What’s in Your Emergency Pantry?

Through the years my home has been hit with everything from the flu, blizzards, severe summer storms, etc.  One thing I’ve learned is to ALWAYS keep certain emergency items in the pantry all year long…it’s good to be prepared.

These days you may not be able to always find your favorite foods to stock your pantry and fridge. It may be hard to find fresh meat or seafood to prepare your dinners.  Here’s where the “out of the box” thinking comes in.  There’s a substitute for almost everything.  Below are ideas to get you started:

MEAT:  Can’t find fresh meat?  Go to the frozen food section and pick up a bag of frozen chicken.  Manufacturers such as Tyson’s have frozen pre-grilled chicken strips, as well as breaded strips.  These are perfect to put into a stir-fry, casserole, soups or even in salads.

SEAFOOD:  Same with fish.  While we all would rather have fresh seafood, Groton’s and other companies offer everything from cod to shrimp, prepared in a million different ways.  Cod fish sandwiches are a great lunch item, add shrimp to stir-frys.   Canned tuna makes a great tuna noodle casserole, tuna melt or salad topping.

Make your own tartar sauce by mixing mayo with sweet pickle relish or diced sweet pickles and a dash of lemon. For an extra kick, add some pickled or fresh jalapenos.  Cocktail sauce:  mix ketchup with a dash or 2 or Worcester sauce, a dash of Old Bay-style seasoning, a dash of lemon, a sprinkle of black pepper and for the extra kick, a dash of jarred horseradish.

Smoked salmon in the deli is great on toast with cream cheese mixed with a dash of lemon.  Add some diced onions (red if you have them).  You can also add salmon to your morning omelets.

GOT MILK?  If not, no problem.  Boxed and canned milk alternatives have a great shelf life.  If you like cream and sugar in your coffee, canned sweetened condensed milk will fix you up.  You can also get boxed non-refrigerated coconut milk, coconut water, almond milk or canned evaporated milk.  Add coconut milk to an Asian stir-fry using frozen vegetables, use almond milk on your cereal or in your coffee.  Almond milk, coconut milk and water in smoothies are great even when there’s no emergency.

COFFEE:  If you can’t find your favorite brand, now’s a great time to experiment and try some new ones –but don’t forget the coffee filters!  Keep instant coffee on hand.  When a summer storm took out our power for days, I could heat up water on the gas stove or on the grill outside.

PEANUT BUTTER:  If you can’t find peanut butter, try almond butter – it’s a great substitute for peanut butter.  Use it as you would peanut butter.

DRY GOODS:  Rice and assorted noodles.  So many fabulous dried noodles are out there.  Grab a selection of Pennsylvania Dutch style wide noodles, colorful vegetable pastas as well as regular spaghetti noodles.

CANNED AND JARRED:  Your freezer will only hold so much, so keep a selection of assorted cans of vegetables and fruits.  With canned tomato sauces, jarred marina and spaghetti sauce you can whip up a dinner in minutes.  There’s a ton of jarred gourmet sauces – not just red sauce, but white sauces with artichokes and other vegetables.  Try a few different ones to keep food boredom at bay.

“Cream Of” soups such as Campbell’s Cream of Potato, Cream of Chicken, Cream of Broccoli – all make instant sauces to put over rice, noodles or in casseroles.  Remember the 70’s classic, Chicken Divan?   You can make an easy version of this by mixing frozen broccoli, pre-cooked chicken strips and condensed soup…RECIPE BELOW.

BEANS:  Add beans to soups, casseroles, puree them into dips.  Baked beans go great with lunch sandwiches.   Canned chili is makes a great meal or use it as a topping on hot dogs or spaghetti with some shredded cheese.  Trader Joe’s Vegetarian Chili is my go-to favorite.

Who says Green Bean Casserole has to be for holidays only?  The ingredients are all pantry items: canned strings beans, condensed cream of potato or mushroom soup and fried onion rings (kick it up with a dash of Worcester).

BREAD:  You can usually find frozen biscuits and other breads in your freezer section.  Refrigerator tube biscuits, crescent rolls, cinnamon rolls and dinner rolls can have a long refrigerator shelf life.

FROZEN:  Bags of assorted tropical fruits will keep you in smoothies as well as fruit for your cereals, desserts, etc.  Frozen vegetables will keep you supplied with plenty of options:  over rice, noodles and use in soups.  Asian stir-fry vegetables are easy and diverse.

DESSERTS:  Extra time on your hands? Bake some cookies, cakes or muffins using dry mixes from your pantry. Jello and instant puddings are also a good staple and you can add thawed out frozen fruit to jazz them up.

WATER:  If bottled water is hard to find, try flavored and/or unflavored seltzer water or coconut water.

PETS:  Don’t forget to always keep extra pet food and/or cat litter on hand for emergencies.

It’s always good to have a backup pantry plan 24/7, and not just because of the Corona Virus.  Meantime, take a deep breath, enjoy some peace and serenity and go ahead – BAKE THAT CAKE!

EASY CHICKEN DIVAN

10-oz. frozen (or fresh) broccoli

4 servings of cooked chicken (or turkey)

1 can (10-3/4 oz) of condensed cream of chicken, mushroom or potato soup

1/3 cup of milk, cream or half and half

½ cup of shredded cheddar cheese or buttered breadcrumbs

Arrange broccoli in shallow baking dish (10 x 6 x 2” or 8 or 10” square).  Add meat.  Blend soup with milk.  Pour over meat.  Top with cheese or buttered breadcrumbs.  Bake 450 degrees until heated through – approx. 15-20 minutes.

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