such as cheddar, cottage, Monterey Jack, mozzarella, Parmesan
Packaged salad greens
Butter or margarine
In Your Freezer
Ground beef or turkey
Chicken (boneless skinless breasts)
Ice cream or frozen yogurt
Fruit juice concentrate (lemonade and orange)
Green Giant vegetables
Berries (for smoothies and desserts)
While the list provides a very good baseline for meals in a hurry, I’d like to add a few of my own favourites:
Chopped, Frozen Herbs: Found in your supermarket – often in a mini-ice cube format – you can simply pop them into sauces, stews and stir-frys for an instant flavour boost. While the pungency of the herb will be less intense than fresh, you’ll still enjoy eons more flavour over dried varieties. We always have chopped basil and ginger in our freezer.
Coconut Milk: Inexpensive, canned coconut milk is the basis for many Vietnamese, Thai and Indian curries. Combined with meat, vegetables and a few spices, you can take your meal from drab to fab in minutes. I make a lovely Vegetarian Korma which uses pantry-staples and requires almost no effort.
Frozen Meatballs: Either homemade or store-bought, frozen meatballs save us whenever we’re craving Italian but want food in a jiffy. Simply whip up a quick tomato sauce, drop in the frozen meatballs to heat through, and by the time your pasta is cooked you’ll have a hearty, delicious meal.
Bottled Cooking Sauces: I love having a variety on hand because they allow me to cheat – Japanese Teriyaki, Indian Vindaloo, Chinese Sweet & Sour – even Portugese Piri Piri, Jamaican Jerk, Moroccan Tagine and more! Simply douse stir-fried chicken, beef, shrimp or vegetables liberally with the sauce and serve over a bed of rice or noodles. Easy peasy!
Garlic & Onions: Um, hello! I put garlic and onions in everything. You should always them on hand. They make everything taste better, I promise.
Do you have any pantry staples or tips you’d love to share? Do tell!
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