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5 Easy Meal Ideas to Beat the Dinner Time Dilemma

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You’ve come home from work and everyone in your family is hungry. What do you do? Order takeout? Throw that frozen pizza in the oven? Believe it or not, you already have the ingredients in your pantry and freezer to make a healthy meal.

Take a peek in your pantry and freezer. You may see what you believe are only basics, but you can actually make a complete meal out of these ingredients! Canned and frozen foods often get a bad rap because they are not fresh. Many people believe they have less nutritional value, but the truth is, canned and frozen foods contain the same nutrients as fresh foods, and can help families meet their nutritional needs without breaking the bank. Read on for 5 easy and healthy recipe ideas that you can prepare for your family using only basic kitchen ingredients.

  • Whole Wheat Pasta with Tomatoes & Veggies: Sauté diced onion in olive oil. Add one 28oz can stewed tomatoes to the pan when onions become soft. Add in your favorite dried Italian seasonings like 1 teaspoon each of oregano, garlic, and basil to finish off your chunky tomato sauce. Stir in a can of corn, chopped frozen tri-color peppers or a small amount of sautéed chopped frozen spinach for a new take on traditional spaghetti sauce. Top with ricotta, olives, or a bit of parmesan cheese and spoon over cooked whole wheat pasta.
  • Sautéed Vegetables Over Brown Rice: Sauté canned or frozen vegetables in olive oil until tender. Prepare brown rice as directed by packaging. Mix equal parts water and soy or teriyaki sauce to create a sauce. Toss with the sautéed veggies and serve over brown rice.
  • Whole Wheat Tuna Casserole: Canned meats and soups may seem intimidating, but you can make great use of these pantry staples by creating a one-pot meal. Prepare whole wheat pasta as directed on the package. Combine 2 cans tuna or chicken with 2 cans cream of celery soup and a splash of skim or 1% milk. Add in your favorite seasonings like minced garlic, ground black pepper, or dried parsley. Stir in two types of frozen vegetables, like peas and corn, to add veggie power to your meal. Add the cooked pasta to the mix, and transfer the casserole to a large baking dish. Sprinkle with shredded cheese and bake for about 30 minutes until warm and bubbly.
  • Mexican Egg & Bean Scramble: Serve up a spin on Mexican breakfast by scrambling eggs with jarred roasted red peppers, ground cumin, diced onion, and rinsed black beans. Serve with whole wheat toast and any fruit you may have. Canned fruit in it’s own juices is a great option!
  • Bread, Peanut Butter and Fruit slices: Kids love peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, so why not indulge your family with a healthy spin on the classic. Spread 2 tablespoons of peanut butter on whole wheat bread, layer with a ripe banana, strawberries, or blueberries and then put the open faced sandwich in the oven at 350 degrees for 10 min. Peanut butter can provide 8g of protein as well as important vitamins and minerals like niacin, magnesium, and phosphorus. Here’s 10 more ways to enjoy peanut butter.

Getting creative with staple foods in your home can be a fun adventure for you and your family. Next time you think your family is “out of food”, challenge yourself to make one of the above meals with simple pantry staples! Check out these 10 easy high protein dinners with beans and 7 dinners for 5 people under $60.

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About the Author

Kathleen graduated from the University of Cincinnati with a BS in food & nutrition. She now lives in Chicago and works for Teach for America Corps. She shares her love for science and nutrition by teaching K-8 science. After Teach for America, Kathleen plans to obtain her master's in public health.

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