stocking a pantry

Pantry staples for quick and easy dinners

Let's face it, life gets hectic. Between work, errands, and unexpected curveballs, who has time for elaborate meals? That's where your pantry comes into play! Creating a well-stocked pantry is your ticket to preparing quick, effortless dinners on those busy weeknights. 

No more “what’s for dinner?” anxiety! With the right staples on hand, you can easily whip up meals that are both nutritious and delicious, saving you time, money, and stress. When you’re making your list of pantry essentials, be sure to check the “Pantry” section in the Ibotta app so you can stock up on the latest offers and save on groceries!

The foundations: grains and legumes

Filling and delicious, grains and legumes are the perfect start to any meal. Here are the basics to start with: 

  • Rice: Great for stir-fries, pilafs, and rice bowls. Keep both white and brown rice for their different textures and nutritional benefits.

  • Pasta: Stock different shapes and sizes to keep sauces and veggie pairings interesting.

  • Quinoa: A protein-packed alternative to grains, quinoa is perfect for salads, as a side, or even as a main component of a dish.

  • Lentils and Beans: Canned or dried, these are rich in protein and fiber, making them a hearty addition to soups, stews, and salads. 

  • Oats: Perfect for a warm breakfast or hearty baked goods.

Keep it convenient with canned goods

Don’t worry, canned foods are still nutritious and are fine to mix into your family’s meals. Here are some to keep on hand:  

  • Tomatoes: Canned tomatoes are a must for quick sauces, stews, soups, and chilis. Keep diced, whole, and pureed versions for different uses.

  • Coconut milk: Ideal for curries and soups, coconut milk adds richness and flavor to a variety of dishes.

  • Tuna and other canned fish: A great source of protein, canned fish can be used in salads, sandwiches, and pastas for a quick meal.

  • Corn: A sweet and colorful veggie boost for stir-fries and salads.

Flavor with condiments, sauces, and spices

A well-stocked spice rack is your best friend for leveling up your cooking.

  • Spices and dried herbs: Basics include salt, black pepper, garlic powder, chili flakes, cumin, coriander, curry powder, and dried herbs like oregano, basil, and thyme. 

  • Olive oil and vinegar: Oil is a staple for sautéing, dressings, and marinades. Vinegar adds tang and depth to salads and sauces.

  • Soy sauce: Adds umami richness to Asian dishes, stir-fries, and marinades.

  • Tomato sauce and pesto: For a quick pasta dish or a flavorful addition to proteins, these sauces can elevate a meal with minimal effort.

  • Broths and stocks: Chicken or vegetable broth are essential for soups, stews, and adding flavor to grains. You can also stock your pantry with bouillon cubes for an easy option.

Add texture and nutrition with these add-ons

Your pantry can also help with in-between meal cravings, Plus, using up what you already have can help reduce food waste

  • Nuts and seeds: Great for adding crunch to salads or as a topping for breakfast dishes, nuts, and seeds are also packed with healthy fats.Nuts & seeds: Crunchy, protein sources for snacking or topping salads and yogurt.

  • Dried fruits: A sweet addition to oatmeal, salads, or as a snack, dried fruits offer concentrated flavors and nutritional benefits.

  • Jarred roasted red peppers: Adds instant vibrancy to sandwiches, pastas, and more.

  • Olives: Salty, briny goodness for snacking or adding to dishes

  • Canned artichoke hearts: Toss them in salad or pasta for a taste boost.

Mix things up with frozen foods

Beyond your pantry, stocking your freezer with a few staples can help round out your meals when you’re in a pinch. 

  • Vegetables: Frozen vegetables like peas, corn, and spinach are just as nutritious as their fresh counterparts and can be added to meals in minutes.

  • Fruit: Frozen fruit is perfect for smoothies or as a topping for oatmeal, yogurt, and pancakes.

  • Bread: Keeping bread in the freezer ensures you always have it ready for sandwiches or to accompany meals. You can also freeze uncooked tortillas and thaw and cook them when needed. 

Implementing Your Pantry Staples

Once you’ve stocked up (hopefully using the best cash back grocery app), now it’s time to put those ingredients to good use the next time you need to throw together a meal. Here are a few quick dinner ideas:

Stir-Fry: This is always a great idea if you have other vegetables in your fridge that are about to go bad and you need to use them up. Start with your rice or quinoa as a base, add whatever vegetables you have (fresh or frozen), some protein (tofu, chicken, or beef), and toss in a quick sauce made from soy sauce, sesame oil, and a bit of honey.

Pasta Night: Cook up some pasta and toss it with olive oil, canned crushed tomatoes, garlic, and any vegetables or protein you like. Top with cheese for an added flavor boost.

Soup’s On: A can of tomatoes, broth, and any combination of beans, lentils, vegetables, and pasta or rice can make a hearty soup in under 30 minutes. Or make a chicken-and-rice soup. Sauté onions, carrots, and celery. Add cooked chicken, broth, rice, and seasonings. Simmer until rice is tender.

Taco Tuesday, Any Day: Use canned beans or lentils as a base, add spices, and serve with whatever fresh or canned toppings you have on hand. Wrap it all up in a tortilla from your pantry stash, or cook fresh from your freezer.

Black bean burgers: Mash black beans, mix with breadcrumbs, an egg, and spices, then pan-fry until golden brown.

Tuna salad: Combine canned tuna with mayo, celery, onion, and a squeeze of lemon – delicious on a sandwich or with crackers!

These ideas are just a starting point. Try new things, mix it up, and soon you’ll see that nights without a meal plan can be just as delightful. Here are some final pro-tips:

  • Check expirations: Organize your pantry regularly and use items before they expire.

  • Restock as you go: Use an item, add it to your grocery list to prevent runouts.

  • Get creative: Don't be afraid to experiment! Simple ingredients can become something delicious with the right spices and combinations.

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