Three Recipes to Keep in Your Pantry

Unpredictability is to be expected when you have a family. No matter how organized and steady YOU are, the rest of the family doesn’t always follow suit. As parents, we have to learn to be flexible and roll with the punches.

Mealtimes can be a harried affair when things don’t go as planned and the run to the grocery store has yet to transpire or you haven’t had even a moment to think about what your family is going to eat for dinner. Those are the days when you wish your fairy god-mother would pay you a visit and make a meal magically appear before you.

Fortunately you can have the next best thing. You can be your own fairy god-mother by stowing away recipes that will be there at a moments notice, to whip up in a jiffy and satisfy your hungry family. It’s as easy as picking a couple of recipes made from ingredients that you always have on hand.

Let’s look at a couple of ways you can find some pantry meals that are tailored to your family. That way you can make sure these items are always available for when those crazy days arrive.

How to Choose A Pantry Meal

Be Picky About Ingredients

Make sure the ingredients can either be stored in your pantry or freezer, or are ALWAYS in your fridge. There’s no sense in choosing a recipe where you risk having the ingredients go to waste.

Avoid the use of fresh ingredients which may quickly reach their prime such as mushrooms. You can easily toss them in if you have them on hand, but don’t rely on them when planning a pantry meal.

Make Sure Your Family will Eat It

You want your family to actually eat supper so make sure that the meal is something that you know your family will enjoy. There’s little  point in keeping a recipe on hand that isn’t a family favorite.

Make it Speedy

Chances are if you didn’t have time to plan a meal or go to the grocery store then you need something quick to put on the table. Make sure you pick meals that do not need a lot of prep or long baking times.

Keep it All-inclusive

It’s important to choose something that can be served on it’s own, as a meal. Don’t plan on serving your dish with a side of salad in case the lettuce happens to be wilting in the fridge. Making side dishes also means more work for the already frazzled parent making the meal.


These recipes are for busy days when dinner needs to be quick and tasty. Perfection is not needed, but a simple, tasty and healthy meal will be appreciated. The point of a pantry meal is to ensure that the ingredients are there at ALL TIMES so that you don’t have to add another worry to an already stressful day.

Below are three recipes that my family often enjoys as last minute meals. Now yours can too.

Sweet & Spicy Chicken Stir-fry

This stir-fry is the perfect balance of sweet and spicy. You can even make your own catalina dressing if you don’t keep it on hand. This is my husband’s most requested stir-fry!

Keep on Hand

  • pantry: rice, red pepper flakes, garlic, onion, oil
  • freezer: chicken, stir-fry vegetables
  • fridge: catalina dressing, hoisin sauce


  • 1 pound chicken, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 Tablespoon oil
  • 3 cups frozen stir-fry vegetables
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 cup catalina dressing
  • 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • rice, for serving
  1. Heat skillet or wok over medium high heat. Saute chicken and onion in oil until chicken is browned on the outside.
  2. Add vegetables and garlic. Cook until tender crisp.
  3. Stir in catalina dressing, hoisin sauce and red pepper flakes. Cook until bubbly and chicken is cooked through.
  4. Serve with rice.

Serves: 4

* If you don’t have fresh onions or garlic on hand you can sub 1/2 teaspoon onion powder and 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder.

* This is a great way to use up extra vegetables in your fridge.

Chicken Fajitas

The marinade for these fajitas only needs to sit for 30 minutes with the chicken, making this a quick and tasty meal.

Keep on Hand

  • pantry: apple cider vinegar, chili powder, garlic, hot pepper sauce, onion, tortillas
  • freezer: chicken, peppers
  • fridge: Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, salsa, cheese, sour cream (optional)


adapted from allrecipes

  • 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 clove garlic, minced (or 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder)
  • sprinkle of hot pepper sauce, to taste
  • 1.5 lbs. chicken breasts, sliced into strips
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 1 pepper, cut into strips
  • Tortillas, cheese, salsa & sour cream, to serve
  1. Combine first 6 ingredients and marinate with chicken for several hours in the fridge or 30 min. on the countertop, making sure to flip occasionally so that the marinade is evenly distributed.
  2. Preheat pan to medium-high heat. Cook chicken until browned on the outside. Add peppers and onions. Continue to cook until chicken is cooked through and vegetables are tender.
  3. Wrap in tortillas with cheese, salsa and sour cream and serve hot.

Serves: 4

* Frozen peppers release a lot of water as they thaw. Wrap and dab them with paper towel to remove the excess moisture. They also lose their crispness, but since these are cooked it will not make a big difference.

Refreshing Macaroni

This macaroni dish has a light and refreshing taste as there are no heavy sauces weighing it down. It’s also the perfect way to get rid of any vegetables that need using up.

Keep on Hand

  • pantry: onion, chicken broth, macaroni, herbs
  • freezer: chicken, vegetables
  • fridge: Italian dressing, Parmesan, cheese


  • 1/4 cup Italian dressing
  • 2 chicken breasts, chopped
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 (10 oz.) can chicken broth (or 1 1/4 cups)
  • 2 cups macaroni
  • 2 cups frozen, fresh or canned vegetables of your choice
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped (4 teaspoons dried)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped (2 teaspoons dried)
  • 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan
  • 1/2 cup grated cheese of choice
  1. Heat dressing in large saucepan or skillet over medium heat. Add chicken, onion, salt and pepper. Cook until no longer pink on the outside.
  2. Meanwhile cook macaroni to al dente, in boiling water, according to package directions. Drain.
  3. Stir chicken broth and vegetables into chicken mixture. Bring to a simmer and cook until vegetables are heated and meat is cooked through.
  4. Remove from heat. Stir in macaroni, herbs and Parmesan until well combined. Season with additional salt and pepper if needed.
  5. Sprinkle with cheese. Cover and let sit until cheese is melted.

Serves: 4

* Any bite-sized pasta can be substituted for macaroni, although a different amount may be needed depending on the pasta used.

Do you have any recipes that can be made from pantry staples? Do share!

Photos by Cheri Neufeld

About Cheri

Cheri is a mother of two and a Canadian expat living in Norway. With a passion for quick and simple food, Cheri shares recipes, tips and tricks on her food blog,

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  1. These recipes sound good! I have a similar approach to stir fry; it is fast and tastes good! Thanks for the good ideas.

  2. What a great article, love stir fry and chicken fajitas, just found your blog today and I’m loving it, great job!

  3. Great post! These recipes are great!
    .-= Melissa’s last blog: Buttermilk Poundcake =-.

  4. Those photos are making me sooo hungry! Fortunately, I probably have the ingredients around to whip one of them up. Thanks Cheri!

  5. These recipes look so good. I almost always have chicken on hand and pasta or rice and I tend to whip something up with those ingredients. Great tips here!
    .-= Jan (Family Bites)’s last blog: Red Pepper and Leek Pasta with Peas and Feta =-.

  6. Loving the refreshing macaroni recipe, will have to try!
    .-= Destri’s last blog: The Bullet List {Ashley From Make It and Love It} =-.

  7. Love the chicken and rice recipe — what a staple!

  8. Laura Lynn says

    These sound so good – I think I’m going to try them all.
    One question – what is Hoisin sauce? Do you think soy sauce would substitute well? My family loves stir fry and I’m looking forward to trying out a new flavor.

    • Hoisin sauce is a Chinese condiment that is often used like barbecue sauce. You can usually find it in the Chinese/Ethnic section of your grocery store.

      Here is a homemade recipe for hoisin sauce. I haven’t tried it myself so I’m not sure how close it is to the real deal.

      Hoisin sauce is quite different in flavour then soy sauce so I would be hesitant to substitute it with that alone. Perhaps someone else knows of some better substitutes?

  9. I actually have a list taped inside my cupboard that lists the recipes we can always make from the pantry and freezer – something I put together when we were extecting baby #2. Most of my list is to keep track of what’s pre-made in the freezer, but barley-meatball soup is just barley, stock, frozen meatballs, and whatever veggies are on hand.

  10. I’m terrible for never having a fully stocked pantry. But a stirfry is often my go-to dinner when there’s not much in the house. This one looks really yummy!

  11. Thanks for the great recipes! Our go to recipe is spaghetti.

  12. I tried the Sweet and Spicy Stirfry last night. We don’t buy Catalina dressing so I found a simple recipe for it on It was a great recipe and so easy. My kids loved it!

  13. My favorite freezer item is turkey sausage. I use it to make black bean soup (with seasonings, garlic, canned tomatoes, chicken stock, and black beans). It also goes great with eggs, which make an easy, fast dinner.

  14. Thanks for the tips about family meals. I often make extra and freeze for just such occasions, but having something made fresh is always a hit!

  15. Some of our favorite go-tos are: Quesadillas or taco salads, Tuna Casserole, a crockpot recipe that calls for chicken, black bean, corn, and salsa, or stir fry, made with a sauce made out of honey, soy sauce, broth, and some corn starch. My sister likes to do breakfast for dinner in a dash.

  16. NewbieHere says

    Great ideas and advice. For my family and friends, the go-to solution for pantry meals, and for feeding MANY folks: Congee, in many forms, even as a vegan Budae Jjigae. Just need a Rice Cooker, and patience.

    The staples we use: Rice, Rice Vinegar, Dried Chives, Nori Sheets, Soy Sauce, Crystalized Ginger, Dried Pineapple.

  17. Pantry recipes are really important; I’ve found that there are an incredible number of recipes that can be made from pantry staples, even when you don’t have access to frozen meats. Getting food on the table quickly doesn’t mean you have to skimp on either nutrition or quality, or that you have to allow the food processors to do all your work for you.
    .-= Michele Hays’s last blog: Policy Point Wednesday: Advertising and Obesity =-.

  18. What an excellent listing of recipes. They all look so delicious. I am going to try the Chicken Fajitas tonight. I usually mess these up but I am hoping for the best. My kids are as well!

  19. I aways have fixin’s for Rotel’s black bean salsa. I make a double batch, we eat it on mixed salad, bake over chicken breasts, make soup out of it by adding chicken, ham or smoked sausage, rice, and chicken broth. If I just have a little left I may pour it over rice or put in mac and cheese. I haven’t made a dessert from it yet 🙂

  20. I made the sweet and sour chicken yesterday. It was very good and easy to make. My husband who is a picky eater, especially when it comes to Chinese food, went for seconds and took leftovers to lunch.

  21. Tiffin Chandigarh says

    You have compiled different food recipes in a very nice way, chicken is my favorite, I hope I can cook it in a right way, thanks

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