How To Save Money, Time and Calories: “Backup” Pantry Meals

How To Save Money, Time and Calories: “Backup” Pantry Meals
This post was previously published. It has been updated.

I am big into the idea of menu planning. Besides allowing me to limit my shopping time, it takes off the afternoon pressure of trying to figure out what we will have for dinner.

However, there are days when the planned menu just doesn’t work. It could be because we have already eaten all the leftovers, schedules are in conflict, or because the cook (read: me) is ill. Fast food used to be the only option, but we discovered that it is easier and more healthy to have a few backup meals on hand.

Backup meals are things that can be left in the pantry or freezer for a while, but can be used to quickly put a meal together. I keep five different meals on hand:

  1. Spaghetti. A jar of good spaghetti sauce and a box of noodles live in the pantry. There is also usually a loaf of garlic bread in the freezer, and there are always frozen vegetables available to round out the meal.
  2. Refrigerated pasta. The tortellini and sauce I found in the refrigerator section of the grocery is usually marked to expire about a month from when I purchase it. It’s tasty, fast, and a change from plain ol’ spaghetti. This is also rounded out like above.
  3. Fish and chips. I keep a bag of fish sticks and a bag of French fries in the freezer, which can be popped into the air fryer for a quick meal. We round this one out with frozen veggies (usually peas). While not the healthiest thing in the world, it is well appreciated.
  4. Tuna Casserole. I have a recipe for tuna casserole done in the pressure cooker that requires only things we have on hand. We round this one out with salad or frozen veggies.
  5. Breakfast-for-dinner. On breakfast-for-dinner nights, the pancake mix comes out, and we will also have fried or scrambled eggs. I round this “meal” out with fruit.

By having these five quick meals on hand, I find that our take-out bill has plummeted. We only eat out when we want to, rather than because we need to. I find that the meals are better for us than fast food, cost less, and usually taste better as well. All pluses in my book!