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5 Cozy Meals That Use Mostly Pantry and Freezer Staples You Already Have on Hand

Plus, a grocery list to get you started.
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If the past nine months of quarantine have taught us anything, it's how to get creative with the ingredients we already have in our pantries and freezers. But that isn't to say there haven't been plenty of times when we've opened the fridge and felt... uninspired. The recipes below are rounded up for those days between grocery trips—when you still have a few odds and ends in the fridge, but nothing that quite constitutes a meal. Use the grocery list at the bottom to stock your freezer and pantry, so you're prepared to whip up any of these cozy, warming meals at a moment's notice:

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Vallery Lomas describes this dish as "oatmeal that’s masquerading around as Risotto." After cooking steel-cut oats, she stirs in Parmesan and butter and tops the bowl with a tarragon olive oil mixture and mushrooms. Here's Vallery's recipe—but you could easily improvise with whatever vegetables and protein you happen to have on hand! Sauté some kale in lemon, add some turkey sausage, roast butternut squash, or sprinkle your favorite seasoning or herbs on top.

You will need:

Steel-cut oats

Great additions, if you have them on hand:

Parmesan
Butter
Fresh vegetables
Herbs

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Go ahead and skip this recipe if you're like G and can't stand raisins or currants. But if you're open to their sweet, yummy goodness, this Spanish Baked Rice is made almost entirely from pantry workhorses (canned chickpeas and tomatoes, currants, rice, stock) and freezer staples (as long as you keep your chorizo in the freezer, and remember to thaw ahead of time!). With just ten minutes of prep time and one pot, it fulfills just about every ask you've ever had of a weeknight meal. 

You will need:

Olive oil
Yellow onion (we're counting onions and other root vegetables as shelf-stable, since they can last as long as three months in a cool, dry place)
Chorizo (can be kept in the freezer)
Garlic
Currants
Can of diced tomatoes
Can of chickpeas
Paprika
Arborio rice
Chicken stock

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Congee, or jook as it's also sometimes called, is a Chinese rice porridge dish with endless variations. Mandy Lee of Lady and Pups (who calls congee "the ramen of rice") balances savory miso with a touch of brown sugar in this base, but this option from the New York Times requires just two ingredients (with the suggestion to serve spring onions and ginger on top). While Mandy adds crispy scallions and cream, you could whip up the base then throw in whatever looks good in your fridge, like shredded rotisserie chicken—or just some soy sauce and chili oil. 

You will need:

Sushi rice
Chicken stock

Great additions, if you have them on hand:

Miso
Rotisserie chicken
Ginger
Spring onions
Soy sauce

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Image via Food52

Image via Food52

Leslie has sung the praises of this risotto many times, and with good reason: It's a magical unicorn, originally from Gwyneth Paltrow's cookbook It's All Good, that uses only freezer and pantry essentials (she makes sure to have the ingredients stocked at all time), is vegan if you use vegetable stock, and tastes gourmet. It's improved by the addition of lemons and garlic, but all you really need is stock, frozen peas, and arborio rice. It's unbelievably easy and makes plenty for leftovers for a family of two, or a full dinner for a family of four!

You will need:

Chicken or vegetable stock
Frozen peas
Arborio rice

Great additions, if you have them on hand:

Lemon
Garlic
Parmesan

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Sweet potatoes are often overlooked as a pantry staple, but we're counting them here because, like other root vegetables, they can keep for as long as a month, or even far longer if you store them in a cool dry place. With a few simple substitutions, Darius Williams' Sweet Potato Curry becomes a pantry meal too—without sacrificing the flavor that makes his recipe worth keeping in your regular arsenal.

You will need:

Sweet potato
Olive oil
Onion
Garlic
Spices like curry and garlic powder
Vegetable stock
Can of coconut milk

Great additions, if you have them on hand:

Bell pepper
Fresh thyme

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Here are a few items to always have in your pantry or freezer, to easily turn into low-effort meals:

Pantry staples:

Steel-cut oats
Olive oil
Basic spices (chili pepper, salt, pepper, paprika, garlic and curry powder)
Yellow onion
Currants
Canned diced tomatoes
Canned chickpeas, and other beans
Canned coconut milk
Arborio rice
Pasta
White or sushi rice
Chicken and/or vegetable stock

Long-lasting produce:

Garlic
Onions
Potatoes
Sweet potatoes

Long-lasting fridge staples:

Miso
Sun-dried tomatoes
Chopped garlic packed in olive oil
Parmesan
Butter

Freezer:

Chorizo and other animal proteins (just remember to put in the fridge 24 hours ahead of dinner to thaw!)
Frozen peas
Frozen spinach
Butter

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