Family Friendly Pantry Staples

Jars of food

How many times have you stood in front of your fridge or pantry looking for something to eat but didn’t have the ingredients you were looking for on hand? Or maybe you have an assortment of shelf stable items that have been collecting dust (but aren’t expired) and don’t know what to do with them? Don’t worry! Having a variety of foods on hand that are low-cost and easy to use in many different ways is a good way to ensure you can make a healthy and balanced meal for your family, even during emergencies. Shelf stable foods allow you to prepare healthy meals for your family using foods with long shelf lives. These include canned foods, frozen fruits and vegetables, various pantry items, and even fresh produce that can last long outside of the fridge. Having shelf stable items stored in your pantry is especially important during times when you can’t get to the store. It just so happens that the most cost-effective way to eat healthy is also a beneficial way to store food.  Canned and frozen produce are packaged at peak freshness, so you won’t miss out on the wonderful nutrients found in fresh produce.

Stock Your Pantry

Are you wondering what to store in your pantry? Lucky for us, there are a lot of options. Here are some suggestions:

  • Low-sodium canned vegetables (such as peas, green beans, carrots, spinach, mixed vegetables, mushrooms, beets, asparagus, and so on)
  • Frozen fruit (such as berries, mango, peaches, pineapples, cherries, and mixed fruit blends)
  • Frozen vegetables (such as broccoli, peas, cauliflower, beets, green beans, mixed vegetables, potatoes, and so on)
  • Canned fruit packed in 100% fruit juice (such as peaches, pears, pineapples, applesauce, and so on)
  • Dried beans
  • Canned protein sources (such as low sodium beans, chicken, tuna, ham, and salmon)
  • Grains (such as oats, white and brown rice, whole wheat flour, quinoa, barley, and so on)
  • “Hearty” produce: white potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, apples, oranges, winter squash
  • Other shelf stable items including nut or seed butters, nuts and seeds, cereal, breakfast bars, whole grain snack items, and so on.

Tip: If you can’t find low sodium or no-sugar added produce in cans, a simple trick is to drain and rinse them thoroughly before using. This removes any excess sodium or sugar that is in the juice or coated on the food item.

Non-Perishable Recipes

Okay, so now you have a pantry stocked with canned foods and you still don’t know what to do with them. Luckily, there are many fun and creative recipes using canned and frozen foods. Here are some of my recipe favorites. I hope you try these recipes and enjoy them! Remember, you can modify the recipes by adding, omitting, or substituting any ingredients based on your preference or what you have in your pantry.

Written By: Alyssa Boles, OFS Nutrition Educator

Tuna Stir Fry

  • 1 cup brown rice (or rice of choice)
  • 1/2- pound mixed vegetables (canned or frozen)
  • 2 medium celery stalks (optional)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 5oz cans tuna in water
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 1 lemon (juiced, optional)
  • 2 Tbsp canola oil
  1. Cook rice following package directions. Set aside. Cover to keep warm. While rice is cooking, make veggie mixture.
  2. Peel and finely chop garlic.
  3. Drain tuna and set aside.
  4. Add oil to pan. Add frozen mixed vegetables veggies cook for 5-7 minutes, until thawed and warmed. Add garlic last.
  5. Add stir-fry sauce, lemon juice, and honey and heat through
  6. Serve over warm brown rice.

Tips: May use favorite stir fry sauce and any combination of fresh, frozen, or canned veggies you have! Try with chicken or tofu if you like.

Green Bean and Tomato Pasta

  • 1 box whole wheat pasta
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic (minced)
  • Zest of 1 lemon (optional)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 can green beans (drained and rinsed)
  • 1 lemon (juiced)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, drained (or 1-pint cherry tomatoes, halved)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  1. In a large pot, boil water and cook pasta until al dente– Read box for timing. Drain and set aside.
  2. In a large saucepan, warm olive oil over low-medium heat, and cook the garlic for about 1 minute. Add the lemon zest if using, green beans, and 1/4 cup water. Cover and cook until beans are warm, and water is mostly evaporated, about 2-3 minutes.
  3. Stir in tomatoes (and white beans/tuna if using). Dump in pasta and stir to coat well. Pour in the lemon juice. Add cheese if using and add salt and pepper to taste.

Optional: Top with basil or Parmesan Cheese. Can use red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar instead of lemon juice.

To add protein: Add in 1 can white beans (drained and rinsed) or 2 cans tuna (drained)


Berry Crisp

Filling Ingredients:

  • 3 cups frozen berries
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1/8 tsp salt

Crisp Topping Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup oat flour or all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 stick butter (cubed)
  1. Preheat oven to 350ºSpray an 8” baking dish with nonstick spray.
  2. In a medium sized bowl, combine the frozen blueberries, lemon juice, honey, cornstarch, vanilla, and salt. Mix and set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the brown sugar, oats, flour, nuts, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.
  4. With your hands, rub the cubes of butter into the oat-nut mixture until the butter is in pea-sized chunks.
  5. Transfer blueberry mixture to the prepared baking dish. Top evenly with the oat crisp topping.
  6. Bake the crisp for 40 minutes until the topping is golden brown and the fruit is bubbling.
  7. Remove from the oven and cool for 20 minutes before serving.
  8. Serve with fresh whipped cream, yogurt, or ice cream!

Make 1 day ahead and rewarm in a 350-degree oven covered with tin foil for 15 minutes!

Note: Instant oatmeal packages work well as the crisp topping. Simply replace all the topping ingredients for 3 packets of instant oatmeal (flavor of your choosing), 1/3 cup flour, and 1/3 cup melted butter.

Note: Instead of frozen fruit, you can use canned fruit packed in 100% fruit juice! If using canned peaches or pears, omit other filling ingredients. All you would need is the can of fruit (undrained). Be sure to chop the fruit into bite sized pieces. 

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