Do you ever find yourself with unexpected guests at meal time? With just a few key ingredients on hand you can feed a crowd at a moment’s notice! Here are some pantry staples to keep on hand for quick and easy meals!
Sometimes dinnertime arrives and there are more mouths to feed than expected. Often at my house, it’s a handful of teenage boys or a girlfriend who’s here for the evening. Most of the time my meals are planned with leftovers in mind so there is plenty to go around.
But sometimes I’m just not ready to feed extra people, or I need to beef up a meal to accommodate more.
Here are some ideas for keeping a pantry stocked to provide for unexpected guests, and fillers to make more of what you’re already cooking.
No matter how organized the meal plan or how talented the cook, distractions when getting dinner started can make it difficult to provide a meal on time, particularly if unexpected guests need to be included.
Keep some basic grocery supplies in the pantry, fridge, and freezer to ensure that a meal can be served no matter what the time restraints or number of guests. Some ingredients are fantastic for stretching meals out to feed extras and an organized cook always has a few recipes tucked away for quick meal preparation emergencies.
Quick Breakfast Ideas
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but it can be difficult to get a family off to a good start on two pieces of stale bread, the crushed remains of a box of cereal and half a cup of milk. By keeping a few basic pantry supplies on hand, it is possible to get everyone out the door well fed and energized for their day.
Canned or frozen fruit can be served on cereal, with yogurt or on its own.
shelf-stable milk or powdered milk can replace fresh milk in an emergency, particularly if used in cooking.
Flour, baking powder, milk, eggs, and sugar can produce a basic pancake batter. Extras such as banana, stewed apple or blueberries can be added if available. My baked pancake squares are a great way to serve a crowd!
Oatmeal is another great thing to keep on hand, you can bake it or serve it with frozen or fresh fruit, or a sprinkling of maple and brown sugar.
Eggs are another great staple to keep on hand. Scrambled, fried, or poached eggs on toast turn breakfast from a snack into a more substantial meal.
If you are feeding more people than anticipated for lunch, it is economical to place food on a platter in the center of the table instead of making individual sandwiches and so on. A range of options is provided for everyone to sample even when there isn’t enough of each item to serve to guests individually.
Sandwiches with a variety of fillings are a great way to serve a crowd.
If you don’t have meat for sandwiches egg salad is a great option, or hummus whipped up from canned beans, I also love smashed chickpea salad sandwiches, and always have cans of garbanzo beans on hand to make them. Canned tuna and chicken also make a delicious and quick sandwich filling that you can make in minutes!
Crackers are an excellent alternative to bread and can be kept in the pantry as a back-up.
A bowl of dried fruit and nuts can help to supplement a sparse lunch, as will fresh fruit if it is available.
Popcorn (when only a little salt or melted butter is added) is healthy and filling.
Preparing Dinner at Short Notice
It is a great idea to keep pasta and jars of sauce on hand so that with short notice you can whip up an easy meal that is filling.
Rice and pasta can help to stretch a meal to accommodate additional guests, you can make them as a side dish or serve things like stew over them to add a bit of bulk to a meal.
Add cooked sweet potato, potato or pumpkin to increase the size of a casserole.
Include bread rolls or garlic bread. Leftover rolls can be frozen and made into garlic bread when needed by slicing, spreading with garlic butter, and heating in the oven until warm.
Soft tortillas are great for serving ground beef, barbecue chicken and a variety of other fillings.
It is a good idea to keep ground beef or ground chicken in your freezer, it cook up quickly from frozen and is super versatile to create sandwiches, tacos, pasta sauce or other dishes.
Also lentils make a great substitute for ground beef and keep in your pantry forever, so you can keep them on hand to swap out in recipes or mix with beef to builk it up.
Shelf-stable or powdered milk
Canned or frozen fruit
Dried fruit and nuts
Packets of rice or pasta side dishes
Rice and pasta, pasta sauce
Ground beef/chicken Oatmeal
Cheese Canned beans Lentils
By ensuring that a pantry has at least the basics on hand, it is easy to turn a family meal into a feast. To reduce mealtime stress, gather a range of quick, easy meal ideas (online recipe sites are great for this) and focus on recipes that can be served from communal platters and bowls.