How often do you grocery shop? Americans shop an average of 1.6 times a week, spending 43 minutes actually shopping. Now that we can order groceries online and even have them delivered in some locations, we probably spend less time in the store.
And then, all of a sudden, we are all stretching the groceries we have longer than normal. That’s not that much of a stretch for military families who go on a mission to empty out the deep freezer and eat through the pantry every few years before a move.
Need some ideas to get your freezer clean-out going? Here are some of our favorite meals made up from pantry staples, and some of the most random things that you bought on a whim.
Minimal Ingredient Ideas
Have a can of diced pineapple in the pantry? Add it to some chicken and try this recipe for Chicken Pineapple Skewers from Brit+Co. The other ingredients include chicken and teriyaki sauce – which you probably need to use up or give away if you’re moving – so easy staples you have around the house.
Soups, stews and chili are a great option for using up random items in the pantry. You can do almost anything with a little chicken broth and some seasoning. Options include minestrone soup with canned vegetables; vegetarian chili with all the random beans in the pantry; and you can even have chili for breakfast with a fried egg on top.
Chicken is pretty much a staple in any non-vegan or vegetarian household, and if you are vegan or vegetarian you can probably use tofu instead for this recipe. With some of that random apple juice you have, cook the chicken and then reduce the juice into something that looks more like honey. Follow this recipe from Oatmeal with a Fork for the specifics.
Do you have cans of tuna fish? Put them to good use in a fun and fancy tuna melt. Grab some bread or an English muffin, mix up the tuna your preferred way and top with cheese. Broil to create melty goodness -- maybe even add some tomatoes if you still have fresh produce in the house. This technique also works for pizza with English muffins, mozzarella cheese and some of that plain tomato sauce that’s sitting in the pantry mocking you.
More Fun Ideas
Remember that time you bought artichoke hearts with a plan to make something magical? Now’s your chance! Add them to any pasta dish you are making or sautee them as a side with burgers. You could even make some homemade spinach and artichoke dip if you’re feeling fancy.
You know what else is good any time of the year? Bread. Pumpkin bread, banana bread, zucchini bread -- any kind of muffin-type bread is exactly what every situation calls for. Substitute applesauce for the butter or oil if you like and serve it for breakfast or snack.
And if you bought a Costco-sized pack of canned pumpkin last year thinking you’d use it all up in the fall, there are some more great options for it. Add 15 oz. of pumpkin to a cake or brownie mix and bake it.
Answer the age-old question of “what’s for dinner?” in a new way while you’re avoiding the grocery store. You could even encourage those members of your household that insist upon eating every day to help brainstorm a new meal with the things left in your (hopefully) dwindling pantry.
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--Rebecca Alwine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.