Being ready for anything is helpful when you want to make your family homemade meals.
Sometimes it’s an unexpected work meeting, or a late soccer game or a snow day or a sick kid (or a sick mama) and sometimes it’s just life getting away from you and it’s suddenly 7:00 and you’re tired and want to eat something delicious.
And you shall. Keep your fridge and freezer stocked with these essentials — and your pantry stocked with these — and you can make any number of fast, easy delicious meals for one of “those” nights.
Note: I prefer frozen vegetables over canned vegetables for on-hand cooking. Frozen vegetables are picked at their peak ripeness and un-fooled around with. Canned vegetables can be mushy, watered down and come with the risk of BPA-lined cans.
Of course, any vegetable is better than no vegetable, but I prefer to stock my freezer rather than my pantry with veggie extras.
With these basics on hand, you can breathe, chop, cook, sip wine, repeat.
Fridge and freezer essentials:
1. Frozen veggies: peas, broccoli, corn, mixed (such as stir fry mixes or California mixes)
2. One or multiple versatile fresh veggies: Bell peppers, zucchini, carrots, mushrooms, green onions, broccoli, green beans
3. Cheese (cheddar, Parmesan, goat)
6. Cooked chicken, cooked turkey, frozen cooked shrimp
7. Garlic (I buy jarred chopped garlic. I know, shame on me. It’s just too easy!)
8. Condiments: mustard, mayo, soy sauce, salsa, BBQ sauce
9. Fancy condiments: pesto, sun-dried tomatoes, roasted red peppers
10. Back-ups: I try to keep some English muffins, wraps, burger buns, etc. in the freezer to have on hand. And if I’m feeling on top of things, I usually have some cooked rice or barley or quinoa in the fridge or freezer that I can pull out to have ready for a meal.
Bonus fridge essentials:
11. Fresh herbs. I admit, I don’t always have these on hand (unless it’s summer and I’ve got them in my garden) if I don’t think I’ll use them with my weekly or monthly menu, but I usually wish I did to add some freshness and brightness to a dish. Parsley, basil, cilantro and mint are my favorites. Oh, and thyme. Oh, and rosemary.
12. Fridge fruits: lemons, limes, oranges and apples. I like having lemons, limes and oranges on hand for cooking. They are great for dressings, marinades and to add a little zest and zip to recipes. They keep for a long time, too. Apples, well, I don’t cook with them often, but I eat an apple every day so that’s an easy one for me.
Here are some of our favorite recipes using on-hand ingredients:
Parmesan chicken – a simple baked chicken that’s big on flavor and crunch
Easy creamy chicken – the sauce is just 2 ingredients!
Easiest ever stir fry – it really is
Maple mustard pork tenderloin – a hands-off dinner, perfect for busy nights
Honey butter chicken – easy and family friendly
Also, check out some of my favorite fridge and pantry staples for homemade baby food.