Do you have a plan for the items in your pantry? You know the cans of beans and tuna and broth? Is it for an emergency? Is it for some rare holiday dish you thought you’d make yesterday but didn’t? Maybe you’re realizing your pantry items are even coming up on their expiration dates. They have long shelf lives, but it turns out that you were able to wait even longer to use them. It’s okay, it happens to the best of us. But throwing away food is a huge shame, and it’s something Americans do big time. To be specific, we throw away around 80 billion pounds of food each year.
You can do your part in addressing the problem of food waste by finding ways to use the pantry foods collecting dust in your kitchen. It can be pretty rewarding to find new ways to use items you always keep on hand, anyway. Next time you’re in a hurry, look in your near-empty fridge and say “We have no food,” you’ll realize that you’re wrong. And you’ll know how to whip up a decent meal from your pantry staples.
Jarred mushrooms + quinoa + creamy soup
Want to take some of the work out of making risotto? Grab your jar or can of mushrooms, cut them up finely. Cook up your quinoa (or other dry whole grain like brown rice or millet). Combine your cooked grains with your mushrooms and mix in a creamy canned soup. Cream of mushroom is obviously ideal, but creamy potato or corn chowder also works.
Canned beans + corn + green chiles
If you have canned black beans, canned corn, and canned green chiles, you can make a hearty, zesty, and filling soup. Add a bit of tomato sauce and a bit of broth (chicken, veggie, or beef is fine) to create its base. Sprinkle cheddar cheese and green onions on top, and enjoy it with some tortilla chips or your preferred toast.
Oatmeal + ground meat
If you want to make meatballs but don’t have breadcrumbs on hand, dried oatmeal can do the trick. Combine it with your meat, an egg, and your preferred spices, and it will add nice bulk while acting as a binding agent for your meatballs. It’s best with light meats like ground chicken or turkey and works great for chicken meatballs in marinara sauce (which you probably also have in your pantry).
Black beans + quinoa
If you have a can of black beans and some quinoa, you can make some very satisfying black bean burgers that will offer complete protein as well as plenty of fiber. Mash up your pre-cooked canned beans in a bowl with your cooked quinoa (ratio of about three to one on beans and quinoa), add your favorite seasoning, and grill. If you need a binding agent and don’t want to use an egg, you can combine two tablespoons of water with one tablespoon of vegetable oil and two teaspoons of baking powder to replace one egg.
Ramen + broth+ canned veggies
If you overdid it on the dried ramen and don’t want to eat it plain like you did in college, you can spice it up with the items in your pantry. Grab whatever canned veggies you have – corn, carrots, peas – and add them to your ramen with whatever broth you have (veggie, beef, or chicken). Crack an egg on top and add chives, and it’s like you’re at a ramen restaurant.
Tuscan beans + broth + canned veggies
Tuscan beans (or white beans) are those things we all buy, not knowing what we’ll do with them. We just see them on menus at Italian restaurants, and vow to use them someday. Take your can of Tuscan beans and add them to some warmed up broth with canned veggies. You have Tuscan bean soup. Add chopped tomatoes, fresh greens, parmesan cheese, and toast to make it a meal.
Any creamy soup + fixings
If your canned soup, from your broccoli cheddar to your potato soup to your cream of mushroom to your clam chowder isn’t looking appealing, just look to your fridge to see what you can add. Toss green onions, fried onions, cheddar cheese, bacon bits, fried pancetta, and/or hot sauce on that soup and pair it with toast.
Chickpeas + pesto
If you have a can of chickpeas and a jar of pesto in your pantry, you have a pretty tasty spread or dip on your hands – however you choose to use it is fine. Just blend the two together in your blender, adding a little lemon juice, olive oil, and salt and pepper. You’ll have a beautiful green food that’s high in protein and fiber to add to toast or dip your chips into.
Canned salmon + rice or quinoa
You bought canned salmon because you know it’s healthy with its omega-3s and high protein. But, now it doesn’t look so tasty, all dried up in its tin. That’s okay. If you have rice or quinoa on hand, you can make tasty salmon burgers. You can cover them in panko or bread crumbs blended with parmesan cheese to make them extra tasty.
Chickpeas + tomato sauce + pasta
If you don’t have chicken or meatballs on hand but you do have tomato sauce and pasta and chickpeas, you can still make a protein-filled, hearty pasta dish. Chickpeas are loaded with protein and fiber and go very well with marinara sauce. Or if you just have stewed canned tomatoes, use those and mix in basil and oregano.
Black beans + tortilla chips + chicken broth
If you have a can of black beans, chicken broth, and tortilla chips, then you have the makings of chicken tortilla soup, minus the chicken (and if you have that in the fridge, add it). Toss cheese on top to melt in the heat of the soup, sour cream, and your favorite hot sauce to complete the meal.
Lentils + canned veggies + broth + tomato sauce
Lentil soup is nutritious, comforting, and easy to make. Simply boil up your lentils, combine them with broth (chicken, beef, or veggie), a bit of tomato sauce, and your preferred canned vegetables. This will come out pretty similar to the soup you’d get at a restaurant. If you have some croutons lying around, toss those on top.
Canned ravioli + broth
Canned ravioli may not seem fancy, but add it to hot broth, and you have ravioli soup. It’s a simple fall comfort food. If your canned ravioli comes in tomato sauce, that’s perfectly fine and will make a nice addition to the broth. You can toss in some canned peas or kidney beans for a twist on minestrone soup.
Cornbread mix + mac ‘n cheese + creamy soup + veggies
This isn’t exactly a diet-friendly option, but it will hit the spot, and utilize some underutilized items in your pantry. Combine your cooked mac ‘n cheese with a creamy soup (like cheddar broccoli or loaded potato). Add canned vegetables. Put the entire thing in a baking pan, and cover with your cornbread mix for a cornbread pie.