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Healthy You

10 Quick and Easy Meal and Snack Ideas Using Common Pantry Items

Download a printable version of the information in this post.

With health agencies recommending we stay home as much as possible, NorthShore’s dietitians compiled some lists and strategies to make eating well easier by stocking your pantry, using items you already have on hand, and preparing recipes and freezing extras.

Pantry Items

Important information from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA):

  • Coronaviruses are generally thought to be spread from person-to-person through respiratory droplets. Currently, there is no evidence to support the transmission of COVID-19 by food. 
  • Unlike foodborne gastrointestinal (GI) viruses like norovirus and hepatitis A that often make people ill through contaminated food, SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, is a virus that causes respiratory illness. Foodborne exposure to this virus is not known to be a route of transmission.
  • There are no nationwide shortages of food, although in some cases the inventory of certain foods at your grocery store might be temporarily low before stores can restock. Food production and manufacturing are widely dispersed throughout the United States and no widespread disruptions have been reported in the supply chain.

**For Seniors and the Immune-Compromised (including cancer patients): some stores have special hours for customers, check websites or call to find out if yours does.


Pantry Smarts: Stock your pantry with these basics!

• Canned protein foods like tuna, sardines, salmon, chicken, beans
• Canned vegetables like chopped tomatoes, tomato sauce
• Canned soups
• Canned fruit
• Peanut butter or any nut butter and low sugar spread
• Flour, sugar, brown sugar, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cornmeal, yeast, cornstarch
• Eggs
• Oil, butter, butter substitute
• Milk or plant milks like almond, soy, coconut or oat
• Bread, tortillas, English muffins
• Aged cheeses, plain yogurt
• Meat, poultry and fish that can be frozen in 1 lb increments
• Beef jerky
• Frozen fruit like berries, mango, pineapple
• Frozen vegetables like broccoli, spinach, corn and peas
• Popcorn
• Nuts and seeds
• Your favorite granola or seed bars
• Protein powders and bars
• White and brown rice, pasta, couscous, quinoa
• Coffee, tea
• Salt, soy sauce, vinegar
• Bottled water or a water filter


Quick and easy ideas to make a meal or snack with common pantry items:

Idea #1: Top a frozen pizza with a salad kit to make salad pizza or add frozen spinach and broccoli to a frozen pizza.

Idea #2: Bulk up instant ramen with frozen shrimp or diced tofu, an egg, and a handful of spinach.

Idea #3: Crumble a veggie burger or frozen meat patty, or add cooked lentils, into pasta with tomato sauce.

Idea #4: Make a hash with frozen potatoes and mixed frozen veggies, and top with a fried egg.

Idea #5: Stuff canned chili into a baked sweet or white potato with shredded cheese.

Idea #6: Add frozen broccoli and peas to boxed macaroni and cheese (add canned tuna or defrosted ground meat for protein, too).

Idea #7: Make a simple one-pot pasta with a can of diced tomatoes (excess liquid drained), canned white beans (drained), and garlic powder/Italian seasoning/grated parmesan cheese to taste. Add capers or olives, etc. if you have them and want something a little saltier.

Idea #8: Tortillas are an open canvas, to be made into pizzas, wraps, burritos.

Idea #9: Cook up a big pot of chili and freeze it into smaller containers.

Idea #10: Muffin tin magic: make crustless mini quiche cups; mac and cheese; meatloaf; Shepard’s pie, cheddar corndog, scrambled egg and hash browns, salmon patties, freeze