Sometimes you just don’t have time for grocery shopping. Or meal planning, or even cooking dinner. Other times you may have to change your plans due to late work calls, last-minute sports practice, or a friend who comes to dinner. Realizing that not everyone has a freezer full of meals ready to pop in their Instant Pot, these pantry staples are probably a good idea.

If you’re a coupon kinda mom, you’re probably well stocked on most things, but piles of toilet paper and shampoo aren’t going to help with dinner. No matter if you shop at the commissary, Walmart, Kroger, or Costco, you’ll be able to find these things and have some easy meals at your fingertips.

6 Pantry Staples for Quick and Easy Meals

Peanut Butter

Items We Always Have In The Pantry
pantry staples

Beyond its obvious reason for being a pantry staple—peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Peanut butter is a great ingredient for quick and easy meals. Peanut butter toast is a protein-rich breakfast (or snack!) option and adding a little peanut butter to a boxed dessert or cookie recipe is a good treat.

When it comes to dinner, peanut butter is a great ingredient to have on hand. Stir fry, curry chicken, and even noodles can all be dressed up with a peanut sauce. This would be a great sauce to make a huge batch of and then freeze. Try this recipe from the Minimalist Baker that uses ingredients you probably have on hand, or at least aren’t hard to find. You’ll just need peanut butter, soy sauce, maple syrup, chili garlic sauce, and lime juice.

RELATED: 5 Pantry Organization Hacks

Applesauce

Items We Always Have In The Pantry
pantry staples

Again, this pantry staple is great on its own but is an awesome ingredient to have on hand. Buying applesauce in bulk makes for lots of quick and easy meals! Did you know applesauce can be substituted for most fats when baking? Yup. Replace that butter with applesauce, and don’t let the lack of canola or vegetable oil stop you from whipping up some brownies when you need a last-minute bake sale treat. The ratio is 1:1, so it’s super easy.

You can also use applesauce as a side for most meals—pork chops and applesauce, anyone? One favorite use of applesauce for quick and easy meals is to make this BBQ sauce. Then add it to chicken or pork (whatever is in the freezer) and add a frozen vegetable. Boom. Dinner is ready.

Canned Chicken Breast

Items We Always Have In The Pantry
pantry staples

This is an absolute must on the pantry staple list. Luckily, when you buy it from Costco it comes in a pack of six, so you could theoretically use it all week! The number of meals that just became quicker and easier can’t even be counted. No need to thaw, cook, or shred chicken, it’s all ready.

For some real-life examples of the quick and easy meals, you can make with canned chicken breasts, look no further. Some household favorites are chicken salad sandwiches, chicken tacos, white chicken chili in the crockpot or Instant Pot, and even awesome chicken Ceasar salad. (From bagged salad, of course, let’s not go crazy.) Sometimes you just need a little protein and this is it. Costco also has canned tuna and canned shredded pork. You’re welcome.

Chicken Stock

Items We Always Have In The Pantry
pantry staples

Have you ever run out of chicken stock? It’s like, how did this even happen? Anyway, this pantry staple is really almost a necessity. Chicken stock comes in many forms, including bouillon cubes and even better than bouillon concentrate. But if you don’t want to spend time mixing boiling water with the cubes, then grab the containers that have it all ready. Again, this is a “bulk buy” kind of pantry staple.

You probably use chicken broth multiple times a week, especially in soup season. In fact, some of the quickest recipes are soups. Like this 10-minute egg drop soup and yummy, 5-ingredient rice and lemon soup, both found here. It’s also great in chilis, and even to saute vegetables in.

Tomato Sauce

Items We Always Have In The Pantry
pantry staples

Another normal pantry staple, tomato sauce is the quintessential ingredient for quick and easy meals. But its uses extend far beyond spaghetti and other pasta. If you buy plain, unseasoned tomato sauce, you can season it for exactly what you need. It can double as a pizza sauce as well. Make an easy chicken parmigiana with some panko-breaded chicken breasts, tomato sauce, shredded cheese, and your Air Fryer.

With tomato sauce as the main ingredient, you can make many dishes. Cut the tomato sauce with some cooking cream and serve a rosé sauce over ravioli or manicotti. Add frozen meatballs and make meatball subs. Or, grill some vegetables, add the tomato sauce and some cheese and then broil until the cheese melts. So many options for one little can!

Pancake Mix

Items We Always Have In The Pantry
pantry staples

You may be thinking that pancakes are not a necessity, nor are they always quick and easy. But do you remember when pancakes were made with Bisquick? The same mix that made biscuits? Exactly. Pancake mix is for so much more than making pancakes. Even muffins, breakfast casseroles, and chicken and waffles don’t scratch the surface of what pancake mix can do.

This protein-packed pancake powder from Kodiak Cakes (again, available in bulk at your local Costco) is the main ingredient in a household favorite – chicken pot pie. The recipe by Stay Fit Mom is super quick to assemble but does take about an hour to bake. One trick is to make it in advance and then heat it up when you’re ready to eat. You can also use the pancake mix to make hamburger buns!


Serving quick and easy meals doesn’t have to mean frozen pizza or takeout. With a little (tiny) prep in advance, you can whip up something healthy for your family with these pantry staples.

WANT TO READ MORE?
Check out Meal Train Ideas That Aren’t Lasagna

Pantry Staples We Always Have On Hand

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