Thursday, February 18, 2010

Question: Raid-the-Pantry Meals

My brain seems to be in re-boot mode--I've been puttering around the house organizing and re-arranging, which generally for me seems to be a sign that the creative process is in gear at the back of the mind, under the surface. So, no sewing is happening right now. But I do have a question:

What are your strategies for feeding the family when dinnertime is upon you and you aren't prepared?

Maybe you haven't been grocery shopping, you're late getting home, or you didn't thaw anything out, and everyone's hungry. What do you fall back on? We're talking quick meals, minimal mess, and ingredients you're likely to have in the pantry: in other words, your raid-the-pantry meals.

A personal favorite of mine was always the old breakfast-for-dinner ploy--eggs, French toast, pancakes, and the kids' great favorite, German Pancakes (also known around here as Monsters), which they could whip up at a moment's notice. We could always depend on my oldest son for his specialty, Biscuits and Gravy.

There's always the old standby, Grilled Cheese and Soup. My Dad (who was an excellent cook) would feed us a Fried Egg Sandwich, which at our house always involved a fresh bun with cheese and pickle relish, but at a friend's house was pretty much one egg and two slices of bread.

We loved to have Dad make us his Potato Soup, or his special Tomato Soup, made from a quart of home-canned tomatoes, but our great favorite was his Corn Chowder. (This was before the days of Ramen, which today are easily spiffed up with vegetables and a quick egg drop.)

Just the other day my brother reminded me how our mom would occasionally declare a 'fix your own supper' and turn us loose on leftovers and pantry. Brave woman--with seven of us kids, it seems the mess-making possibilities would be exponential! The only rule was that we each tidy up for ourselves.

So, what are your strategies? What did your parents do? I'd love to know!


  1. My go-to pantry meals...grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup, tostadas (tostada shell, refried beans, lettuce, cheese, tomato), Bear River soups (I stock up when they're on sale, love the tortilla soup and darn good chili), salads(I always have grilled chicken strips in the freezer - precooked and easy to reheat in the microwave to add on top for a main dish salad) and spaghetti or any pasta is a quick meal.

  2. When we were kids my mom or Gramma would make us creamed peas on toast, spam sandwiches, sardine sandwiches, vienna sausage sandwiches or if all else failed, tomato soup with grilled cheese sandwiches. Gramma always put a dab of butter on top of the soup. Made it taste better. Oh I almost forgot - fresh tomatoes out of the garden with sugar on top. I can whip up a mean veggie soup out of my pantry!

  3. I still love how the Saturday night standard was hamburgers. I've attempted to make one night a week be a standard meal with my family, but nothing has ever stuck... I must try again!

    Around here the classics are Chicken Broccoli Casserole -- which involves rice, cream of chicken soup, a can of chicken, and frozen chopped broccoli, and a few other ingredients. The other old standby is Hawaiian Haystacks -- rice, chicken gravy, cheese, crunchy chow mein noodles, frozen peas, a can of pineapple, and whatever else you have that might work in the mix! And then, of course, breakfast-for-dinner: A classic!!

  4. We had a grab your own leftovers night at my house, too. It was called "EMFH" night. (Every man for himself.) My mom's standby was called "slumgunyan." It consisted of fried hamburger and canned spaghetti. I started making it when I was 10. As I got older I've learned to fry some onion with the hamburger and add shredded cheese. To dress it up we had bread and butter on the side. Every once in a while I get a craving for it to this day. In fact, I think I have the ingredients for that right now...

  5. How could I have forgotten to mention creamed tuna and peas on toast!! I crave it even as I type--a true pantry meal.

  6. My latest standby is homemade hummus - canned chickpeas, oil, spices. The only out of the ordinary thing you need to have around is tahini, but you don't use a lot so a jar can stay in the fridge a long time.


  7. Spaghetti...spaghetti...more spaghetti.
    My boy could and would eat pasta every night of the week if I let him, and on the nights I don't want to cook, I don't really care what I eat!
    My parents had a lot of leftover nights where we fended for ourselves, and we do that at my house now too.
    Grilled cheese and tomato soup, mac and cheese and Goulash are quick last minute meals as well.

  8. My pantry meal (but only when the spousal unit is not home--he won't eat it!); a cup of rice, a can of beans (I prefer pinto but kidney, chickpea, or navy beans would work as well), and a can of diced tomatoes. Dump it all in the rice cooker, fill the tomato can with water, add it, season to taste. Add an onion (if you have it). Add a bit of garlic (if you have it). Add a slice or two of cubed ham (if you have it). Turn on the rice cooker and wait until it pings. Eat with chutney.

  9. This is almost every meal for us! We havea lot of stir-fry & rice, pasta with whatever, sandwiches of various sorts (my quickest is PB & honey) and, of course, leftovers or breakfast for dinner as you said. :)

  10. Vegetable soup.

    I brown a very lean hamburger. Then add a little flour to thicken it up. Start with a little chicken broth then add all the vegetables I can find in the fridge, freezer, or pantry (frozen carrots, onion, green beans, tomatoes, pasta, southern style hashbrowns, etc.) When using canned vegetables, I add the juice too. To boost the flavor, I add dry ranch dressing mix. Then top of with enough broth to give it the desired consistency.

  11. burritos. We seem to make these AT LEAST one a week. Whether it be the bean form, a meat form or a breakfast form. We are actually eating bean burritos tonight, I think.

  12. my mom does that sometimes!!!(this is clark, i'm not talking about you, wendy.)


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