Pantry Meals 101

I’m hungry. There’s nothing to eat! Who is hearing this every day, all day now that the kids (and adults) are home? 

I can recall the frustration my own mother must have felt when we were all home, on school breaks, summer vacations, even 3-day weekends. Her least favorite question was about dinner— especially at 9:00 in the morning. She could always find something in the cupboard or freezer to make a meal. It was one of her many gifts.

Moms, Dads and grandparents have shared that their families think they’re running a 24/7 diner! If your local grocery stores have limited stock of your favorite items—now may be a good time to take a closer look at what’s in the pantry, freezer and fridge. Can you tell I have some ideas for you?

Canned goods, dried beans and peas, pasta, rice, jarred sauces—non perishable foods and staples such as eggs, milk, bread, potatoes, onions, apples and frozen food may now be your new best foodie friends. Be flexible in preparing some new meal items that may become favorites long after this crisis has passed.

A pan of fried potatoes, occasionally with sautéed onions, is a comfort dish to me. This is a small skillet that inherited from Mom—has to be at least 50 years old, but to this day it remains one of my favorite pans. Peel a few russet potatoes and roughly chop. Add to a saucepan of boiling water and cook gently for 10-12 minutes. Drain and add to a hot skillet with a teaspoon or two of olive or coconut oil. Shake the pan occasionally to brown the potatoes. Add a small diced yellow or red onion to the pan. Continue to cook until the onions brown—be careful not to burn. Salt and pepper to taste. My family loved these and since potatoes and onions were usually on hand, I relied on them to make or stretch a meal. 

Breakfast for dinner is another possibility. Got eggs, milk, bread? Then you have the makings of a meal. 


Slice a loaf of bread (this was a whole loaf I had in the freezer) or use any sliced bread you have (cinnamon raisin is good). Heat a large skillet to medium/high heat. Beat 3-4 large eggs in a deep bowl. Add 1/2 to 3/4 cup of cold milk and continue to beat. Add a teaspoon of vanilla extract, if you have it. Pour eggs and milk mixture into a deep plate or baking dish. Dip bread slices into eggs turning over to make sure the slices are fully saturated. Optional and delicious: Crush a few tablespoons of granola and dip slices in the granola before adding the bread to the skillet. Add 1 teaspoon of oil or butter to skillet and swirl to coat the pan. Add bread slices, one at a time—do not crowd the pan. Watch closely. Cook bread for 2-3 minutes per side. I like to sprinkle a dash of cinnamon. Serve immediately with butter, jam or jelly. 

Don’t stop with French toast if you have eggs. Scrambled, poached or fried eggs, omelets, quiches, frittatas are some other eggcellent meal ideas. How about a cheese omelet topped with tomatoes and a side of grits? 

My family always enjoyed huevo rancheros—refried beans, scrambled eggs, cheese, avocado and salsa on lightly toasted tortillas. These days, I’ve been making migas to use up a too large bag of tortilla chips I purchased on a whim. I never had migas until visiting San Antonio, Texas on a business trip several years ago. The version I had included green chiles, onions, tomatoes, Monterey Jack cheese and of course, eggs. It was simply delicious.

Not wanting to waste a perfectly ripe avocado and a small portion of homemade salsa, I made migas by lightly sautéing one diced small yellow onion in a couple of teaspoons of butter. I toasted a handful of tortilla chips (you can also use strips of tortillas) in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes, then crush them. Set these aside. Scramble 2-4 eggs into the pan with the sautéed onions (add a diced green or red pepper to the pan, if you have these—I didn’t). Gently add the crushed tortilla chips to the eggs and stir just to combine. Serve with sliced avocado, grated cheese and salsa or pico de gallo.

What’s hiding in your pantry, fridge or freezer right now that you haven’t used? Perhaps its a spice, condiment, bags of frozen fruit or veggies. Check it out. 

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