You open the pantry, look around and close the door, walk over to the fridge, open it, close it. Finally, you check the freezer, only to close it too. There’s nothing to eat! Or at least nothing quick. Nothing obvious you could whip up in a few minutes. Just random food stuff that doesn’t look like much of a meal, or even a snack for that matter!
So, what do you do?
I’m here to help. The internet has many of the answers to this question, but I have some suggestions to get you started. I’m going to share some “recipes” to use when you don’t have much food in the house.
I use the term “recipes” very loosely because, if your were to ask my family, I rarely ever follow a recipe to the T. I usually don’t have all of the ingredients, so I sub or eliminate, if it makes sense. I consider recipes a general guideline. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t. Doing this certainly won’t work for homemade bread or a souffle, but most of the time it’s just fine.
Check out 10+ Super Quick, Super Cheap Meal Ideas
If it seems like you don’t have anything to eat, you’re probably going to have to dig deep into the scary places in your fridge, pantry and freezer. This is particularly true if you are participating in the no spend month.
Now, some things will be rotten, so you need to dispose of them. But, other things, like bendy celery or sprouting potatoes, may be a little past their prime, but are eligible for soup.
Side note: Since you are cleaning out the fridge, it’s the perfect time to wash those shelves and get rid of all the sticky nastiness.
Cheap meals to make when you don’t have much food in the house
Tomato and Garlic Pasta Here’s a fantastic recipe that’s simple and easy to make. Sub canned tomatoes for the fresh.
Linguine with Tuna, Garlic, and Olive Oil Do you have tuna, garlic and pasta? This is for you!
Spaghetti and Cheese (from the More-With-Less Cookbook – a favorite of mine!)
Preheat oven to 350.
Cook and drain 8 oz of spaghetti or noodles.
Place in a greased casserole.
Sprinkle with ¾ cup grated cheese.
Combine and beat together: ½ cup milk, 1 egg, ½ t. Dry mustard, ½ t. Salt, Dash pepper
Pour over spaghetti and cheese. Bake, covered, for 15 minutes, then bake, uncovered, for 10-15 minutes more. Serve with tomato, spaghetti sauce, parmesan cheese and/or herbs.
Hamburger Helper – Home Style (also adapted from More-With-Less Cookbook)
Brown in skillet: ¾ lb ground beef (I use 1 lb), 1 t. Salt, ½ t. Pepper
Add: 1 T. finely chopped onion, 1 stalk celery (chopped), ⅔ cup fresh or canned tomatoes (chopped)
Note: I use my canned, stewed tomatoes in place of all of this
Meanwhile cook 1 cup egg noodles in salted, boiling water.
Drain noodles and spread over meat mixture.
Simmer uncovered for about 5-10 minutes.
Sprinkle with shredded cheese.
Don’t forget mac and cheese! I make my own cheese sauce from a basic white sauce recipe (check out the recipe for white sauce toward the end of the post).
For a simple pasta meal, cook pasta, add olive oil, steamed veggies (I prefer frozen, but canned can work), and parmesan cheese for a tasty meal. Add crushed garlic for extra flavor (or sub garlic powder)!
Spanish Rice Here’s an easy, tasty rice recipe – just onions, peppers, tomatoes and seasoning.
Black Beans and Rice Got beans and rice? Here’s a super quick, yummy meal!
Rice Bowls I discuss how I make my rice bowls in this post. If you have rice, you can probably make a meal!
Black Bean and Espresso Chili Don’t have the espresso powder? Sub some strong brewed coffee for some of the water (or just leave it out). I love adding chipotle chiles in adobo sauce to my chili (since I don’t use a whole can at once, I freeze the remaining chiles for later).
Tomato and White Bean Panade Sounds more complicated than it is. A can of beans, day old bread, tomatoes, onion, garlic and cheese (and a few random flavorful ingredients you probably have on hand).
Crunchy Black Bean Tacos Do you have tortillas, cheese and beans? The kids will love this!
Got lentils? Check out Everything You Want To Know About How to Cook Lentils: The Ultimate Guide, complete with tasty recipes!
If you still haven’t found a rice and/or bean recipe to suit your tastes, check out these 7 easy recipes using beans and rice.
Soup can be whatever you want it to be. It’s perfect for using leftover and random food.
Here is a great process for “things from the fridge” soup!
Potato Soup Do you have potatoes and milk? You can probably whip up a version of this soup.
7-Can Soup Check out this fantastic recipe from The Pioneer Woman, straight out of the pantry.
Sandwiches are always an option when you have bread on hand. Don’t forget about grilled cheese, tuna salad and, of course, the ol’ pb&j!
Is your bread stale? Don’t let it go to waste. Wisebread offers up these suggestions for using up stale bread.
If you have bread, eggs and milk, you have most of the ingredients for this tasty French toast bake recipe.
Mini Pizzas (from More-With-Less Cookbook )
Split and arrange 6 English muffins on a baking sheet.
Combine in bowl 2 c. tomato sauce, 1 t salt (or to taste), ½ t pepper, ½ t oregano, ½ t Italian seasoning, ¼ t garlic salt.
Coat muffins with tomato mixture.
Sprinkle on 2 c. grated cheese.
Broil until cheese is bubbly (keep a close eye on it!).
Basic White Sauce
I learned to make a white sauce 16 years ago and use it weekly. It’s cheap, easy and versatile. You can use it in place of creamed condensed soups in recipes, make into a gravy, or add ½-1 cup grated cheese at the end to make cheese sauce. This recipe is adapted from the More-With-Less cookbook.
Melt in a heavy saucepan: 2 T. butter
Blend in, stirring constantly, until bubbly: 2 T. flour, ¼ tsp. Salt
Using a wire whisk to prevent lumps, stir in: 1-1½ c. milk*
Cook until smooth and thickened
Makes about 1 ½ cups.
*adjust liquid for consistency – the less liquid, the thicker the sauce
I bet you have the ingredients for cookies or bars in your pantry!
Peanut Butter Cookies I don’t know where I ran across this recipe, but it is my go to peanut butter cookie recipe and everyone loves it! Mix 1 cup peanut butter, 1 cup sugar and 1 egg. Drop by the spoonful on your baking sheet, flatten with a fork dipped in sugar and bake at 325 degrees for 12-15 minutes.
No-Bake Cereal Cookies (from More-With-Less)
Combine in saucepan and heat to boiling: ½ c. brown sugar, ⅓ c. light corn syrup
Stir in: 1 t. Vanilla, ¾ c. peanut butter
Mix until smooth. Stir in: 3 c. ready-to-eat cereal flakes (corn flakes, bran flakes, etc.), 1 c. flaked coconut (opt.)
Drop by teaspoonful on waxed paper and let set up.
Sugar and Spice Snack Mix (I adapted this from a cereal box recipe!)<
Melt in saucepan: ¼ cup butter
Add: ¼ cup brown sugar, 3 T corn syrup, 1 t cinnamon (I use less), ¼ t allspice (just a pinch for me)
Stir constantly until mixture begins to bubble.
Pour over: 4 cups of cereal (generic Cheerios and Chex work great)
(You can also add peanuts, almonds, and/or pretzels if you like)
Stir and coat cereal evenly.
Spread on an ungreased 9×13 pan.
Bake at 275 degrees for 15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes (keep an eye on it – it can burn quickly!)
Spread on waxed paper to cool.
Store in sealed container.
Hopefully you get some ideas for cleaning out the fridge, pantry and freezer here!
Please share your own easy recipes for using up leftovers and random food stuffs!
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Did you challenge yourself not to go out to eat this month? Check out these Alternatives to Going Out to Eat!
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