5 Cheap and Easy Dinners from the Pantry

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(Image credit: From Left to Right: Joe Lingeman, Emma Christensen, Maria Siriano, Joe Lingeman)

Welcome to Next Week’s Meal Plan! In the coming weeks, I’ll be sharing how I’m planning and cooking for my growing New York-based family of two — soon to be three! — for the week ahead.

Then I’ll turn it around on you, the readers, and ask: What type of meal plans would you like to see? Maybe you’re looking for a week of budget dinners for a family of four? Or fast 20-minute dinners that you and your roommate can tag-team? Or easy vegan dinners that you can prep solo? If you need dinner inspiration or solutions, I want to help you find them! Tell me what kinds of meal plans you want to see in the comments below.

5 Easy Pantry Dinners for the Week Ahead

My pantry and freezer are currently scattered with leftover bits and bobs of excess ingredients from previously cooked recipes, and other items that I either bought impulsively or simply didn’t use up for one reason or another. Does this ever happen to you?

Well, this week I’m on a mission to spring clean the pantry with my meal plan and use them all up. I’ll be turning things like dried lentils, tortillas, the remnants of several boxes of opened pasta, broth, rice, and an assortment of frozen vegetables into dinners. And as an added bonus, it also means my grocery bill will be a lot lower this week.

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(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

I’m usually low on energy at the start of the week, so a Monday night slow cooker drop dinner feels like a wonderful gift. I toss everything into the slow cooker in the morning, and at the end of the day dinner is ready. There are ample leftovers, which we’ll eat for lunch throughout the week.

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(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

Like traditional fried rice, this version is a vehicle to use up any kind of veggies, fresh or frozen, that you have handy. I skip the bacon and add a couple spoonfuls of cooking oil instead, and also add some leftover shredded tofu.

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(Image credit: Maria Siriano)

When I was a kid, my mom turned to scrambled egg sandwiches when she didn’t want to cook. For me, it’s tacos. I can always count on having eggs and beans on hand, so they’re my go-to anytime I want to use up tortillas without going to the store. I’ll serve these topped with guac and Greek yogurt.

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(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

I have several opened boxes of pasta shapes in the pantry, although none have quite enough to be a meal on their own, so I’m using this creamy one-pot comfort food to use them all up. With a mix of shells, elbows, and penne, it’s not the prettiest dinner, but it’s super delicious nonetheless.

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(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

My husband and I are skipping takeout and making our own burrito bowls at home tonight, which also helps me use up some rice, beans, frozen corn, and salsa. There are also just enough tortilla chips in the pantry to round out our bowls.

New to meal planning? Start here.

About Next Week’s Meal Plan

Meal planning isn’t always easy — especially if you’re just getting started. But I’m a firm believer that it’s the secret to stress-free weeknight dinners. So whether you’re just learning to meal plan or you’re already a tried-and-true pro, I’m here to help you solve the question of what to cook for the week ahead. Every week, I’ll be sharing a new meal plan — either how I’m feeding my own family, or a meal plan solution specifically customized for you.

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