Stock Up for Easy Weeknight Meals
For easy weeknight meals it’s important to be prepared.
Keep your home stocked with recipe necessities that will help simplify dinner prep. A handful of specific items in your pantry, refrigerator and freezer can help you make dinner out of what is seemingly nothing!
Keep in mind that most recipes (other than fine baked goods) can, and should, be modified to meet your personal taste preferences. Give yourself permission to modify! For example, if your recipe calls for kidney beans and you only have black beans on hand, then go ahead and use the black beans. If your recipe calls for fresh spinach, but you only have frozen, then use frozen (a 9 oz. box of frozen spinach is about equal to a 10 oz. bag of fresh).
Stock you pantry and refrigerator with versatile ingredients:
- Diced canned tomatoes
- Canned beans
- Quick cook rice
- Small whole grain pasta (i.e. elbows or mini penne)
- Vegetable or chicken stock
- Canned Soup
- Fluid milk
- Shredded Cheese
- Plain Greek yogurt
Must have items in your freezer:
- Family favorite frozen vegetables for quick sides to meals
- Frozen broccoli cuts, spinach (or other greens), peas and carrots, and corn as recipe add-ins.
Use dried herbs and spices that can do double duty
- Italian herb blend (without salt) – can be used as a substitute for basil, oregano or rosemary in recipes.
- Herbs de Provence blend (without salt) – can be used as a substitute for thyme, savory, marjoram or rosemary.
- Lemon Pepper (without salt) – if it’s fish or seafood, it needs lemon pepper! As a bonus, this blend adds a bright fresh flavor to many chicken dishes.
- Garlic powder and onion powder can be used as an easy substitute for fresh, especially when time is tight.
One simple meal prep short-cut is to start with a “base ingredient” like a can of soup, prepared mac and cheese, or a bag of salad and then add in items to make the simple base ingredient a delicious meal. You can add vegetables, beans, cheese, fruit, nuts, canned tuna or just about anything you have on hand to create a dish – just remember to balance the dish by including a variety of food groups.
A family favorite at my house is Tomato Tortellini Soup. This mix-up is a superfood blend of nutrient rich milk and both fresh and canned vegetables that you can feel good about feeding your family.
Tomato Tortellini Soup (easy as 1, 2, 3!)
1 can tomato soup (16-20 oz. ready to serve, or 1 10 oz. can condensed)
1 (15 oz.) can Italian seasoned diced tomatoes
3 cups cheese tortellini
2 1/2 cups cow’s milk (whole or 2% for creamier soup)
3 cups fresh spinach (or other greens; 1 1/2 cups frozen can be substituted)
(such as pepper, salt, Italian blend seasoning, garlic, other)
Garnish with shredded Parmesan cheese.
Combine soup, tomatoes, tortellini and milk (season to taste with pepper, garlic powder and/or Italian blend herbs). Cover and cook over medium-low heat 15 minutes. Add fresh spinach, cover and cook until spinach wilts (about 5 minutes). Serve garnished with shredded Parmesan cheese, if desired.
Go-to Family Favorite Weeknight Meals
Cheesy Turkey Chili Mac – Instant pot recipe
Sustainable Frittata – use up those leftover veggies
Find more quick and easy weeknight meal ideas at https://www.milkmeansmore.org/recipe.