Are you always scrambling to figure out what’s for dinner around 5pm? Caught up in the six-o-clock scramble? Never think you have enough ingredients to make something for dinner? Well here I am to tell you…
What to cook when there’s “nothing to eat” (aka, cooking with pantry, fridge and freezer staples)
Yup, even food writers struggle sometimes with figuring out what “normal food” to cook. Between developing recipes for here and other platforms like Food Network Canada and testing receipts for Leite’s Culinaria, sometimes I REALLY don’t feel like coming up with something for dinner… The good news is, if you have a handful of ingredients on hand in your fridge, freezer or pantry, you’re not far from a decent meal!
Five staple ingredients to make last-minute meal planning easy!
I ALWAYS have eggs on hand – from a simple scrambled egg or fried egg with toast to a “use up whatever you have on hand” frittata, eggs really are nature’s best fast food!
Sausages are my favourite “meatball cheat” and I always have a variety of different flavours (and meats) on hand in the freezer. Apart from being able to take them out in the morning and have them thaw in the fridge for the easiest “prep” ever, you can barbecue them and serve them with veggies OR take the meat out of the casing and make meatballs. Since the meat is pre-seasoned all you need to do is cook them. Perfect for a meatball dinner or spaghetti and meatballs!
3. Jarred pasta sauce, canned tomatoes and tomato paste.
Yup. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Don’t think that *everything* you cook needs to be 100% from scratch. I ALWAYS have good quality jarred pasta sauce on hand as well as cans of plum or diced tomatoes. You can make a simple tomato sauce with an onion, some garlic and either the sauce or the tomatoes/ tomato paste.
Top tip: When buying tomato paste, try to buy it in a tube so you can use *just* what you need (i.e. most recipes only call for a tablespoon or two). If you buy it in a can and you only need a little bit, line an ice cube tray with plastic wrap and fill the cavities with the remaining tomato paste – most ice cube trays are around 1 tablespoon per cube. Once they are completely frozen, place the cubes in an airtight container or Ziploc bag and take out what you need next time!
5. Frozen vegetables
I can’t stress enough what a life-saver frozen vegetables are when you need to add some greens or colour to your dinner! Many people think of frozen veg (and fruit) as second class citizens when it comes to cooking but in fact, many veggies and fruits are flash frozen at the peak of their season so they are fresher than some imports you might have to settle for especially during winter months. Another bonus is that many frozen vegetables you buy are local produce (at least here in Canada) so not only are you buying produce at its freshest, but you’re also supporting local. Frozen veg are great for things like pot pies and shepherd’s pie. Frozen fruits make a crumble for dessert do-able even on a weeknight!
5. Puff pastry
This might seem like a bit of a luxury item to have as a “freezer staple” but honestly you can do so much with pre-rolled sheets of puff pastry! Pot Pies are the easiest thing ever if you already have the pastry on hand! And you can make all sorts of delicious desserts with a roll of puff pastry!
What about you – what are your fridge, freezer or pantry staples? How do you get dinner on the table faster?
Like this post? Get blog posts delivered to your inbox! Sign up here!
monthly newsletter signup!
MY BOOK! In the French kitchen with kids is out now! Click here for details and how to order!