Easy Meal Ideas From The Pantry

Whether we're sheltering in place, locked down, or simply avoiding people, most of us are now cooking at home.

If you're in a quandary on what to make, I've put together a few ideas for meals that you can make from ingredients most of us have in our pantries and freezers.

  • Oatmeal, but not just any oatmeal. Splurge on steel cut oats. It's really head and shoulders above the other mush.
  • Pancakes/Waffles: Check out my easy recipe for pancakes from scratch.
  • Omelette: Get creative with eggs. Since we can't run to the store like before, we can't afford to waste food. You can make something as simple as a cheese omelette to something more filling like ham and cheese, spinach, mushroom, asparagus, or sausage. I snip a few veggies of whatever is in the garden, or use up the last of the sliced ham or sausage. Add a little cheese and you're instantly sainted by your family.
  • Toast/English muffins/Bagels: Don't feel you have to go all out every morning. It's okay to serve everyone some toast with jelly, butter, or cream cheese.
  • French toast: Has your bread gone stale? Turn it into French toast.
  • Fruit: Produce bins are one of the few things that are rarely emptied. Don't ask me why. Take advantage and stock up.
  • Breakfast burritos: Scramble eggs and spicy ground beef or sausage, add jalapenos (if you like it spicy) stuff a tortilla and sprinkle with shredded cheese. Fold tightly then grill it in a hot oiled skillet.
If you're cooking for a brood, don't make it complicated. Simple is best.
  • Grilled cheese sandwiches
  • Macaroni and cheese
  • Ham sandwiches
  • Avocado sandwiches
  • Bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwiches
  • Chili
  • Soup for two: Take 32 ounces of chicken broth (homemade is best), add chopped spinach, kale, or chard, one can of Great Northern beans, and season to taste. I made this the other day and there wasn't a drop leftover.
  • Extra poor? Take ramen noodles, add thinly sliced chicken, beef or pork and simmer until cooked. Add scallions, bok choy (any green or cabbage), and a dash of lemon or hot pepper sauce.
  • Bean burritos: This one is totally easy. Open a can of refried beans, heat, and slather it in a hot tortilla. Top with cheese and fold tightly.

  • Chicken hot wings
  • Sausage and pepper casserole
  • Frozen pizza (No one says you can't take shortcuts.)
  • Skillet supper: Super simple: Take one pound of ground beef, cook and season. Add 12-16 ounces of pasta shells, a can of crushed tomatoes and sauce, or just use a jar of spaghetti sauce. Season, then simmer until pasta is al dente.
  • Baked fish
  • Mexican lasagna
  • Spaghetti with traditional tomato sauce, or jazz it up with garlic butter and shrimp. Yum!
  • Burgers
  • Hot dogs
  • Tacos
  • Fajitas
  • Steak and country fries
If it's time to restock your larder take advantage of canned and frozen goods. You can make a lot of meals with what's on hand.

For the freezer buy:
  • Ground beef
  • Whole chicken, wings, or thighs
  • Fish
  • Pot roast
  • Pizza
  • Frozen veggies
  • Frozen fruit
  • Sausage 
  • Ham (buy the whole ham and slice to fit meal-sized containers)
For the pantry buy:
  • Flour
  • Baking powder
  • Sugar
  • Peanut butter
  • Salt
  • Pasta (noodles and shells) 
  • Rice
  • Ramen
  • Oatmeal
  • Potatoes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Canned tomatoes
  • Pasta sauce
  • Canned beans
  • Canned corn
  • Canned salmon
  • Canned tuna 
  • Canned soup
  • Sardines
  • Bread
  • Garlic 
  • Onions
  • Salsa
  • Snacks (candy, popcorn, chips, cookies, nuts, and dried fruit)

For the refrigerator buy:
  • Tortillas
  • Cheese (shredded and sliced)
  • Lettuce
  • Tomatoes
  • Squash 
  • Carrots
  • Apples
  • Avocados
  • Milk (or powdered milk)
With these options you can make any of the meals above and much more.

And now for a little round table discussion while we're sequestered. What are you doing while in isolation? Do you have to go in to work? What seems different to you now?

I notice I'm more likely to strike up conversations with my neighbors when they go past our property on their walks. I read a lot more. Greg and I have longer conversations. Oh, and I'm much more careful if I do anything where I might hurt myself. I don't want to take the chance of having to need a doctor.

Currently, I've been fighting a sore throat for weeks. Pollen-induced, mostly. But it's been making me ill-tempered to feel so achy. I called my doctor today and she prescribed some antibiotics. Dear husband is fetching it now.

So tell me how it is in your neighborhood? Do you see anyone out and about? Are you longing for conversation from someone who's not living in your house? What do you like best about the "new normal"?


Jackie said…
Maria in this our "new normal" at least locally stores have recovered pretty well. They have finally gotten smart and instituted limits on certain items so more of us can actually get what we want and need when in store shopping. I will see how this translates to what we get this weekend with my online HEB order once Karl gets it picked up on Saturday the 4th.

We are still having him have to show up for work every day but he has been coming home before 2pm pretty much solid for past week as only a few people are coming in to the offices at present.

Our pantry is well stocked for now but we will see how that works out over time if this stretches out longer than end of April as the official notices from President have stated.

As for wanting to speak to someone other than those in our household my only recourse is the computer as my offline friends seem to have abandoned talking on the phone these days especially.

I will say the biggest differences is that our road construction is still ongoing, albeit with a very reduced crew for the past week. The stores Karl has been to are doing the same thing as well working only a few registers at once and most everyone else is either stocking or entrance+exit greeters/sanitizers for the customers who come in to shop.

Traffic going past our house has slowed way down too.
Maria Zannini said…
Jackie: We're seeing more walkers, but not the usual athletes. It's just neighbors walking as families.

It'll be another week before we need to go out. I'm keeping a running list of groceries that are running low. I stocked up on bread and veggies two weeks ago, but now that supply has dwindled. I've resorted to substituting this for that.

The garden is going and I still have greens from last year, but it'll be a couple of months before I see tomatoes.

We'll make one more run in a week or so to last us until the end of April, knowing we take a chance every time we go out.

Interesting times.
Jackie said…
Maria, sounds like your plans are in place and all is going according to that plan so far.

Karl finally planted a small garden area again this year. His onions have been giving us some good greens for meals and the cabbage is growing small heads so far. The okra was just planted this past week very late in an afternoon while he was home and over the weekend he got in some lemon cucumber seeds that I wanted to try this year.

I am excited to watch it all grow and even more excited to be able to eat what he planted when Karl harvests thing as they make.

The wonderful thing is he also finally planted me 4 rose bushes in February, one of which has 2 blooms growing already!

Be safe and stay well, both of you.
Maria Zannini said…
Thanks, Jackie.

I'm going to try that lemon cucumber too. Let me know how yours turn out.

I'm also going to try growing onions again. Mine never bulb enough. This time I'm start with seeds and not sets. It's the only vegetable I'd hate to live without.
Stacy McKitrick said…
Lots of homes in our neighborhood. I don't go out much (the weather has been kind of crappy), but I see some people in their backyards and walking their dogs. I haven't gone out since the 24th, and that was just to the bank (drive through). We send our daughter out for shopping or takeout, but we don't even do takeout all that often now.

I miss seeing my son (he used to come over every Wednesday evening, but put a stop to that for now) and we'll miss spending Easter with our friends in Columbus. I'm not going stir-crazy at home though. I'm used to it. I think Hubby is starting to get used to it, too. At least the working from home part. Totally not working would be a problem for him.

I don't cook elaborate like you do (and yes, your stuff is elaborate to me), but we're not starving. Since we don't eat out as much, I'm hoping we lose some weight! Haha!
the author said…
Life is really not that much different for us, with the exception of now having our groceries delivered, and skipping our visits to our kids and going out now and then for a restaurant meal. Our county is under a state of emergency right now, we're both high-risk, and we have a confirmed case of the virus in our immediate neighborhood, so we are having zero contact with other people.

We still see some of our neighbors when we go out for a walk, but we're all maintaining the proper distance and waving to each other rather than stopping and talking. I work from home normally so there's no change with that.

It's always pretty quiet here, but now the roads have become almost completely empty. We take long drives once a week (we don't get out of the truck) and the whole area around here is the same.

My guy is suffering a little because (unlike me) he's a very friendly, social person. He really has no one but me to talk to now, and I'm usually working. I'm trying to spend a little more time with him every day on my breaks, and I encourage him to call the kids and our nephew to chat.

For me the worry has been health problems, too, so I'm being careful, and watching my diet closely. I also watch my guy and check on him when he's working outdoors. Last thing we need is a trip to the ER.

I like the peace and quiet the most. I'm happiest at home so this is no hardship for me. I just hate the misinformation, the politics, and seeing our first responders and medical professionals have to resort to desperate measures simply to do their jobs.

Maria Zannini said…
Lynn: Other than the fact I'm out of orange juice and fresh tomatoes I don't mind this isolation too much either. Still fighting this sore throat, but the antibiotics are starting to make me feel better. Maybe in a couple of days I can get back out in the garden.

It's scary to go anywhere public right now. I think that's why my doc sent in the script for the antibiotics without insisting I see her. Good for us both.

We have one confirmed case in our county--fairly close to us too, but of course we don't know exactly where or who.

We'll need to make a run for supplies soon, but that'll be it for a month. I don't really want to be around people until the danger is over.

Take care, hon.
Maria Zannini said…
Stacy: The one good thing about this isolation is that I think because we're not eating out, our health has improved. Hubby sugar is getting better and I think I've lost weight.

I'm sorry you can't see your son, but at least you know he's safe and nearby if you need him.

Stay safe.
Gwen Gardner said…
It's funny you mention trying to stay healthy so you don't have to go to the doctor. I've had that same thought myself. The doctors and hospitals are overwhelmed right now, not to mention germy. My niece works for the children's hospital here. Every night when she gets home she has to strip on the patio while the fiance puts her clothes straight into the washer, then she dashes straight to the bathroom for a shower. They have different masks, one for regular patients and an upgraded one for those suspected of having the coronavirus. These are scary times.
LD Masterson said…
You already know we're in hibernation mode and, I'll admit, getting a little stir crazy. But we're enjoying getting to know little Mandy as she gets comfortable enough to let her personality show.

There are lots of people out walking when the weather's decent. We've had a couple days that teased us with spring but we're not quite there yet. Another week or two and I expect to hear lawnmowers and smell dinner cooking on people's grills. Even if we can't socialize, that will make things seem more normal.

What did you name the new baby goat (forgot to ask)?
Maria Zannini said…
Gwen: A virus is so easy to catch. We don't need to help it.

God bless your niece and keep her safe. She is the face of a hero.
Maria Zannini said…
Linda: We didn't name the baby. My thought was to sell him in a few months, but who knows what will happen by then. We seem to live day by day.
Mike Keyton said…
The new normal: A little less time for writing because Bernadette has been forced to curtail her outdoor activities.
Three miles brisk walking in the countryside, skirting the occasional stranger to maintain the six foot distance - a delicate quadrille with a smile.
Eating a little less because we're both determined on losing a stone.
Ref housework, apart from cleaning out some kitchen cupboards, housework has taken a back seat with the new rhythm.
And before I forget, I hope your throat's better, Maria
Maria Zannini said…
Mike: Good for you on your 3 mile walk!

re: throat
Antibiotics did the trick. Spring is in full bloom though so I imagine it'll bother me for a few more weeks. Thanks for asking.