Unpredictability is to be expected when you have a family. No matter how organized and steady YOU are, the rest of the family doesn’t always follow suit. As parents, we have to learn to be flexible and roll with the punches.
Mealtimes can be a harried affair when things don’t go as planned and the run to the grocery store has yet to transpire or you haven’t had even a moment to think about what your family is going to eat for dinner. Those are the days when you wish your fairy god-mother would pay you a visit and make a meal magically appear before you.
Fortunately you can have the next best thing. You can be your own fairy god-mother by stowing away recipes that will be there at a moments notice, to whip up in a jiffy and satisfy your hungry family. It’s as easy as picking a couple of recipes made from ingredients that you always have on hand.
Let’s look at a couple of ways you can find some pantry meals that are tailored to your family. That way you can make sure these items are always available for when those crazy days arrive.
How to Choose A Pantry Meal
Be Picky About Ingredients
Make sure the ingredients can either be stored in your pantry or freezer, or are ALWAYS in your fridge. There’s no sense in choosing a recipe where you risk having the ingredients go to waste.
Avoid the use of fresh ingredients which may quickly reach their prime such as mushrooms. You can easily toss them in if you have them on hand, but don’t rely on them when planning a pantry meal.
Make Sure Your Family will Eat It
You want your family to actually eat supper so make sure that the meal is something that you know your family will enjoy. There’s little point in keeping a recipe on hand that isn’t a family favorite.
Make it Speedy
Chances are if you didn’t have time to plan a meal or go to the grocery store then you need something quick to put on the table. Make sure you pick meals that do not need a lot of prep or long baking times.
Keep it All-inclusive
It’s important to choose something that can be served on it’s own, as a meal. Don’t plan on serving your dish with a side of salad in case the lettuce happens to be wilting in the fridge. Making side dishes also means more work for the already frazzled parent making the meal.
These recipes are for busy days when dinner needs to be quick and tasty. Perfection is not needed, but a simple, tasty and healthy meal will be appreciated. The point of a pantry meal is to ensure that the ingredients are there at ALL TIMES so that you don’t have to add another worry to an already stressful day.
Below are three recipes that my family often enjoys as last minute meals. Now yours can too.
Sweet & Spicy Chicken Stir-fry
This stir-fry is the perfect balance of sweet and spicy. You can even make your own catalina dressing if you don’t keep it on hand. This is my husband’s most requested stir-fry!
Keep on Hand
- pantry: rice, red pepper flakes, garlic, onion, oil
- freezer: chicken, stir-fry vegetables
- fridge: catalina dressing, hoisin sauce
- 1 pound chicken, cut into bite sized pieces
- 1/2 onion, diced
- 1 Tablespoon oil
- 3 cups frozen stir-fry vegetables
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1/2 cup catalina dressing
- 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- rice, for serving
- Heat skillet or wok over medium high heat. Saute chicken and onion in oil until chicken is browned on the outside.
- Add vegetables and garlic. Cook until tender crisp.
- Stir in catalina dressing, hoisin sauce and red pepper flakes. Cook until bubbly and chicken is cooked through.
- Serve with rice.
* If you don’t have fresh onions or garlic on hand you can sub 1/2 teaspoon onion powder and 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder.
* This is a great way to use up extra vegetables in your fridge.
The marinade for these fajitas only needs to sit for 30 minutes with the chicken, making this a quick and tasty meal.
Keep on Hand
- pantry: apple cider vinegar, chili powder, garlic, hot pepper sauce, onion, tortillas
- freezer: chicken, peppers
- fridge: Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, salsa, cheese, sour cream (optional)
adapted from allrecipes
- 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 Tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 clove garlic, minced (or 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder)
- sprinkle of hot pepper sauce, to taste
- 1.5 lbs. chicken breasts, sliced into strips
- 1 small onion, sliced
- 1 pepper, cut into strips
- Tortillas, cheese, salsa & sour cream, to serve
- Combine first 6 ingredients and marinate with chicken for several hours in the fridge or 30 min. on the countertop, making sure to flip occasionally so that the marinade is evenly distributed.
- Preheat pan to medium-high heat. Cook chicken until browned on the outside. Add peppers and onions. Continue to cook until chicken is cooked through and vegetables are tender.
- Wrap in tortillas with cheese, salsa and sour cream and serve hot.
* Frozen peppers release a lot of water as they thaw. Wrap and dab them with paper towel to remove the excess moisture. They also lose their crispness, but since these are cooked it will not make a big difference.
This macaroni dish has a light and refreshing taste as there are no heavy sauces weighing it down. It’s also the perfect way to get rid of any vegetables that need using up.
Keep on Hand
- pantry: onion, chicken broth, macaroni, herbs
- freezer: chicken, vegetables
- fridge: Italian dressing, Parmesan, cheese
- 1/4 cup Italian dressing
- 2 chicken breasts, chopped
- 1/2 onion, diced
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 (10 oz.) can chicken broth (or 1 1/4 cups)
- 2 cups macaroni
- 2 cups frozen, fresh or canned vegetables of your choice
- 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped (4 teaspoons dried)
- 2 tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped (2 teaspoons dried)
- 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan
- 1/2 cup grated cheese of choice
- Heat dressing in large saucepan or skillet over medium heat. Add chicken, onion, salt and pepper. Cook until no longer pink on the outside.
- Meanwhile cook macaroni to al dente, in boiling water, according to package directions. Drain.
- Stir chicken broth and vegetables into chicken mixture. Bring to a simmer and cook until vegetables are heated and meat is cooked through.
- Remove from heat. Stir in macaroni, herbs and Parmesan until well combined. Season with additional salt and pepper if needed.
- Sprinkle with cheese. Cover and let sit until cheese is melted.
* Any bite-sized pasta can be substituted for macaroni, although a different amount may be needed depending on the pasta used.
Do you have any recipes that can be made from pantry staples? Do share!
Photos by Cheri Neufeld