If you’ve got a hectic schedule or feel too tired to cook an elaborate meal, you’re not alone. However, you don’t have to let your commitment to healthy habits slide just because you’re low on time. That’s where having a reliable, well-stocked pantry can save the day. These ingredients are great on their own, or in tandem, for putting together easy, weeknight meals in 20 minutes or less.
Canned beans are a great source of plant-based protein, and they’re incredibly versatile. Since they cook so quickly, you can use them to make at-home quesadillas in minutes. Just add beans, cheese and peppers to a warm tortilla. Or, mash beans with some breadcrumbs and an egg for an easy bean burger. Combine a few varieties of beans with canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, onion, spices and cheese for an easy vegetarian chili.
Like beans, lentils are a legume and make for an easy swap for beans in homemade quesadillas or an easy filling for a tortilla wrap. Prepare a big batch as part of meal prep by rinsing them, adding them to a pot over medium-high high heat and bringing to a boil. Simmer until tender, roughly 20 minutes. For a protein-packed option, toss them in a salad with shrimp or chicken. Or, mix with your choice of grain and vegetables for an easy grain bowl that meets your macros. Top with avocado for additional flavor and healthy fats.
Whether it’s brown rice, quinoa, barley, farro or whole-wheat pasta, having some complex carbohydrates on hand can help make a complete meal. To save time, buy microwaveable rice mixes or cook a big batch at the beginning of the week to reheat as needed. Whole grains are a great, hearty addition to a green salad with beans or lentils and can add a savory, hearty element to soups.
Canned tomatoes are a simple flavor enhancer for just about any dish and a great source of vitamins A and C. From homemade pasta to chili or fillings for sandwiches and quesadillas, these shelf-stable fruits save a significant amount of time in the kitchen.
With a longer shelf life than bread, tortillas have a variety of uses and blend well with several other pantry staples. For a simple, reliable dinner, try a wrap with scrambled eggs, cheese and vegetables. Tortillas can also come in handy for those homemade quesadillas or they can serve as a thin pizza crust.
Combine some of your pantry tortillas with a protein base, like chicken, for a simple tortilla soup, that can be dressed up with spices and herbs. Or, use any noodles you have on hand and some frozen veggies to create a simple noodle soup recipe. Another option for your chicken broth is to add lentils, canned tomatoes and any other vegetables you have on hand for a nourishing lentil soup.
Check out Healthy Pantry Recipes for a collection of easy-to-cook recipes using non-perishable foods with helpful substitutions.