We asked and you delivered. Today, we've got the top pantry staples from our loyal followers (AKA Freebs), plus their favorite ways to use them… Score!
It wouldn't be #Shelftember and shelf cooking month if we weren't all focused on cooking with what we have in our refrigerators, freezers, and pantries! (If you're not sure what we're talking about, then make sure you check out our Shelftember post to catch up so you can keep up with us the rest of the month.)
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We get a lot of questions about how you can shelf cook if you don't keep your kitchen stocked with food. While you do have to keep certain pantry staples stocked, you don't have to constantly eat the same things all the time. We polled the Freebs in our Shelf Cooking Community and they gave us their favorite pantry staples they always keep on hand. (Check out our pantry staples post to see what they said!) Are you ready to see if your favorites made the list? Let's do it!
The Freebs we polled were so helpful to us in writing this post! So, thank you!!! It was really fun reading through all of your favorite pantry staples and the ways you use them. While we got a TON of responses, there were two items that really stood out from the rest. Can you guess what they were?
TOP PANTRY STAPLES
If you guessed rice and pasta, then you were spot on! A grand total of 460 Freebs voted these as their top pantry staples. Crazy, huh? Read on to learn what their favorite uses are.
Rice is one of those pantry staples that pretty much goes with anything! It's a great way to stretch a meal, especially if you have some ravenous teenagers (or toddlers!) in the house.
FREEBS' FAVORITE WAYS TO USE RICE
- Sweet rice (rice with butter, sugar, and milk)
- Chicken and rice casserole
- Stir fry
- Use it to bulk up any soup
- Fried rice
- Wild rice soup
- Rice bowls
Pro Tip: Use a rice cooker or Instant Pot to cook your rice quicker if it needs to be cooked before going into a recipe.
Oh pasta, you are our love language! We think it's safe to say that you're the love language of many Freebs, too! This pantry staple is another one that will go with just about anything and it's cheap and easy to keep on hand.
FREEBS' FAVORITE WAYS TO USE PASTA
- Pasta salad
- Pasta and cheese
- Lasagna roll ups
- Baked ziti
- Chicken noodle soup
Pro Tip: When you're cooking pasta, don't use oil in your water for boiling. You’ll end up with greasy pasta, and your sauce won't properly adhere to the noodles.
A lot of Freebs keep canned pasta sauce on hand as it pairs naturally with pasta. It's a pantry staple that is pretty cheap to stock up on and can go in lots of different things!
FREEBS' FAVORITE WAYS TO USE PASTA SAUCE
- Spaghetti soup
- Dip for homemade garlic cheesy bread
- Chicken parmigiana
Pro Tip: Pasta sauce is basically canned tomato sauce and some seasonings, so stock up on tomato sauce and you can easily make your own pasta sauce in a pinch!
CANNED TOMATOES AND TOMATO PASTE
Tomatoes are another pantry staple that a lot of Freebs keep on hand! Whether they're canned tomatoes, or tomato paste or sauce, there are so many different recipes you can make with them!
FREEBS' FAVORITE WAY TO USE TOMATOES
- Mexican rice
- Homemade pizza sauce
- Taco soup
- Tomato soup
Don't be afraid to doctor your tomato sauces with fresh herbs, garlic, cheeses, or thickeners to get the results you want. You can even combined tomato sauce with paste for a slightly different take that uses up both ingredients.
Now that you have some ideas about how to use up those delicious canned and jarred tomato soups, sauces, and pastes, let's talk beans!
Whether they're canned or whole, beans are good for so many things! Eat them plain, add them to meat to bulk up the meal, add them to a soup…
Those are just a few of the reasons that beans are one of the top pantry staples for the Freebs!
FREEBS' FAVORITE WAYS TO USE BEANS
- Beans and rice
- Refried beans
- Black bean quesadillas
- Bean and egg burritos or bowls
- Bean salad
You can even use your leftover canned beans in easy peasy dishes like my tamale casserole! Beans are a delicious filler and add protein and other nutrients!
CREAM OF CHICKEN/MUSHROOM SOUP
These soups are so good to have on hand. They go with pretty much anything and can really help to take a few ingredients from being a random assortment of items to a casserole in no time!
FREEBS' FAVORITE WAYS TO USE CREAMY SOUPS
- Chicken pot pie (a great use for leftover chicken noodle soup!)
- Green bean casserole
- Creamy chicken bake
- Shepherd's pie
- Chicken and rice soup
- Creamy beef stroganoff
Pro Tip: It is beyond easy to make your own cream of chicken soup if you keep broth on hand — just add milk, flour, and a little seasoning! Genius, right!?
These are an obvious pantry staple! They're great to have by themselves as a side or added to a recipe.
FREEBS' FAVORITE WAYS TO USE CANNED VEGGIES
- Minestrone soup
- Pumpkin bread
- Chicken tortilla soup
- Lentil soup
- White chicken chili
Pro Tip: To improve the flavor of canned vegetables, first rinse them in a colander under cold water. Then add to your recipes as usual.
BROTH OR STOCK
Whether it's beef, chicken, or vegetable, broth and stock are great pantry staples to keep on hand! Just buy the biggest carton (or whatever is cheapest) that you can find if you use it a lot. Be sure to refrigerate it after opening so it doesn't go bad!
FREEBS' FAVORITE WAYS TO USE BROTH/STOCK
- Chicken noodle soup
- Homemade ramen noodles
- Bean chowder
Pro Tip: I like to buy Better Than Bouillon from Costco. It's amazing and lasts a while!
Oatmeal is such a versatile pantry staple! It can either be eaten on its own or easily goes into so many kinds of recipes, from early morning breakfast to dessert.
FREEBS' FAVORITE WAYS TO USE OATMEAL
- Oatmeal with cinnamon, frozen fruits, chocolate chips, or PB powder
- Energy bites
- Overnight oats
- Homemade granola
- Flourless banana bread
Did you know that an 18-ounce package of Old Fashioned Quaker Oats contains roughly 26,000 rolled oats? That's a lot of oats!
Canned chicken, tuna, salmon, ham, and beef are all great ways to keep meat on hand without having to worry about the electricity going out and your meat ruining! These pantry staples are so versatile and work in a lot of different meals.
FREEBS' FAVORITE WAYS TO USE CANNED MEATS
- Chicken/Tuna/Salmon salad or sandwiches
- Taco salad
- Tuna/Salmon patties
- Scrambled eggs with ham
Pro Tip: If you're cooking the canned meats in a recipe, make sure you don't add it in until the very end. Your goal is to heat it up, not cook it and dry it out!
Alright, well there you have it! The top 10 pantry staples according to you fabulous Freebs. If you're just getting started, you might find that these are excellent staples to build up in your pantry so you can shelf cook like a pro!
Don't forget to let us know what your favorite staples are in the comments!
For a more comprehensive list of what to stock in your pantry, check out our pantry staples post on our shelf cooking site!
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Check out these articles while you're at it!
- If you don't already, learn how to meal plan with the food you already have!
- Struggling with work-life balance? Check out this post and get some GREAT tips.
- Get some great make-ahead freezer breakfast ideas!
- Want to learn the ins and outs of how we shop at the grocery store on a budget? Get some great tips and learn how to stock up!
Stay stocked, friends!