Keeping a stocked pantry is a deep love of mine. I think it must run in my blood. My mother was also obsessed with having backups of all her favorite products in the basement: There was always boxes of pasta, cans of beans, soup and tons of stuff in our second freezer.
Until recently we lived in an apartment, and my desire to keep a stocked pantry was limited by space (although I still tried to stock as best I could). But now with more space in a house and a second fridge and freezer downstairs, I like to be ready for anything: impromptu guests, at-the-ready weeknight dinner or just extra reserves in case of zombie apocalypse.
But you don’t need a second freezer or walk-in pantry to keep dinner-perfect staples in your house. Just a few key products will help ensure there is always something to make for dinner. Here are some of my favorite pantry staples, and dishes you can make with them.
1. Canned Tomatoes and Tomato Sauce
Having canned tomatoes (included diced ones) and tomato sauce on hand is essential, at least in my Italian-Jewish-American house. In fact, I cannot keep enough cans of tomato in my house.
- Crockpot Stuffed Peppers
- Cumin-Spiced Tomato Soup with Rice
- Creamy, Tortellini Tomato Soup from Two Peas and Their Pod
- Sweet and Sour Meatballs with Spaghetti Squash
Chickpeas are easy, cheap, high in fiber and a good source of vegetarian protein. My kids love to eat them plain, I love to roast them as snacks, and I also like to add them to pasta, stews and other dishes. Did I mention they are super cheap? I literally buy them by the caseload from Costco.
- Sheet Pan Za’atar Chicken with Cauliflower and Chickpeas
- Roasted Chickpeas from The Kitchn (the best snack ever!)
- Cuban Chickpea Stew
- Chickpea Bolognese from Minimalist Baker
- Chipotle Chickpea Tacos from Killing Thyme
3. Matzah Ball Soup Mix
Matzah ball soup, all day every day. I like pairing mine with some frozen kreplach, egg noodles and veggies for the ultimate comforting dinner.
Whether you are making soup, rice, pasta, stew or curry, having broths in your pantry is an absolute must. I tend to keep homemade chicken stock in the freezer and store-bought vegetable broth in my cabinet. You can also make a simple vegetable broth using leftover vegetable peelings — waste not, want not.
5. Israeli Couscous
It’s not quite pasta (OK, technically it’s pasta) but it’s super fun to make as a side dish, main dish or even added to a can of store-bought tomato soup.
- Salmon with Israeli Couscous and Charred Lemon
- Israeli Couscous Mac and Cheese
- Chickpea Salad with Lemon and Dill from Inspired Taste
- Couscous Chicken Soup from Soup Addict
- Israeli Couscous Stuffed Acorn Squash
6. Pizza Dough
Pizza dough is incredibly versatile, comes in many varieties (whole grain, plain, whole wheat, herb) and can be frozen to use at a later date. I love buying a few bags of the whole grain pizza dough from Whole Foods and pulling it out when I am in a pinch for dinner.
- Israeli Breakfast Pizza or Shakshuka Pizza
- Vegetable Calzones from MyRecipes.com
- Veggie Pot Pies from Kveller.com
- Bialys (breakfast for dinner is totally a thing)
7. Puff Pastry
Puff pastry can be used for sweet and savory dishes. You can store it in your freezer for flaky dinner deliciousness when you need it.
- Vegetable Bourekas or Spinach and Feta Bourekas
- Roasted Tomato-and-Onion Tart from Pepperidge Farm
- Easy Individual Chicken Pot Pies from Kveller.com
8. Coconut Milk
Coconut milk will turn humdrum pureed soup into something creamy and luxurious, and it is a quintessential ingredient in many Indian and Asian-inspired dishes.
- Chicken Coconut Curry with Split Peas and Tomatoes
- Thai Curry Vegetable Soup from Budget Bytes
- Red Lentil Coconut Soup from Innocent Delight
- Curry Vegetable and Chickpea Soup
Lentils, like chickpeas, are cheap, satisfying and delicious sources of protein you can keep on hand for easy cooking. I like to keep French lentils and red lentils around for soups, curry and mujaderra.
- Spicy Curry Lentils from Good Housekeeping
- Hearty Lentil Soup
- Veggie Spaghetti Bolognese from Jamie Oliver
- Egyptian Koshary
You may not think of eggs as a pantry staple, but if you have eggs in your refrigerator and a loaf of bread in your freezer, then you’ve got dinner. We loved having breakfast for dinner growing up — pancakes, scrambled eggs and some fruit is satisfying, easy comfort food at its best. But of course, you can make lots of other things with eggs too.
Looking for more easy dinner planning ideas? Check out this list of Trader Joe’s products to keep around for easy weeknight dinners.