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35 Essential Pantry Staples for Simple Meals

As the country prepares for “social distancing” as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, my first thought came to food. A family of five lives here and we need to be able to eat. As food flies of the shelves at grocery stores, I want to share my list of essential pantry staples. These items have a longer shelf life and can be arranged into a multitude of meals. I keep these pantry staples on hand not for a crisis of world proportion, just because it’s good to have food on hand for days and weeks when grocery shopping is hard.

Start with the Canned Goods

Let’s start with pantry staples from the canned goods section of the grocery store:

  • Canned protein – chicken, tuna, salmon
  • Canned beans – chili, red, black, cannellini, kidney, pinto
  • Canned Vegetables – green beans, peas, corn, mushrooms, tomatoes (diced, crushed, and sauce)
  • Canned Soup – cream of mushroom and cream of chicken

On to the Dry Goods

Now it is time to move on to the dry goods section:

  • Pasta
  • Rice
  • Saltine Crackers
  • Oatmeal
  • Spices – garlic powder, chili powder, Italian seasoning
  • Baking supplies – flour, sugar, salt, yeast, baking powder, baking soda, powdered buttermilk, brown sugar, chocolate chips

Three Things I Just Have

I really don’t know what to call these three. They are just essential, no category.

  • Peanut Butter
  • Honey
  • Vanilla

I’m Stocked Up – Now What???

If you are not a regular culinary expert, I can see how this list may not scream square meals. There is indeed full meals present in this list of pantry staples. Please also note that these items are not on the expensive side. I regularly buy canned staples of this nature for less than a dollar per can. Spices can be pricey at some stores, but they do not need to be. I recommend Aldi and the Dollar Store for spices at very reasonable prices. Now for some practical suggestions.

Start Baking

Bread has a short shelf life. It can be frozen, but that is not your only option. With the pantry staples on the list you can bake bread. Check out this post for my regular bread routine.  Paired with peanut butter and honey, lunch is made. If you have eggs and butter, the dry staples on this list can be turned into cookies, pancakes, waffles, and biscuits; which can also be eaten with peanut butter and honey, if for some reason there is no syrup sitting on your shelf.

Quick Casseroles

By mixing together canned protein, canned vegetables, creamed soup, and pasta or rice, many casseroles can be created. I recommend cooking noodles and rice first, then mix together with other ingredients and bake to heat everything thoroughly and meld your flavors. One my personal favorites is tuna noodle casserole, which needs egg noodles, cream of mushroom soup, tuna, and peas.

The Three Part Meal

How many people use the protein+starch+vegetable=meal equation when planning? I would say quite a few. Are you thinking this is impossible using this list of pantry staples? You can indeed accomplish this equation using my essentials. Here goes.

Protein – both tuna and salmon can be turned into patties to act as protein. Using crushed up saltine crackers as a binder and an egg if you have it, mix together the canned protein with any combo of spices you like. Form into patties and fry up in a pan. Done! If you do not have an egg mayo works well too. I dare say any of your favorite condiments would work and would simply add extra flavor.

Starch – mix together rice, beans , and chili powder for a simple beans and rice or add tomatoes, mushrooms and Italian seasoning to cooked pasta.

Vegetable – add your favorite canned vegetable on a third of the plate, my family go-to is green beans.

I only skimmed the surface of what you can prepare with this list of pantry staples. All you need is a little imagination. I keep these items on hand at all times in order to throw together meals without breaking the bank or needing to run to the store. Disaster preparedness aside, we all need to eat. Having the ability to pull together a meal at a moment’s notice is just a good thing. Controlled Chaos abounds, keep yourself prepared.


Other Posts you may enjoy:

Crockpot Chicken Chili – A Simple Midweek Meal

How to Make Chicken Bone Broth on a Budget


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