Grocery Items to Stockpile for Easy Meals


Ideas That Spark: Kitchen Flair

Stock the Perfect Pantry

From the Editors of Ideas That Spark

By Susan Korones Gifford

In these long winter weeks, you’re most likely avoiding your usual round of grocery store, gourmet shop and health food market. That’s why it’s essential to stock some staples in your pantry, freezer and fridge that’ll let you pull together a full, belly-warming meal — without setting a booted foot into the wintry mix.

You probably keep such basics as eggs, pasta and rice in the house, along with an assortment of spices, oils, vinegars and condiments. Stocking up on the items below will turn those simple standbys into delicious, at-your-fingertips dinners.

Frozen Shrimp
Shrimp possesses a rare quality for a hearty protein: It can defrost in the time it takes to cut up vegetables or boil water for pasta. (To hasten the process, put the shrimp you’re using in a bowl under warm running water.)
Restaurateur and Season Five “Top Chef” contestant Ariane Duarte suggests quickly sautéing the shellfish and some minced garlic in olive oil, then tossing with spaghetti and a squeeze of lemon. Or, lightly sauté the shrimp and some scallions in vegetable oil, beat eggs in a bowl with a splash of soy sauce and some sesame oil, and add to the pan for an Asian take on scrambled eggs.

Frozen Pizza Dough
Pizza dough is really just an edible plate that holds anything else you have on hand.
Place the dough in the refrigerator in the morning so it’s defrosted by dinnertime, then stretch or roll out with a pin. Slather with any selection of ingredients: tomato sauce and cheese; caramelized onions, mushrooms, and ground pepper; thinly sliced potatoes brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with oregano and sea salt. Bake at the highest temperature your oven will reach, until crust is brown and toppings are bubbling.

Frozen Fancy Breads and Soft Tacos
Because with the right attitude, you can turn a sandwich into an international feast.
Match the bread to its “native” toppings — pile ciabatta with cold cuts, cheeses, and roasted jarred peppers (see below) and press on a Panini grill. Make a “breakfast” burrito with scrambled eggs, canned jalapeno peppers and a sharp cheese; smear baguettes with brie or layered with thick-cut ham and Dijon mustard.

A Jar of Sun-dried Tomatoes or Roasted Peppers
Why and how
You can’t make a meal out of either, but both these ingredients offer up such strong, sunny flavors that you can use them to make the ordinary — eggs, pasta, sandwiches, chicken breasts — extraordinary. Refrigerated, they will keep for several weeks.

A Winter Squash
A butternut or acorn squash can sit unscathed on your countertop for four to six weeks, according to the Oregon State University Extension Service Web site.
Cut into chunks, brushed with butter and roasted, squash makes a sweet side. For a light vegetarian dinner, make stuffed acorn squash: Cut an acorn squash in half, brush with butter, place cut-side down on a lightly greased baking pan and roast at 350 degrees Fahrenheit to 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about 30 minutes, until tender. Fill with a rice, couscous or orzo pasta dish.

Frozen Marinated Flank Steak
It’s thin, so it defrosts relatively quickly.
Duarte suggests cutting into 3 to 4-inch portions. Place in a zip lock bag, pour on a teriyaki marinade of soy sauce, red pepper flakes, pepper and a little brown sugar, and tuck into the freezer. Defrost, and then pop under the broiler.

Cans of Beans
They’re versatile, filling, and cheap.
There are countless ways to incorporate beans into a meal: Toss them into a salad; puree white beans with salt, pepper and roasted red peppers, and spread on a ciabatta or baguette; make a white chicken chili, with white beans, chicken breasts (if you’ve got them in the freezer and have defrosted them overnight), Monterey jack cheese and canned, diced jalapeno peppers. Throw it over rice, and you’re done.

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  1. says

    I agree with all of these except for the pizza dough! It’s so easy to make – there’s no reason for frozen dough with god-knows-what preservatives and things in it to take up space in your freezer when you can whip up your own in 2 minutes.
    Mix (with your hands):
    3 cups flour (I use 2 white 1 whole wheat)
    1 cup warm water (from the tap is fine)
    1 tbsp olive oil
    1 tsp salt
    1 tsp yeast
    herbs/cheese/garlic/etc. (optional)

    After a minute or two of kneading, the dough will be moist but not sticky. Form it into a ball and let it sit for an hour in the mixing bowl with a cloth on top. Roll or stretch out as you would with the frozen stuff, pre-bake at 425 for 6 minutes and then add all your stuff. The crust needs about 16 minutes at 400 to get firm but it can take up to 20 if you want to crisp up anything on the pizza.

    I don’t mean to go on and on but I’m really passionate about homemade pizza! Here are some of my favorites:

    -Pesto: store-bought pesto or homemade (puree a whole bag of spinach w/ lots of garlic, olive oil and some walnuts – yum and cheap!). Add chicken, tomato, mozzarella, artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers or any combination thereof
    -Garlic: Spread delicious, creamy roasted garlic (roast entire garlic heads with the tops cut off in tons of oil at 350 for an hour, then scoop out with a butter knife) like you would pizza sauce and add hearty things like chicken and/or broccoli.
    -Butternut squash: Just a coating of olive oil on the pizza, then thin-sliced cooked squash, goat cheese (add towards end) and then top with arugula or “spring mix” salad.

    Of course, basic pepperoni or cheese works fine too. We have pizza in my house *a lot* and it’s always a pleaser.
    .-= Amber´s last blog ..Lunar New Year Parade =-.

    • madamedeals says

      Thank you so much for sharing! When my husband and I first met, he made homemade pizza crust for me. It has been years since he has made it!I will hae to give your recipes a try. I love pesto!

  2. says

    Great ideas! I especially love having an acorn squash on hand — YUM!!
    The only thing that I would add is canned diced tomatoes. When it gets close to grocery shopping day, my tomatoes are usually gone (or yuck) but every other recipe calls for them! Tonight I even used a can to make salsa because we had forgotten to buy it.

    • madamedeals says

      Yes, canned tomatoes come in really handy! I stocked up on Hunts and Rotel a couple of weeks ago at Kroger. Add a can of Rotel to leftover rice, ham and beans and you have a flavorful meal!

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