You know the feeling when the kids get home from school and you realize you've nothing for dinner. Well, fear not, because you might just be able to scrape together enough ingredients in your kitchen to make dinner.
We’ve gathered up a bunch of recipes that call for ingredients you probably already have in your freezer or pantry, as well as a few that can be prepped ahead of time and frozen for easy meals later.
1. Kale and chickpea stew
Canned tomatoes, broth and shallots are cooked with garlic and thyme, creating a simple sauce to pour over whole wheat couscous and chickpeas in this recipe from Naturally Ella. The ingredient list calls for fresh kale to add some green but frozen spinach would be an easy swap if needed.
2. Quinoa patties
These protein-packed savory patties from Wendy Polisi start with some pretty basic pantry ingredients, and she also includes some helpful tips for preparing ahead of time and freezing for later. Serve with a salad to make it a meal.
3. Chicken bacon mac and cheese
You’ll find great tips for making this recipe from Kitchen Sanctuary ahead of time, as well as tips for freezing. But even if you don’t go that route, stocking up on a few key pantry and freezer items will make this an easy dinner whenever the craving hits.
4. Chickpea balls in marinara sauce
Not only will you find all of the ingredients for this recipe in your pantry, but these vegan chickpea balls from Ceara’s Kitchen can be topped with a variety of sauces — so, whatever you have on hand and sounds good to you should work great.
5. Easy tuna patties
Eggs, bread crumbs and canned tuna come together with a few other simple ingredients to make these flavorful tuna patties from Allrecipes. Make them into a burger or sandwich, or serve them alongside rice or veggies for a filling, easy dinner that’s ready in just 25 minutes.
6. Cold peanut noodle salad
Quick and versatile, this pasta salad recipe from Calling to Chit Chat can really be dressed up with whatever vegetables you have on hand: bell peppers, snow peas, etc. As long as you’re one of those people who always has cilantro, and you have noodles and peanut butter in your pantry, you’re not too far from sitting down to a bowlful.
7. Spaghetti cacio e pepe
This dish may sound fancy, but this recipe from Serious Eats really is just pasta with a generous sprinkle of cheese and pepper. Serve with a salad or whatever vegetables you have in your freezer.
8. Quick skillet lasagna
Frozen ravioli is used in place of lasagna noodles in this genius recipe from Buns in My Oven. Best of all, using a skillet means this dinner cooks up in just 20 minutes.
9. Chicken cheesesteak naan
Naan, sliced chicken and shredded cheeses and you’re ready to make this flatbread recipe from A-Yo Kitchen — and surely you have a jar of spaghetti sauce in your pantry already. If you get really ambitious, assemble mini pizzas ahead of time so they can go directly from the freezer to the oven.
10. Southwestern omelet
A veggie omelet is just about the easiest meal you can make for dinner when you need to get food on the table quick. Use this recipe from Honest Cooking as delicious inspiration, but take advantage of the versatility of omelets by adding or nixing ingredients depending on what you have.
This article was originally published in 2018, and updated in September 2021.