Need some simple, real food meals you can make from your pantry stash? Here are our top favorites, plus how to make your own list based on what you have in your kitchen.

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Cooking from your pantry is both fun and frustrating. It’s always a good idea to use what you have and reduce food waste. We clean out those corners of our pantry and freezer so we use our money wisely.

However, when you’re also trying to eat healthy, it’s easy to feel limited and frustrated during a pantry challenge. How do we make healthy meals while shopping just from our pantry and freezer stash?

What you really need is recipes that will help you use what you have and avoid food waste. I shared 3 rules to help you make your own recipes (or find ones that you know will work for you) here.

But if you just need a list of recipes that already follow those rules, we got you covered. These recipes have served us well over the years, and I want to share them with you below.

These recipes all follow my 35-ingredient rule. You only need around 35 ingredients to make budget-friendly real food meals. Get the printable list below and bring it with you the next time you grocery shop!

You Only Need 35 Ingredients to Make Healthy, Budget-Friendly Meals.

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    5 Simple, Clean Eating Pantry Meals

    These recipes all follow the 3 healthy pantry rules, and we use them all the time (especially the last few weeks, thanks to #coronavirus quarantine and flattening the curve.)

    1. Hamburger Vegetable Soup (watch a video on how I substitute the ingredients here!)
    2. Cajun Beans & Rice (with optional sausage!)
    3. Egyptian Lentil Soup (watch the video here!)

    4. Italian-Something-Or-Other

    We make this all the time because it’s delicious, full of comfort food and budget-friendly ingredients, and you can use what you have.

    This is not a real recipe, so skip it if you need a recipe, but here is what I basically do:

    1. Cook pasta (or spaghetti squash, eggplant, or zucchini noodles)
    2. Make sauce (open a can, make cheap, clean pizza sauce, or use odds and ends for slow cooker marinara)
    3. Brown meat (or use leftovers from make-ahead beef or chicken)
    4. Cook extra veggies (optional – try, spinach, peppers, onions, shredded squash, maybe stir in leftover pumpkin puree to the sauce)
    5. Shred cheese (or use cashew cream if you’re dairy-free!)
    6. Use a filler cheese, if you have any (cashew cream, ricotta, cream cheese, whatever)

    Preheat the oven to 350 F, and layer it all like lasagna: a little bit of sauce in the bottom of a 9×13-inch pan, pasta, veggies, meat, filler cheese, sauce, pasta, etc. Top with shredded cheese.

    Bake for 20-30 minutes, until heated through. Serve with a salad or steamed or roasted veggies.

    That’s it. This looks very different every time I make it. Some versions are healthier than others. But it is delicious – I mean, it’s hard to beat, pasta, sauce, meat, and cheese.

    real food pantry meals collage

    5. Taco-Something-Or-Other

    Does anyone not like tacos? I can’t even pretend there is anything authentic about the following mess. But it is delicious, flexible, and uses what you have.

    We usually serve this meal buffet-style.

    “Here are all the ingredients, kids – make it whatever you like.”

    Some of us make burrito bowls, some of us make a salad, for some of us, it’s nachos or tacos.

    Serve any combination of the following. At our house, the first 5 ingredients are the most important:

    1. Beans (usually our go-to cumin beans, sometimes just leftover black beans)
    2. Lettuce (or shredded cabbage)
    3. Salsa
    4. Sour cream or plain yogurt
    5. Tortillas (flour, corn, or chips)
    6. Rice (try homemade Mexican rice!)
    7. Meat (ground beef, usually with lentils stirred in to make it stretch, chicken, etc.)
    8. Shredded cheese
    9. Cheap & simple guacamole or diced avocado
    10. Lime juice
    11. Black olives
    12. Green onions or cilantro

    No one complains about these leftovers. Sometimes I even toss them all together with broth and make Taco Soup.

    Simple Pantry Side Dishes

    Simple Pantry Meal Breakfasts

    More Recipes to Cook Through Your Pantry Stash or Freezer Stash:

    Cajun sausage beans & rice
    Cajun Sausage, Beans & Rice

    Avoid the Grocery Store with Pantry Meals

    Whether you’re trying to clean out your kitchen, save money on a really tight budget, do a spending freeze, or you’re avoiding the grocery store for quarantine and coronavirus issues, I hope these pantry meal ideas help you!

    If you need more budget-friendly, clean eating dinner ideas, plus ways to stretch meat further and make every cent count, Check out Dinner for a Dollar: Real Food Recipes for Under $1 a Serving.

    Bonus: if you have everything in the 35 Ingredients List, you can make nearly every meal in Dinner For a Dollar!

    Pantry meals will help you save money and eat healthy. You will avoid food waste, learn to use what you have, and learn to do it well!

    Dinner for a Dollar eBook

    What About You?

    What are your favorite pantry meals?

    If you found this post helpful, let us know! Leave a comment, share it on Facebook or Pinterest, and follow us on Instagram or YouTube for more!

    Slash your grocery budget and feed your family real food! Get simple, frugal, real food menu plans every month for FREE in the Cheapskate Cooks’ 1-Min Email. Get your first one here.

    You Only Need 35 Ingredients to Make Healthy, Budget-Friendly Meals.

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