Cute stocked vintage pantry.
They say the worst possible time to grocery shop is on an empty stomach because the choices you make are going to appease your body’s worst cravings.
And I say the worst time to prepare a meal is when you are both hungry and have an empty fridge.
That’s when cookies and cheese for dinner start to sound mighty good.
But neither cookies nor cheese will replenish your body after a long day of dancing. Better to have a plan for those days when grocery shopping is out of the question and you need a quick, nutritious meal.
The solution is to keep your pantry stocked with non-perishable items that you can put together in a pinch to make a tasty, healthy meal. I am going to add freezer items to this list because, like the pantry, freezer items are just there whenever you need them. They don’t go bad and don’t require any care.
So here are some pantry and freezer staples and how you can use them.
- Canned tuna packed in olive oil
- Canned organic beans
- Vinegar (I like red wine, balsamic, and rice wine)
- Oils (I like olive oil, toasted sesame seed, and peanut)
- Lemon juice (See Shortcuts below)
- Whole grains (i.e. cracked freekeh, mixed wild rice, steel cut oats)
- Frozen peas
- Frozen leafy greens (i.e. spinach or kale)
Whole grains take a while to cook, so I like to do them in the morning while I’m getting ready or throw them in to cook while I’m eating dinner – then they’re ready for the next day.
For example, as soon as you get up, put a medium pot of water on the stovetop on high heat. As soon as it’s boiling, toss 1-2 cups of grain it in, lower heat, and set a timer. By the time you’ve showered and gotten dressed, they’ll be ready to drain and stick in a Tupperware for later. Or do the same while preparing your dinner. Once you have grains stored in your fridge or freezer, it takes no time to heat them up and add to the meals below.
These meal ideas are quick and easy. They are not fancy and not for every night, but they work great as backup. You definitely want a backup plan for dinner so you don’t skip it or eat something useless.
- Tuna tossed with warm peas: add lemon juice and olive oil, salt, and pepper to taste.
- Beans and kale/spinach: heat frozen greens; drain; add to drained beans (cooked or not); toss with your choice of dressing. Try peanut oil and tahini or toasted sesame oil and rice wine vinegar.
- Tuna mixed with capers and kalamata olives, red wine vinegar, salt, and pepper; eat over a bed of steamed greens.
- Beans and grains. This is one of my go-tos. Doesn’t get any faster or simpler than opening a can of beans and tossing with pre-made grains. Jazz it up with grated cheese, if you have any or a nice oil and vinegar combo.
In an ideal world, we wouldn’t take any shortcuts, but in the real world of evening exhaustion and nutritional need, shortcuts are sometimes necessary. So go ahead and buy the lemon and lime juices in the little plastic containers. (I like the Sicilia brand.) These keep forever in your fridge whereas real lemons and limes rot.
Also, I am a huge fan of ordering some foods online so that I can keep them in stock and not have to schlep them home. I order my tuna online here. For those of you who live far from a good grocery store (or don’t have time to shop), Bob’s Red Mill is a great place to get your grains online. Get a bunch so you never have to worry about running out.
And…get stocked! And then tell me about it. 🙂