What’s for dinner? That is always a tough question when its 5:30, you have just walked in the door and all you can find is a box of cereal.

Avoid ordering out or a dinner malfunction by keeping your pantry stocked with a list of staples that will help you make a variety of meals in a jiffy.

1. Canned chicken: At first it may not sound so appetizing but with a storage life of up to a year, canned or pouch chicken can be a lifesaver. Mix it in with casseroles, stir-fries, creamy salads, or even shredded as a topping to a baked potato. You won’t know the difference.

2. Pasta: It doesn’t matter what kind; spaghetti, linguini, rotini, penne, macaroni,–the list goes on. Pasta is best served to add bulk to a meal. Pasta can be an alternative to rice which can take longer to cook. Add pasta to soups, sauces, with cheese or vegetables and you will have a home-style meal in minutes.

3. Jarred Tomato Sauce: You have the pasta in the pantry so having a quick jar of sauce is a no-brainer. It’s not your mother’s homemade sauce but it will do in a pinch. Tomato sauce is actually very versatile and can also be used in soups, stews, and chili recipes.

4. Rice and Grains: Grains can be used as a quick side to any meal or bulk up any dinner. Stock up on quick-cooking rice, bulgur, and barley. Serve grains with a simple stir-fry or mixed with veggies and an egg for an easy fried rice dish. Mix flavored rice boxes with ground beef for an easy, one-meal dish.

5. Canned Beans: Beans are high in protein; they have a long shelf life and can be a part of lots of different dishes. Heat and mash them for a filling soup or drain and mix them with canned veggies for a light and flavorful dip or vegetable salad. Any kind of beans will do; Black, Pinto, Cannellini, Great Northern, or Garbanzo, just choose your favorite.

6. Canned Vegetables: It is so difficult to use fresh-bought produce before it wilts. Canned vegetables to the rescue, they last much longer. Combine an assortment with broth and seasonings for an easy vegetable soup or add them to pastas, dry soup mixes, casseroles, or rice.

7. Canned Salmon and Tuna: Protein is good for you and helps fill you up. Canned salmon and tuna can be used for easy meal ideas. Serve in salads, pitas, pasta dishes, burgers, loaded potatoes, croquettes, and even as light appetizers or snacks.

8. Canned Tomato Products: Canned tomato products can be turned into so many things. Stock up on paste, stewed, diced and whole tomatoes. Diced tomatoes make a great queso dip when added to melted cheese. Add to ground beef and taco seasoning for a zesty burrito supper, or to a skillet with seasoning for a homemade pasta sauce. Use stewed tomatoes in soups and stews.

9. Peanut Butter: Everyone loves a PB&J sandwich, but peanut butter can be used on the dinner table for Asian-inspired flavor in dips, sauces, and stir-fry. Try it for a snack spread on celery stalks or apple slices, or as a spread with multigrain crackers.

10. Canned Fruit: Fruit for dinner? Why not? Jarred cherries, canned fruit, including pineapple, mandarin oranges, and even fruit cocktail can be used as a healthy and lean side dish. Try serving grilled pineapple with chicken, add mandarin oranges to salads, and fruit always makes a great dessert.

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