6 Dietitian Tips for Eating Out of Your Pantry
It’s a good time to learn how to eat out of your pantry. What I mean by that is just taking a good long look at what you have in your pantry, such as dried or canned goods, taking stock of what you have in your fridge, such as seasonal produce, and putting together a healthy, delicious meal based on your findings, no complicated recipes or shopping trips needed.
This is what home cooks have been doing since the beginning of time. It was always about the concept of “making something of nothing.” If you have a garden filled with green beans, some potatoes in the root cellar, and dried pinto beans in the cupboard, let’s make a really good thick stew for dinner. This is also a concept that professional chefs have perfected. A few quick glances at what is available in the kitchen, and before you know it, a delicious meal is on the table using classic techniques, such as stir-frying, braising, sautéing, stewing, grilling, roasting, or baking.
To get you inspired to jump on the cooking pantry bandwagon, I asked some of my dietitian friends to weigh in with their top tips to get you started. Carry on with good, healthy eating. You’ve got this!
Eat and Live the Goodness,
6 Dietitian Tips for Eating Out of Your Pantry
1. Think More Plant-Based. It’s all about the plants when it comes to cooking out of your pantry—that’s because many of them, from beans to grains to nuts to seeds, are shelf stable. “Most plant-based proteins and grains have much longer shelf lives than comparable animal proteins. Throw together taco soup with beans and textured vegetable protein, or create delicious cream sauces using cashews instead of dairy,” says Shena Jaramillo MD, RD of Peace and Nutrition.
2. Throw Together Meals. To get started with the cooking out of your pantry concept, think of it like this: you are simply throwing together ingredients that you have on hand into mix-and-match recipes. “Throw together meals are a cinch for using up pantry and freezer staples. Beans, grains, potatoes, canned sauces, and frozen veggies can easily be mixed and matched into countless combinations. My favorite ‘throw together meals’ are skillet hash, soup, stir fry, pantry salads, and pizza,” says Erin Hendrickson, RDN of No Waste Kitchen.
3. Try Out the Power Bowl Trend. The bowl formula: whole grain (quinoa, oats, brown rice) + a plant protein (beans, tofu, nuts, seed) + veggies + a flavorful sauce = delicious is the perfect way to “eat of your pantry.” Just cook up those grains, open a can of beans, raid your fridge for fresh or frozen veggies, and go to town. “I like to make a vegan power bowl out of whatever I have on hand. This recipe uses quinoa, but you can substitute whatever grain you have on hand, such as brown rice. Same for the beans—just use whatever you have on hand. Don’t have any fresh produce? You can use a combo of steamed frozen veggies like broccoli, as well as rinsed canned veggies such as corn,” says Amy Gorin, MS, RDN.
4. Search the Internet. Got a bunch of kohlrabi in your garden and don’t know what to do with it? Looking for a new way to use lima beans? How about all of those oranges falling off your tree? The Internet is there to inspire a million ways to use up those ingredients. “This really helps use up random ingredients you don’t normally cook with. Start by choosing one ingredient, then find a recipe that incorporates it! For example, say you have a random can of food you don’t even know why you bought. Head to allrecipes.com and use their ingredient search to find a recipe that uses it and some other ingredients that you have on hand,” Says Bri Bell of Frugal Minimalist Kitchen.
5. Make Leftovers Your BFF. Don’t throw away precious leftovers—they are the start for your next meal. In fact, make a little bit extra of key ingredients, such as cooked beans, grains, and potatoes, so you can enjoy them in the next meal. “I make super-fast chili with black, pinto or kidney beans, jarred salsa, cumin and chili powder. Leftovers can be used over brown rice or quinoa or rolled up in a tortilla as a quick burrito,” says Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD, LD of Sound Bites Nutrition.
6. Make it a Fun Challenge. Make cooking out of your pantry into a game. What ARE you going to do with that random jar of marinated artichokes, can of chickpeas, and bag of frozen peas in your kitchen? (I see the start of a beautiful meal!) You can even get your whole family in on the game. “Choose any four items from your pantry, fridge, or freezer and go for it! You might find some new and interesting recipes that you’ll use time and time again!” say Niki Morgan RD LD of New Frontier Nutrition.
For more helpful pantry advice, check out these blogs: