Fast and Easy Weeknight Meals You Can Make From Your Pantry

pantry meal prep

It’s my belief that there is but one sentence in the English language that can strike universal fear into the hearts of adults everywhere. Granted, my research is nowhere near scientific, but that doesn’t change the fact that I’m almost certain I’m correct.

What is the question, you ask? Well, my friends, that question is:

“What’s for dinner?”

It’s a tough one, right? Mostly because by the time this question is posed, we’re already beaten down, tired and ready to end our day. Maybe we’ve been running around all afternoon, from practices to games to conferences to meetings. Maybe it’s because we’ve worked all day and we’re just plain tired from our adult-life decision making that this one, seemingly so simple, is insurmountable.

I really don’t know why, but it is.


The good news, though, is it doesn’t have to be. The solution isn’t rocket science or complex mathematics. Trust me, if it was, I wouldn’t be able to figure it out. The solution is actually quite easy. Though it does, and don’t shoot the messenger, require some planning.

Meal planning.

Here’s the deal, if you don’t want to deal with that dreaded question at 5:00 pm when you’re still in your business casual and haven’t even had a chance to think, your best bet is to have a plan in place. Yes, it will require some work on the front end, maybe a Sunday of planning and thinking ahead. But it’s so worth it.

It’s simple, build a pantry filled with staples.

You know the ones, the not-so-sexy rice, beans, and pasta, and fill in around them. Make sure you always have enough on hand to make a few tried and true recipes that everyone loves and are easy to throw together at the last minute. And go from there.

I know. I know. This sounds so easy for someone like me, someone who makes a living in food and recipe creation. But it’s really easy for anyone.

And, to make it easier for you, we decided to help you out.

Pulling some of our favorite pantry-friendly recipes together, we have created this fun list of quick and easy family-friendly recipes that will help you combat the “What’s for Dinner” dread every night.

The beauty of this soup is that it’s completely pantry-friendly and also adaptable. These are what I call “clean out the kitchen” recipes because they’re so flexible you can throw just about anything in it. Trying to get rid of zucchini? Toss it in. Don’t have kidney beans? Sub in pinto. It’s fast and easy and the best part might be the abundance — you’ll have leftovers for days with this fast and pantry-loving soup.

Beauty From Burnt Toast

There’s nothing I love more than my weeknight takeout dinners. Indian curry is on regular rotation in our house. It’s delicious, filling, and oh-so-easy. But sometimes delivery isn’t an option. Or maybe you’re trying to save some money and work with what you have. This simple Chickpea curry comes to the rescue. Easy to make and completely shelf-stable, this recipe makes your takeout habit seem a little less difficult to break.

Another take out gem, this chow mein rivals any restaurant version and is also one of those “easy to change” recipes perfect for busy nights. Regular pasta can be subbed for chow mein if necessary and you can swap out cabbage if you don’t have it on hand. I love throwing in some pantry protein (think eggs or chicken) but it’s completely not necessary for this delicious meal.

Nothing says easy like a pasta dinner, right? But sometimes jarred sauce just isn’t our jam. Rest assured, there are options. I love the use of canned tuna and olives to take this pantry staple up a notch and transport you straight to Italy with one bite. This recipe is extremely fast, too, so even your busiest night can be one of your most delicious.

Everyone loves a two-fer right? We love BOGO sales and getting two for the price of one. Well, this little gem is the recipe version of a buy one get one free. On day one you get the easiest dump and run crock pot tacos. On day two, easy peasy make-ahead enchiladas with the leftover meat and a few extra fridge staple ingredients. I love this one for its ease of use, for the double duty aspect and because it’s just really really tasty.

beauty from burnt toast crock pot tacos

See? Cooking from a well-stocked pantry and a meal plan doesn’t have to be boring or dull. It can be tasty, fun and delicious. I promise. Now tell us, what are your favorite pantry recipes? What’s your go-to weeknight answer to the “what’s for dinner?” conundrum? We’d love to hear!