Pantry Meals to Keep the Budget on Track

Frugal Recipes | 23 comments

Today I’m continuing the Eat Well, Spend Less series that Aimee, Alyssa, Carrie, Katie K, Mandi, Shaina, Tammy and I are participating in.

eat well spend less to save money on groceries

Over the next few weeks we’ll be discussing topics such purchasing (and storing) food in bulk, budget recipes, meal planning, and, making the most of where you live, and more.

Week 1 – Pantry Staples

If you missed last week, you can catch up on my post here: Recipes for Homemade Pantry Staples.

I’ve summarized the other blogger’s posts with their links here for your easy reference: Eat Well Spend Less Round Up – Week 1 I’ll do another round-up for week 2 later this week once the rest of the group has published their posts. Be sure to check back for those links!

homemade pantry pancake mix

Week 2 – Budget Recipes and Meals

I’ve found that I can be pretty resourceful when it seems that there is “nothing” in the house to eat. In reality, there’s quite a lot when you take a look through the pantry items. Very few of us actually have “nothing” in the house.

Really, what I think we mean by that is that there is “nothing” that we want to eat. Or “nothing” that is obvious to make. We just need to get a little creative with our meals.

Note: When I use the word “Pantry” assume that I am referring to the basic ingredients that we all keep on hand from week to week. This ingredients may reside in the actual pantry or cabinets, the refrigerator, or freezer.

perfect organized pantry image

image credit

Here I’m sharing some of my favorite budget recipes for Breakfast, Dinner, and Dessert that I consider “Pantry Recipes,” meaning: they require little or no time spent at the grocery store.

I don’t mean going all out with everything you think you might need, but storing the basics you use often so you don’t have to run to the store every time you cook dinner. To stay within your budget, add a little at a time each month if you don’t already have a well stocked pantry.

5 Breakfast Recipes from the Pantry

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It’s easy to get tired of cold cereal and it’s not always the most economical choice, especially when you are purchasing all-natural, healthier and/or organic versions.

Here are a few non-cereal budget breakfast recipes that are easy to make from your pantry.

5 grain pancakes

Pancakes or Waffles

The classic pancake recipe doesn’t really require many ingredients so they’re often simple to whip up. These 5 Grain Pancakes with Flax are well worth the effort when you can make a large batch of homemade pancake mix to keep on hand when the craving strikes.

I have two waffles recipes on GoodLife Eats. Eric’s Waffles are delicious and…not so good for you. Later on Eric’s recipe received a makeover and became this Healthier Whole Wheat Waffle Recipe.

We like both. When we make them, we always prepare extra so we can fill 2 gallon-sized zip-top bags to store in our freezer.


Oatmeal is probably as cheap as it comes for breakfast, but it doesn’t have to taste cheap. Take this Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal, for example. Or top your favorite rolled oats recipe with fresh fruit and nuts.

I prefer Steel Cut Oats which are a little more expensive, but you can purchase them in bulk for a better price in some stores (Natural Food Stores or places like Costco). Overnight Apple Steel Cut Oats are a favorite of mine.


Crepes are made from very basic ingredients that most everyone keeps on hand. The exciting part is what you put in them. For breakfast try fresh or cooked fruits, like these Maple and Cardamom Pears alone or with a bit of yogurt.

Granola Parfaits

Granola Recipes are really easy to make at home from pantry basics. Layered with yogurt (or cottage cheese) and some fruit it becomes a really simple breakfast. You can even make your own homemade yogurt.

Toast Creations

With Homemade Breads you can whip up a delicious toast. One of my favorites right now is a smear of almond butter on piping hot, toasted bread or English Muffins.

But you can also make a scrambled egg and cheese sandwich in between to pieces of toast, whether they be Bagels, Sandwich Bread, leftover Baguette or English Muffins.

5 Dinner Recipes from the Pantry

The only thing that can get you out of making dinner is ordering take-out, and doing that regularly isn’t easy on your body or wallet. Dinner is just something we have to do.

Here are a few of my favorite budget or easily adaptable dinner recipes.

easy pasta recipe formula

Pasta Dishes

Pasta for dinner frequents our table. These dishes are usually easy to make with what is on hand, and the fridge is always full of random vegetables. Just use whatever you  have in the fridge and pantry that fits the formula. You can use meat, or not and use extra vegetables.

Check out my 3-2-1 Pasta Formula for dinner using what you have on hand.


Eggs are another basic we always have in the fridge. Frittatas are so flexible that you can use whatever you want in them. Vegetables, Pasta, Meats, Cheese, or any combination. Plus, they’re super quick to make.

Check out my Frittata Formula so you can create your own ingredient and flavor combos.

Soup Night

Soups are great with many of the ingredients being items we regularly have on hand in the pantry, fridge, or freezer and are often inexpensive to make because they feed a crowd.

One of my favorites right now is Tomato Florentine Soup. If you keep frozen spinach in the freezer or Freeze Dried Spinach in your pantry you’ll most likely be able to make this soup any night of the week.

Homemade Pizza

Pizza Dough is as simple as a little yeast, flour, and water. Toppings and cheese for your pizza can be whatever you please. Be sure to check out my Tips for Totally Awesome Pizza at Home.

Pizza Sauce options vary as well: Summertime Pesto, Tangy Barbeque Sauce, Restaurant-Style Salsa, or Simple Homemade Pizza Sauce . Or, skip it.

Fried Rice

Fried Rice is an easy option that I often forget, but I shouldn’t! I’m rarely without at least 1 type of rice in the pantry. Even right now I have Jasmine, Basmati, Brown, an Basic White.

Shaina shares a great post here where she shows how easy it is to use whatever is available (either in your fridge, or in her case from the Farmer’s Market) to make a delicious dish of Spring Vegetable Fried Rice Recipe with her kids.

3 Dessert Recipes from the Pantry

Sometimes a day isn’t complete without a little dessert at the end, and often those are the days where dessert was not planned. With a well-stocked pantry, you can still make many of these recipes.

crepes for dessert easy recipe


When the kids ask me to make dessert and we’re either 1.) pressed for time or 2.) badly in need of a trip to the grocery store, I know I can count on my Easy Homemade Fudgey Brownie Recipe with their 5 simple ingredients.


Cookies are so simple to make from what’s in the pantry. I bet we all have the ingredients for a Basic Oatmeal Cookie Recipe in the pantry. Just swap up the mix-ins depending on what you have on hand: raisins, dried cranberries, dried apricots, or chocolate chips to name a few.

Another favorite here is this recipe for Almond Butter Cookie Recipe, like Peanut Butter Cookies but with almond butter instead.


I mentioned Crepes in the breakfast category, but they also work well for desserts. Fill them with delicious spreads such as Nutella, Lemon or other Citrus Curd or simply melted butter and powdered sugar if you have nothing else around.

What are your favorite “Pantry Meals” that help keep your budget on track?

Katie Goodman

About the Author:

Katie’s lifelong interest in cooking good food has shown her that part of the goodness in life is enjoying delicious food with friends and family. She is: Mom. Writer. Photographer. Recipe Developer. Website Founder. Lover of all things good in life. A mix of great recipes, family memories, and yummy photography is what Katie serves up each week at GoodLife Eats™. Katie and her family reside in Colorado.

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  • 1
    Lindsay @ Pinch of Yum - April 10, 2011 @ 7:17 am

    I like to make just about anything vegetarian… it seems like that helps me to keep things on track in the budget department. Also, I use lots of frozen produce during the winter (cheaper, last longer) and lots of fresh farmer’s market produce in the summer! :)


  • 2
    Debbie B. (DebaRooRoo) - April 10, 2011 @ 7:47 am

    Absolutely beautiful photos! Such great ideas too … I think everyone has been in that spot of not knowing what to make with the basics and “no” food.


  • 3
    Amber | Bluebonnets & Brownies - April 10, 2011 @ 7:55 am

    This is such a great post. Whenever you’re feeling at a loss, just refer back here and you’ve instantly got breakfast, dinner, or dessert on your hands.


  • 4
    Katrina (gluten free gidget) - April 10, 2011 @ 8:20 am

    1) I want that pantry!
    2) Pantry meals are my favorite to make. Doesn’t it make you feel so accomplished making something out of seemingly nothing?


    • Katie Goodman

      Katie replied: — April 10th, 2011 @ 12:56 PM

      Isn’t that an awesome pantry? Mine is definitely not that big or that pretty!

  • 5
    Meagan - April 10, 2011 @ 8:27 am

    This is such a great post! I get the feeling of having “nothing” to make two to three times a week, so this is very helpful! Thanks for sharing all your great ideas.


  • 6
    Sarah Caron - April 10, 2011 @ 8:34 am

    Great ideas! Pasta and rice dishes are always great for fast, easy pantry meals. Some of my other favorites are quesadillas (I almost always have cheese, tortillas and potential fillings on hand), omelets (since they can be customized a bit, making it fun for all) and easy chicken dishes using thin-cut chicken breasts (again, something I almost always have on hand).


  • 7
    Mrs. Jen B - April 10, 2011 @ 10:14 am

    These are all such great ideas! I find myself gravitating more and more towards pasta and rice dishes for quick and cheap meals. Last night I took leftover pot roast, made a gravy out of stock, mushrooms and onions, added sour cream and voila! Beef stroganoff over egg noodles. AND I felt great about using what I had on hand.


  • 8
    Michaela - April 10, 2011 @ 10:35 am

    As a college student, I don’t always have one thing or another in my pantry. To get rid of stuff, I make a list of everything I have and then try to figure out what goes together.

    Last night, we bought fresh brocolli and carrots and make a roast veggie dish to get rid of some soy sauce, olive oil, spices and the rest of our short grain brown rice.

    Tonight’s dessert is smoothies to help use up some yogurt, frozen fruit and bananas.


  • 9
    Ivonne Loving - April 10, 2011 @ 2:13 pm

    Hi! Just dropping by to tell you I included this post in my weekly round-up. Thank you for always having great quality posts to choose from.


  • 10
    Aimee @ Simple Bites - April 10, 2011 @ 4:25 pm

    Fantastic round up, Katie! I *heart* my pantry. In fact, I think we’re going to eat from it all week (plus freezer, of course).

    Crepes with homemade jam is sounding pretty good for dinner tomorrow.


    • Katie Goodman

      Katie replied: — April 10th, 2011 @ 6:10 PM

      We are too! I just finished my menu and grocery list. Almost everything I’m buying is fresh produce for salads/lunches/snacking or things like parchment paper and paper towels.

  • 11
    Acacia - April 10, 2011 @ 6:39 pm

    Great suggestions! I will definitely be using some of those soon.

    My favorite toast creation is hands down avocado with a sprinkle of garlic powder.


  • 12
    rikki - April 11, 2011 @ 8:05 am

    thanks for rounding these up! crepes and frittatas sound so much fancier than “pantry meals”…yet so simple!


  • 13
    Tracy - April 11, 2011 @ 1:16 pm

    Love all these ideas! Will definitely have to keep this post handy for when we get into a food rut!


  • 14
    Kelly @ The Nourishing Home - April 11, 2011 @ 2:05 pm

    I love this post! Thank you so much! Looking forward to following your blog! I am always looking for creative ways to be frugal, while enjoying delicious real food. what a blessing to find you!


  • 15
    Carrie - April 11, 2011 @ 5:11 pm

    Thanks for all the great ideas! I’m definately going to try out the brownie recipe…YUM! Maybe even tonight!!
    I make homemade pizza every Friday night and it is so cheap and easy and feeds this family of six and we even have some left overs!


  • 16
    Shaina - April 12, 2011 @ 10:35 am

    I love all of your ideas. Such a fantastic list of ideas that can come straight out of the freezer, fridge and pantry.


  • 17
    Lauren from Lauren's Latest - April 12, 2011 @ 3:12 pm

    Pantry meals are some of my favorite meals to make! And, so easy too! Love these ideas!


  • 18
    Leah - April 14, 2011 @ 3:26 pm

    Great ideas, I am inspired to try making some granola bars & baking mixes. I think my 3 year old would enjoy helping, which always makes cooking projects more fun.


  • 19
    Leah - April 14, 2011 @ 3:29 pm

    sorry, I just realized I left a comment for your other pantry article here. that’s what I get for having so many tabs open in firefox! I do like the pantry meal ideas too :)


  • 20
    JodyFitz - May 15, 2011 @ 7:47 pm

    I have really enjoyed reading your blog! I have been following other sites for frugal living. I am an older mom(mid-50′s), my youngest is still in HS. Anyway she has very specific dietary needs. High sodium diet, and foods that help boost her electrolytes. LOTS of popcorn for snacks. I wanted to comment on your pasta 1, 2, 3 recipes, we have always relied on a lot of pasta, for cheap meals, more so since finding out about our daughters most serious health problem. Her fav meal when energy levels are low is Pasta, butter, peas, sprinkled with cheese(and of course lots of salt (for her only), her older parents have high blood pressure. You can’t get any cheaper than that. Also my homemade rice-a-roni is very inexpensive. Thanks again for all the great recipes! :)


  • 21
    P C - March 24, 2012 @ 5:42 am

    Absolutely beautiful photos! Such great ideas too … I think everyone has been in that spot of not knowing what to make with the basics and “no” food.


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