Have you ever looked in your cupboard and stood there trying to decide what to have for dinner? I am here to share with you some tips to help you eat from your pantry. Whether you have a well-stocked pantry or a meager supply of food on hand, there are ways to use what you have and save money and time in the kitchen. Here are some of the things I do when I am planning to eat from my pantry and avoid the grocery stores.
Clean my pantry and peruse my freezer to make a list of items I can use to make a meal. I organize these items by groups such as meat, vegetables, staples, etc.
Look at the list and combine any obvious foods together on a meal list. Some typical items we have on hand in our house include spaghetti sauce, noodles, ground beef (spaghetti anyone?), eggs, sausage and grits (breakfast for dinner?), rice, beans, tortillas (burritos?) You get the picture.
Take any unusual food items and enter them into an ingredient search on allrecipes.com. I have come up with some great recipes this way. You just list out the ingredients you have on hand and then recipes using those ingredients magically appear. For instance a search using the ingredients orange marmalade and chicken turn up recipes for everything from Turkey Cocktail Meatballs with Orange Cranberry Glaze to Grilled Chicken Salad Cosmopolitan . This search feature is so cool, you can even tell the search engine ingredients NOT to include.
After I have determined the meals that I can make with what I have on hand, I make a meal plan. I try to include breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner on my meal plan because it just helps me not have to think about it when I am asked by the kiddos, “What can I have for a snack, or what is for dinner”. I do this weekly and sometimes when I am highly motivated I will extend this for two weeks or a month. I have a template for each of these options that I found by doing a google search for menu plan printables. I fill this out and place it on the fridge for all to see. If we change plans at the last minute or go out to dinner, I just reuse the unused meals on my next meal plan. In our house, we eat lots of leftovers, so I generally plan those for dinner at least once a week.
If I am working with a meager pantry and know that I am going to have to pick up a few items at the store to make my meal plan work, I try to plan the meals that I have all the ingredients for, including side dishes, early in the week in case I won't be able to get to the store for a few days.
I have found that even if I have to go to the store for a few items, I am saving loads of money over just perusing the grocery aisles deciding as I go what I want to eat or cook. Try some of these ideas and you just might find a little extra money in your wallet!
Jennifer Allen can be found reading, blogging with her husband, homeschooling and sharing fun times with her family. She loves cooking and deal shopping. She is a second generation homeschooler and a registered nurse. You can read her conversations about life, homeschooling, homemaking and saving money at Conversaving.com