25 Pantry Staples for Last Minute Meals 6
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25 Pantry Staples for Last Minute Meals

25 Pantry Staples for Last-Minute Meals {keeperofthehome.org}
Image by Larry Hoffman

Guest Post by Kate Tietje

There’s nothing worse than looking at the clock and realizing you need to have dinner on the table, soon. Only you have no idea what to make. (Hmm…pantry staples to the rescue!)

It happens to all of us. Some more often than others!

With some simple pantry staples, though, you’ll never get caught off guard again.  Sure, dinner may not be fancy. But it will be healthy, it will be quick, and it will not require a trip to the grocery store. Plus, it won’t require take-out or pizza delivery, and that’s a huge plus for your health and your wallet!

My family really enjoys eating Italian and Mexican-inspired dishes, as well as all-American comfort food. This list of pantry staples and meal ideas are great for those types of meals!

Best part? The meals or meal ideas with ^ next to them can usually be prepared in 30 minutes or less – exactly what you need when you don’t have a lot of time.

25 Pantry Staples for Last-Minute Meals {keeperofthehome.org}
Image by Lucia Sanchez

Top 25 Pantry Staples

1. Canned (organic) diced tomatoes

Why it’s good: Diced tomatoes are very versatile and can be tossed in almost anything. They also can be pureed for an easy tomato sauce. I always keep them around!

What to make:

  • Toss them in with chicken and Mexican spices for quick chicken tacos^
  • Add basil, onion and garlic for spaghetti sauce^ (add meat and/or veggies too if you like)
  • BLT pasta^
  • Add to sautéed onions and chicken stock for tomato soup^

2. Canned (organic) chick peas

Why it’s good: These are inexpensive and filled with protein. Usually I recommend soaking and cooking your own dry beans, but canned work in a pinch.

What to make:

3. Canned (organic) black beans

Why it’s good: Black beans are a great addition to Mexican food. They can be a side dish or tossed into a dish itself. Plus, they’re nourishing and pretty cheap.

What to make:

4. Spaghetti 

Why it’s good: Spaghetti is really versatile, and it’s cheap and quick to cook. Choose quality spaghetti. I usually pick brown rice pasta, or Einkorn whole wheat pasta. I don’t recommend standard white pasta (not very nourishing).

What to make:

  • Simple pasta and tomato or meat sauce^
  • Break up into bite-sized pieces and add to simple chicken noodle soup^
  • Add a cream sauce, veggies and chicken for a quick tetrazzini bake

5. Brown rice

Why it’s good: Brown rice is a hearty, healthy staple in any pantry. It’s nice to cook up a double portion when you make it so that it’s ready for a second, super quick meal. I like to cook mine with butter and chicken stock.

What to make:

  • Quick stir fry with whatever veggies and meat are in the freezer^
  • Taco salad, with rice, meat, beans, cheese, salsa, lettuce, whatever you have on hand^
  • Baked chicken over rice, one dish meal or even crock pot
  • Add to quick chicken and veggie soup^

6. Anchovies

Why it’s good: Anchovies may seem like an odd thing to include on the list. They’re inexpensive and yet most brands are wild-caught and packed in olive oil, so they’re really nourishing. If you’re bold, put some on a pizza too. I like it with pineapple!

What to make:

7. Tuna (in a can)

Why it’s good: Tuna’s an old favorite. It can be served in casseroles, salads, or straight up on a plate. My kids are partial to that last one. Skipjack tuna is lower in mercury and also pretty cheap, too.

What to make:

8. Salmon (in a can)

Why it’s good: Salmon is full of excellent omega-3 fats, which most of us could use more of. Canned salmon is pretty frugal and really quick to use. My kids like to eat it straight out of the can, but there are lots of more elaborate uses too!

What to make:

9. Whole wheat flour

Why it’s good: A staple in most kitchens, whole wheat flour is a great way to get whole grains into your diet. I prefer to soak mine before baking, or use my sourdough starter. If you remember at breakfast, you can soak any of these recipes first. See more on what soaking is and why we do it, as well as how to do it.

What to make:

10. Coconut flour

Why it’s good: If you’re gluten-free, or committed to using whole wheat flour only when you can soak it first (like me), coconut flour is a nice substitute. This is what I use to bake when I want something really quick (I often pair it with almond flour and arrowroot powder, and it bakes up pretty close to ‘normal’ wheat flour!). Just a warning, if you’re not used to baking with it, it can’t be subbed 1:1 for wheat flour – you need recipes specifically designed to use it.

What to make:

11. Olive oil

Why it’s good: A versatile and healthy oil, olive oil can be used in any salad dressing, plus for cooking (although some believe you should never heat it). It’s full of monounsaturated fats and is a great addition to your pantry.

What to make:

12. Red wine vinegar

Why it’s good: This is my favorite vinegar, personally. Apple cider vinegar is also great, if you prefer it. Get it raw, with the “mother” still in it. Use in all kinds of recipes for a little sour kick!

What to make:

13. Potatoes

Why it’s good: I love potatoes – and I try to always have them around! Despite the bad rap white potatoes have gotten, they’re actually high in potassium and B vitamins and are a great food for some, plus they’re really frugal. We use potatoes in many of our favorite dishes.

What to make:

14. Oats

Why it’s good: Oats are a simple whole grain, and one that many people tolerate well, even if they’re gluten-free. They’re more often used for breakfast, but who says that “brinner” isn’t an option?

What to make:

15. Coconut oil

Why it’s good: Coconut oil is an excellent saturated fat that’s filled with beneficial medium-chain fatty acids (like lauric acid) and which has been shown to boost immunity and promote fat loss. My kids will eat it off a spoon!

What to make:

25 Pantry Staples for Last-Minute Meals {keeperofthehome.org}

10 Spices That Are Pantry Staples

In addition to these 15 excellent pantry items, I like to keep the following spices on hand. That way, my cooking is never boring! I’ve listed them in order of how often I use them.


16. Sea salt

17. Onion powder

18. Basil

19. Garlic powder

20. Chili powder

21. Cumin

22. Parsley

23. Black pepper

24. Turmeric

25. Cinnamon

Other Items to Have on Hand

In addition to pantry staples, I like to keep the following items in my fridge and freezer.

  • Assorted frozen veggies (peas, green peas, green peppers, broccoli, cauliflower)
  • Assorted fresh veggies (onions, garlic, carrots, celery, lettuce, tomatoes)
  • Cheese (cheddar and parmesan or Romano, sometimes mozzarella)
  • Milk
  • Butter
  • Frozen fruit (peaches, pineapples, mixed berries)
  • Yogurt
  • Assorted meat (ground beef and whole chickens, mostly; sometimes bacon and chicken breasts)

Honestly? With just these items I can make almost every meal my family eats on a regular basis. My grocery list is usually pretty simple!

Stocking up

One final (really important) tip: I use a lot of chicken stock, for soups, sauces, gravies, or to cook rice or veggies. I like to have it ready to go at all times, so I keep it in my Crock-Pot.  As I remove stock, I add more water, and I keep it going for a full week. Then I dump out the bones, rinse it out, and start again. I roast a whole chicken once a week so that I always have stock! It’s so simple, and so nourishing.

I do my meal planning and recipe searching on Tradishen, a brand new real food recipe and meal planning site. There are over 500 real food recipes (no compromises) with new ones added each week. Tradishen offers create-your-own meal plans or use pre-designed meal plans (traditional or GF/DF) plus one-touch automatic grocery lists. It’s printer and mobile friendly, so use it anywhere. Revolutionize your kitchen and never wonder “what’s for dinner” again!

What are your top pantry staples and favorite quick meals?

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  1. I love your recipes! I am the kind of person who start to think about lunch or dinner just when I am already starving!
    Which is just terrible when you are trying to eat healthy and homemade food!
    I will keep this in my “help-i’m-starving” folder, hahahahahahaha

  2. This is a great list! I keep all of these on hand, with the exception of the anchovies. Thanks for the meal ideas. They are very helpful as I am in the middle of a Pantry Challenge.

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