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Make Healthy Meals from Pantry Staples

Life happened and your meal plan got derailed. Don’t worry, you can still prepare a healthy meal if you keep some simple staples in your pantry. To be prepared for times like these, it’s important to start with a well stocked pantry. 


How do you create a well-stocked pantry?


Begin with organization! 


Sort your pantry into 5 key sections. Consider using bins to organize your pantry into sections. A well organized pantry not only looks good, but it is more efficient for meal planning and helps you waste less food.


Section 1: NUTS & SEEDS

Include a selection of seeds such as chia seeds, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds. Next add some delicious nut butters such as almond butter, cashew butter, pecan butter, and peanut butter. And complete this section by adding nuts like almonds, cashews, pistachios, and pecans. 


Section 2: SAUCES & BROTHS

You’ll want to include these basic broths: vegetable, chicken, beef, and bone. Add a few cans of tomato sauce, pasta sauce and some pumpkin puree. Cans of pumpkin don’t need to be reserved just for Thanksgiving!


Section 3: BEANS & LENTILS

Make sure you have a variety of canned or dried beans such as white, black, kidney, and garbanzo beans. Add some canned green peas, black-eyed peas and a bag of dried lentils. 



This section can really help you round out a healthy meal. Build this section by adding rolled and steel cut oats, black, basmati, and whole grain rice. And don’t forget the red and white quinoa!


Section 5: VEGGIES

Even though these items are not canned, they still have a long shelf life. Fill your bin with sweet potatoes, white potatoes, onions, garlic and your favorite winter squashes.


This system makes it easy to assess each category bin to see what you have on hand.  



Dietitian faves!

These are two dairy-alternative pantry staples I always keep on hand! I can use them in a variety of recipes since they’re great for cooking, baking and drinking. They’re not only delicious, but I can keep them in the pantry until I’m ready to use them.

Elmhurst Non-dairy Milks  




Are you ready to cook?


Many people eat 2-3 meals every day. And some eat snacks too. Let’s be honest, when preparing for the week, that can feel like a lot of meals to be responsible for! If we let ourselves become worked up over planning and cooking healthy meals, we can often just give up and throw in the dish towel! Don’t let the stress of getting to the grocery store and spending hours cooking get in your way of healthy nourishing meals! Just pick a few key nutritious staples from your well-stocked pantry can help you rustle up something delicious!



Make these 5 Meals with just 5 Ingredients


Don’t have additional ingredients, not a problem! You can keep your flavors super simple by making these recipes with only the five ingredients. 


You’ll notice many substitutes throughout the recipes. Be courageous and experiment a little in the kitchen! This is all about using what you have to make the meals as stress-free as possible. If you do not have an ingredient listed, put your thinking cap on and discover what ingredient in your pantry might work instead. Think: Do I really need this ingredient? Can I make it without it? Or can I use a different ingredient I already have? I give you permission to use trial and error in the kitchen! 



5 Cup Pesto Pasta


1 cup cooked lentil or bean pasta 

1 cup white beans, drained and rinsed 

1 cup black olives, drained

1 cup green olives, drained 

1 cup jarred pesto 



Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and stir to combine.



Pumpkin Risotto


1 can pumpkin puree

2 cups vegetable, chicken, or beef stock 

1 24-oz jar marinara pasta sauce 

1 onion, peeled and finely chopped

1 ½  cups arborio rice 



Add pumpkin puree, stock, and pasta sauce to medium saucepan, stir, and keep warm over low heat. 


Saute onion in a large pot over medium heat with 1 Tbs oil for about 8 mins. Add rice to pot and let cook about 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium-low and scoop 1 cup warmed stock mixture into pot and let cook until mixture evaporates and thickens, stirring occasionally. Add another cup of stock mixture to skillet and cook until mixture thickens. Continue adding 1 cup of stock mixture at a time until rice is al dente. This should take about 30-35  minutes. 


Season with: 

Pinch of nutmeg 

Sea salt and pepper to taste 

Drizzle of balsamic vinegar 



Peas & Carrots Fried Rice 


1 onion, peeled and finely diced  

3 cups cooked rice

1 can carrots, drained and rinsed 

1 can peas, drained and rinsed 

3 eggs



Saute onion in a large skillet over medium heat with 1 Tbs oil for about 8 mins. Stir in rice, carrots, and peas. Crack eggs into pan and scramble into rice mixture. Continue cooking while stirring until eggs are cooked. 


Season with: 

1 tsp garlic powder 

2 Tbs coconut aminos 



1, 2, 3, 4, 5 Oat Bites


1 cup any type of nut butter (such as almond butter, cashew butter, or peanut butter)

2 cups oats

3 Tbs chia seeds

4 Tbs maple syrup or honey 

5 Tbs cacao chips, cacao nibs, or unsweetened shredded coconut



Add all ingredients to a large bowl and stir to combine. Scoop into 1 inch balls and tightly roll between hands to pack into balls. 


Season with:

1 tsp vanilla extract or 2 Tbs cocoa powder

Pinch of sea salt 



Chickpea Cashew Curry


1 onion, peeled and finely chopped  

1 Tbs curry powder

1 can diced tomatoes 

1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 cup cashew milk, or any non-dairy milk such as almond milk or coconut milk



Saute onion in a large skillet over medium heat with 1 Tbs oil for about 8 mins. Stir in curry powder. Add diced tomatoes and chickpeas. Cook for about 5 mins, stirring occasionally. Stir in cashew milk and cook for about 8-10 more minutes. 


Top it with:

2 Tbs cashews 

2 Tbs fresh cilantro or green onions, chopped 

Pinch of sea salt and black pepper


Serve with:

Basmati or any type of rice or cauliflower rice



Choosing to make simple meals with pantry staples can eliminate your stress at meal time! There is no need to sacrifice nutritious food when you are in a pinch. Make these recipes to have wholesome meals on the table in a jiff! 


Happy Cooking in 2021!


Recipes © 2021 Aubrey H. Moore, DCN, RDN

Feeding MaxWell nutrition blogs are produced for informational purposes only and brought to you by MaxWell Clinic, LLC. The information is provided by a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist that has been trained in providing dietary advice backed by nutritional science and research. The nutrition information is not to be construed as medical advice or medical nutrition therapy. The information is not to be used as individualized nutrition counseling or used to diagnose, cure, treat, or prevent any medical problems. The content of these blogs should not be used as a substitute for medical treatment from your medical provider. Any information, examples, recipes, foods, or stories presented do not constitute a warranty, guarantee, or prediction regarding the outcome of the individual using the material. The reader is responsible for working with a qualified professional before beginning any new dietary program or plan. The writers and publishers of this nutrition information are not responsible for any adverse reactions, effect, or consequences resulting from the use of provided information, recipes, foods, or suggestions.

Aubrey H. Moore, DCN, RDN

Aubrey Moore is a registered dietitian. She specializes in functional nutrition, providing individualized personal guidance that focuses on whole food as medicine.