When we walk down a seasonal and self-sufficient lifestyle, we quickly learn that there are lean times and over-abundant times. During those over-abundant times, we often can, freeze, and dehydrate to get us through the lean times. The trick, however; is learning how to use up all those 40 quarts of beets, 2 gallons of dried pears, or 30 pints of green beans in a way that prevents monotony while also using that pantry to its maximum frugal, nutritional, and time-saving potential. It’s not as difficult as one thinks, especially when moving from a routine of processed foods to whole foods but rather simple and tasty. Here are 5 ways to maximize the home preserved pantry:
1. Use It Whole:
Obvious, but it’s good to be reminded that there’s nothing at all wrong with simple. In this day and age of Pinterest and cooking shows, it’s nice to know that not everything has to be ready for a magazine photo shoot – keep it simple and tasty. Strain fruit preserved in sugar syrup and use it as a snack or served with yogurt for lunch. A jar of green beans popped open and dumped into a pot to reheat is a quick weeknight side dish to pork chops or some other pan-fried meat. Frozen fruits and leafy greens can be used for smoothies. Dried fruits make a great snack tucked into lunch boxes or brought along on hikes and road trips.
2. A Quick Stir-Fry:
Strain canned veggies and throw frozen veggies into a wok with some rice and protein if you so desire for a quick, nutritionally dense meal that is super frugal and can easily be doubled for leftover lunch the next day.
Because stir fries are so basic and yet so mystifying here are some ideas for combinations and sauces:
- Asian Style Plum Sauce – this recipe is written with canning a batch in mind but used canned plums and reduce the recipe to make a single meal’s worth on any given day
- Orange Chicken Stir Fry – Use frozen or canned veggies and homemade marmalade, plum or rhubarb jam would work well instead of orange marmalade too, I think
- Broccoli & Mixed Vegetable Stir Fry – A great way to use up those bits of leftover meat, if desired or keep it vegetarian with a mix of home canned and frozen veggies.
- 30 Minutes Stir Fried Korean Beef and Toasted Sesame Noodles – Something different but full of flavor and a great way to use up all those veggies sitting on the pantry shelf
- Stir Fry Sauce – This is a super basic but perfect in a pinch recipe that will help pull together a stir fry in no time.
Never underestimate the power, frugality, and ease of a hot soup. It’s so easy to toss canned, dehydrated, and frozen veggies and herbs into a broth and get a delicious result. Add some starch and protein if desired for a meal in a bowl. Not only are soups like this healthy and frugal there’s something extremely comforting about them to our minds and souls during a long winter or on a tough day.
Some recipes and ideas for soups:
- Hubbard Squash & Sausage Soup – frozen or canned chunks of winter squash would work well here
- Italian Meatball Soup – use frozen or dehydrated kale or other greens
- Cream of Zucchini Soup – use that frozen, shredded zucchini and canned carrots when the fresh isn’t available
- Hearty Creamy Chicken Stew – use any variety or mixture of those canned or frozen veggies here and those canned tomatoes too
- Lentil & Quinoa Stew – again home canned tomatoes and frozen or dehydrated greens will work wonderfully
These do not have to be the cream of mushroom soup casseroles full of processed chemicals seen all too often on TV or in magazines but rather simple combinations of pasta, quinoa, or rice with some veggies and a sauce cooked on the stove hot dish style or baked in the oven. Homemade, frozen pesto thawed and tossed with veggies and pasta or rice make a great salad for lunch boxes, pot lucks, side dishes and more.
Casserole recipes to get the creative juices flowing:
- Squash Millet Bake – use those dried apples and even canned chunks of winter squash
- Cheesy Grits & Spinach Casserole – Dried or frozen greens would work well here
- Mexican Chicken & Rice Casserole – Use any mix of frozen or canned veggies
- Make Ahead Breakfast Casserole – Use frozen greens and peppers
- Broccoli Quinoa Casserole – Use frozen broccoli or other frozen / canned veggies and greens for something tasty along with your homemade pesto
5. Toppings / Fillers:
Think baked potato bars with frozen broccoli (thawed and reheated) and cheese, or those baked beans. Frozen spinach or other greens can be stirred into eggs and topped with salsa for a filling and tasty way to get greens when the ground is covered with snow. Dehydrated fruits turned into compote are great on top of French toast, oatmeal, pound cake and more. There’s no limit here, again let personal tastes and preferences guide the cook.
What’s your favorite way to maximize pantry potential? If you’re looking for more ideas be sure to check out my Pinterest boards, I’m constantly saving recipes for inspiration and customization.