When it comes to cooking quickly, stocking up your pantry with the right staples and equipment can go a long way towards helping you feed your family without having to slave over a hot stove for hours or spend a fortune. Here are some of the items you should always have on hand for quick, easy and cheap meals.
This is a versatile food that can be used on its own or in other recipes. Italians have hundreds of sauces to add flavor to these humble little items made out of flour, eggs and oil. Use in soups, stews, salads, and on its own. Use spaghetti or one of the wonderful shapes the kids will love, like butterflies or twists. And of course, elbow macaroni is perfect for homemade mac and cheese, or macaroni salad.
Closely related to pasta are egg noodles, which are great with dishes like stroganoff and chili if you don’t want to serve it with rice. There are all kinds of Asian-style noodles as well, such as soba, udon and buckwheat. Even ramen have their place in a busy kitchen, as long as you don’t use too much of the ultra-salty seasoning packets.
Rice offers an amazing array of tastes. White and brown rice are musts for the house. Parboiled is perfect for Mexican food. Jasmine rice is great with Asian food. Arborio and short-grain rice are perfect for risottos.
Tuna Packed in Water
Tuna packed in water can be eaten hot or cold. Go for the solid white albacore versus the chunk light, which can be very watery. You can buy eight cans of solid white cheaply at your local warehouse store for a fraction of what you would pay per can in the supermarket.
Canned tuna is perfect for sandwiches, salad, tuna casserole, stuffed peppers, stuffed mushrooms, and more. Tuna is high in protein and low in calories and is a filling way to feed your family.
Eggs are extremely versatile. As long as no one in your house is allergic, you can whip up dozens of meals in a matter of minutes. Try scrambled, poached, fried, over easy and soft or hard boiled. Make deviled eggs, frittatas, quiches, French toast, pancakes, crepes and more.
Canned beans and legumes that have already been cooked are ideal for quick and easy recipes. Look for low sodium varieties of red and white kidney beans, pink, black and pinto beans, and chickpeas.
Not all canned veggies hold up well in salted water, but two that you should always have on hand for salad are beets and corn. Rinse well before serving and toss in your salad. Or, pickle the beets slightly with some white vinegar before serving as a side dish.
These are frozen at the peak of freshness on the farms and can be added to stretch any meal. Some frozen vegetables, such as cauliflower and broccoli, can be a real time and energy saver with a minimum amount of waste.
Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
Buy from your local farme’ís market in small amounts you know you are going to use. They will have fewer pesticides on them and be riper and tastier than what you find in the supermarket.
White and sweet potatoes make an excellent accompaniment to a range of meals. You can keep it simple and bake them whole in the oven, or peel and cook them on the stove for mashed potatoes.
With these staples in your pantry, there will always be something quick and easy to cook for dinner.