Don’t worry, you have more food in the house than you think. In fact, you’ve probably got the ingredients for plenty of meals – you just have to plan ahead, and the most important step to help you with this is doing a kitchen inventory. Here’s how to turn those store-cupboard items in your pantry into healthy meals for your family…
One very important thing I discovered during the month is that we already had the ingredients for EIGHTEEN main meals for 2 in our kitchen. And more than half of those meals would be 4-portion meals, so we would also have leftovers for lunch the next day.
I must point out that when I looked for these meals in my cupboards and freezer it was at the end of the week when I would have usually gone shopping – the fridge was almost empty and the cupboards looked sparse. And my tiny three-drawer freezer only contained had a few bags of fruit, veg and a couple of butter pies (essential northern grub).
Nonetheless, even with a seemingly empty kitchen and a desperate need to stock up, when I actually rummaged around the cupboards and listed everything I already had, I discovered ingredients for multiple main meals, which would also provide leftovers for lunch. I was elated – as a thrifty gal there’s nothing that makes me happier than NOT having to spend money. I could basically eat for free for the next 18 days!
DO A PANTRY INVENTORY
So the key here is to focus what you HAVE got, not what you’re missing, and try to make the most of those ingredients. If you have spices, stock cubes, seasonings etc, there’s nothing you can’t turn into a curry, bake or soup. Just pull everything out of the cupboard, look in your freezer and tidy your fridge. Write everything down and divide the list into sections so you can start pairing up those ingredients:
Carbohydrates – like pasta, rice, couscous, bread, potatoes, noodles.
Vegetables – like frozen broccoli, tinned sweetcorn, onions, frozen green beans or peas, jars of peppers, carrots.
Seasoning and spices – like stock cubes, herbs, tomato puree, garlic, ginger, chilli, spices, soy sauce, gravy, tomato ketchup etc
Tins and jars – like beans, tomatoes, lentils, soup, chickpeas, olives, sundried tomatoes.
Meat and fish – tinned tuna, sardines, salmon or frozen sausages, prawns, mince, chicken, even tinned hotdogs!
Here are some examples of how you can combine the ingredients you find in your cupboards to make main meals:
- Tinned lentils, onion, chickpeas, sweet potatoes, garlic, stock and spices makes a lovely curry with rice. Add fresh or frozen chicken if you have it.
- Sundried tomatoes and olives from a jar, onion, mushrooms, garlic and tomato puree make a great pasta bake. Add sardines or chopped up hotdogs if you like.
- Tinned mixed beans, tinned tomatoes, an onion, peppers from a jar, beef stock and chilli powder make a punchy chilli con carne with rice. If you’d like to include frozen mince or Quorn, a small portion goes a long way.
- Likewise, tinned lentils, onion, carrots, peas and gravy make a hearty shepherds pie mash with golden mashed potato on top.
- Add soy and garlic and ginger paste to any fresh or frozen vegetables to make tasty, healthy noodles. Throw in flakes of tinned salmon or prawns from the freezer if you have them.
- Tinned tuna, tomatoes, onion, flour and cheese turn pasta shapes into a tuna napolitana.
- Pep up tinned baked beans with spices, garlic and stock to make a tasty topping for jacket potatoes.
- Tinned tomatoes, onion, lentils, beef stock, tomato puree, garlic and mixed herbs create a faux bolognese to enjoy on spaghetti.
- Add a tin of mixed beans to any tinned soup to make bean dish to serve with couscous or rice.
- Or add veg and pop some dumplings on top of the soup to turn it into a warming stew.
- LEFTOVERS BONUS – Cooked vegetables, leftover potatoes and any seasoning you have (I like to add herby stuffing left over from Sunday lunch) makes a delicious bubble and squeak to enjoy with an egg.
You can always throw in any other frozen or tinned vegetables you have to hand, which will add even more nutrients to each of these meals. Plus you can use any leftovers in multiple ways – the bolognese can turn into a shepherds pie or chilli for another main meal, or it can be eaten on jacket potatoes, with nachos, spread on a pizza base with cheese, or grilled in a tortilla wrap as a quesadilla.
Have I convinced you to audit your cupboards yet?? For more inspiration on how to use store cupboard ingredients in recipes, you can always head over to the FoodSavvy website. There’s also advice on freezing, planning, date labels, portioning and much more so be sure to have a look.
Let me know what meals you find in your pantry in the comments below and I’d love to hear your own tips for thrifty recipes when it looks like you’ve got nothing in the house 🙂
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