Sarah’s Pantry Staples for Quick Week Night Meals

Have you ever come home from work and are just not in the mood to cook? Me too! I however, try to keep my pantry and fridge stocked with a few staples to make a quick week night dinner that the whole family will love. I meal plan each week, but sometimes I’m exhausted from work and just want to make something easier and get it on the table. Below is my list of pantry “must-haves” that will allow you to make some tasty, weeknight and family friendly meals. Depending on your toddler and families tastes, items can be added to this list but this is a great starting point to get your pantry ready for quick and healthy meals.

Sarah’s Pantry “Must-haves”

Flavorings & Condiments

-Extra-virgin olive oil for cooking and making dressings

-Dijon mustard


-Barbeque sauce

-Worcestershire sauce

-Hot sauce (I have multiple :-))

-Fresh garlic


-Dried herbs & spices: bay leaves, thyme, oregano, basil, Italian seasoning blend, Cajun seasoning blend, chili powder, ground cumin, curry powder, ground ginger, dry mustard, nutmeg, paprika, cayenne pepper, crushed red pepper, salt & pepper


Canned & Bottled Goods

-Canned tomatoes: crushed, diced, whole (fire-roasted is also good to have)

-Reduced sodium chicken, beef and/or vegetable broth

-Canned beans: chickpeas, black beans, red kidney beans, cannellini beans, great northern beans, pinto beans

-Canned tuna

-Canned or jarred marinated artichokes

-Roasted red peppers

Pasta & dried goods

-Assorted whole wheat pasta (I always keep a spaghetti & another shape like elbows or bowties)


-Brown rice

-Quinoa  (my new favorite grain!)

-Whole wheat flour

-Dried breadcrumbs or rolled oats (I substitute rolled oats for breadcrumbs if I’m out)pantry items

When I’m not in the mood to cook, I typically turn to my “go-to” Italian recipes. Italian type dishes are 1) some of my favorite foods to cook and eat and 2) I’m pretty comfortable making them so there typically isn’t a whole lot of by-the-book stuff that goes on (I barely ever follow recipes!). But for you lucky readers, I’ve included my simple red sauce recipe but you can add protein (ie. ground chicken/beef and chickpeas or cannellini beans), veggies (fresh or frozen) or other pantry ingredients you have to make it more interesting or suit your toddler and family’s favorite flavors.

Sarah’s Tomato Sauce (ie. Red Sauce)

Some of my pantry staple items to make my red sauce!

Some of my pantry staple items to make my red sauce!


-1 lb ground meat (if using, I used ground chicken)

-up to 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

-1 baseball sized onion, finely diced

-1 tablespoon fresh minced garlic

-1 teaspoon dried basil

-1 teaspoon dried oregano

-1 28oz canned crushed tomatoes

-1 14.5oz can diced fire-roasted tomatoes

-1 bay leaf

-salt & pepper to taste

If using the ground meat, brown the meat on medium heat in a large saute pan. Using a large plastic or wooden spoon, break up the ground meat into small pieces and let it brown until fully cooked. Drain (if necessary). Add small drizzle of extra virgin olive oil to the pan. Toss in the onion and saute for a few minutes. Once the onions begin to turn translucent, add in the garlic, dried basil and dried oregano. Let the dried herbs warm through, I’ve found that if you mix them in before all the tomato sauce, they give off more flavor. After about 2 minutes, add the crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, bay leaf, salt & pepper and mix through. Let the mixture simmer for as long as you can. The longer the sauce simmers lightly on the stove, the more the flavors meld and become more delicious. At a minimum, I would simmer the sauce for 30 minutes. Enjoy with your favorite type of pasta or over freshly steamed veggies!

Pasta Sauce Recipe

Yummy red sauce with animal shaped pasta!

Did I leave any of your “must have” pantry items off the list? What do you love to cook after a long day? Let me know in the comments. I’d love to get your tips! 🙂

Stay saucy,




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