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Grocery Shop Your Pantry

I am not the most organized person when it comes to meal planning, which is why I am an expert in grocery shopping my pantry and freezer! In fact, it is a near daily occurrence at my house around 4:30 pm.

Although meal planning is not my strong suit, my ability to create a pantry that delivers meals has improved over the years out of the fear of family starvation.

The secret is to have several pantry areas that constantly contain ingredients THAT GO TOGETHER to create a meal.  Trying to piece together random ingredients at 5 pm is simply frustrating. The more items you have in the pantry that easily go together, the more quickly you can gather the family around the dinner table. As a Together CountsTM ambassador, we’re placing even more importance on family meals this year.

Here are my go-to pantry recipes:

Beans, Taco Seasoning & Salsa/Spiced Tomatoes – Living in Texas I have learned that these three ingredients have limitless potential when served in different ways.  If you had ground beef available you could add that as well, but even without the meat these recipes can be filling:

  • Taco Bean Soup – In a large stovetop pan add a can of: chili beans, corn, pinto beans, stewed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, green chilies {or a tomato/jalapeno mixture} add water/chicken stock until soup consistency.  Add a taco seasoning package to desired taste.  Serve with rice or tortilla chips.
  • Bean Tacos – Using soft or hard taco shells, spread a layer of refried beans {I buy the spicy kind} on the taco shell and sprinkle with cheese.  Bake until cheese is melted at 350 degrees in the oven.  Add salsa and lettuce to serve.
  • Haystacks – This has been a family favorite since childhood since each person can make their own version.  Heat up a can of refried beans and pinto beans together {I like the ones that already have jalepenos included} and serve over tortilla chips with whatever you have in the fridge to put on top:  lettuce, cheese, salsa, leftover rice, sour cream, cottage cheese, green onions, onions, tomatoes {can use canned} and cilantro.

Tomato Sauce, Pasta, Pesto – This is my second favorite area to shop in my pantry.  Having a buffet of ingredients that work for pasta and pizza make it easy to get something on the table for dinner.  Our favorites include:

  • Homemade Pizza – I start by checking what bread items we have on hand.  Our favorite is individual pizzas created on English muffins, but sliced sour dough bread, a baguette, flat breads like naan, pita or tortillas also work great.  I open a can of pizza sauce and each person creates their own pizza with olives, mushrooms, cheese, pesto, olive oil, and any fresh herbs I have on hand.
  • Spaghetti with Red Sauce – We prefer angel hair pasta and I buy that in bulk.  Add a prepared spaghetti sauce and check to see if you have any meatballs in the freezer!  With or without meatballs, this is a family request.  Spread a bit of pesto sprinkled with parmesan cheese on whatever bread you have on hand and toast.

Easy Snacks – I have made a conscious decision to try and have a snack area that has things that are nutritious for the kids to eat.  They can grab them when they get hungry and I don’t have to worry about breaking energy balance.

Meal planning a few meals around what you already have can help clean out the pantry and make room for more cohesive choices in the future.  Create a few areas that work with what your family loves to eat!

Holly Homer is a stay-at-home mom of three boys ages 7, 10 and 12.  She realized early on that boys have a lot of energy and energy can be turned for evil use if not channeled in the proper direction!  She partially homeschools and has embraced that the dining room table will never be free of kids art projects. Keep up with Holly on Kids Activities Blog.

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