Cheap and Easy Pantry Meals - Recipes for Quarantine

"Our motorized grocery scooter" by beancounter is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0 

Wow, guys. 2020 is definitely throwing us for a loop, isn't it? I've been mandatory work from home at my job for a week, and been seriously social distancing since the weekend. Grocery stores are empty, bars and restaurants are closed.

In these times, I feel like home cooking is a necessary skill that not all of us have. While this blog has gone closer to reviews recently, or more advanced recipes, I thought I'd share a different sort with y'all today.

These are all meals I've made using mostly pantry staples, with inexpensive fresh ingredients as well. They're tasty, moderately healthy, easy, and cheap. Feel free to substitute fresh for frozen foods where needed.

You won't see the usual pictures here (using Creative Commons to break up the text), because this is kind of a last-minute post. I wanted to put these recipes out there for people who are looking to go beyond boxed mac and cheese or pasta with sauce in their pantry staples as we hunker down for however long.

"Massa" by c.alberto is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 

Pasta Carbonara
  • 1 package pasta
  • 3 slices bacon or pancetta, chopped
  • 3 large eggs, whisked
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp parsley
-Boil pasta according to directions.

-Whisk together the egg, milk, cheese, and season with salt, pepper, and parsley.

-While pasta is cooking, cook the bacon over medium high heat in a large skillet until desired crispness is reached. Add the onion and garlic and cook until translucent.

-Drain the pasta and add to the skillet. Take skillet off the heat and slowly mix in the egg mixture, stirring constantly. The sauce should thicken due to the heat of the pasta, without scrambling the egg.

-Serve hot, with extra cheese.

  • You can make this as cheap or as expensive as you'd like--in a pinch, I've used shelf stable Parmesan cheese, parsley, and bacon.
  • If you do go the cheap route, you can still heat up the bacon in the skillet and it should release some fat.
  • I use milk in this recipe. Purists will tell you this is a big ol' NO, but in my opinion it helps the sauce spread and doesn't impact the taste at all.
  • Use any pasta you'd like--spaghetti is traditional, but I like any sort of curly pasta that holds the sauce.

"MOE_0016" by gangnam of solace is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 

Fried Rice
  • 2 cups rice, cooked
  • 1/2 to 1 cup protein, cut into small cubes
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 carrot, peeled and diced
  • 1/4 cup petite peas
  • 1 tbsp butter + 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 egg, whisked
-In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil and butter. If using meat as your protein,  brown it in the skillet. Add the carrot and cook for three minutes, then add the onion and garlic and cook until onion is translucent. If using mushrooms or tofu for your protein, add it now.

-Add the rice and mix well. Pour over the soy sauce (adding more for color and flavor, if needed).

-Add the peas and cook until warmed through. Pour the egg over the rice and mix until the egg has cooked. Serve hot.

  • This is a great "kitchen sink" dish, as you can use whatever leftovers you have on hand.
  • I also love to add kimchi to this, towards the end, cooking it just enough to get hot.
  • Depending on how much protein you use, you can use this as either a main dish or a side.
  • Add more soy sauce, as needed.

Souped Up Ramen Soup
  • 1 package ramen noodle soup
  • 1 boullion cube plus 1 tsp soy sauce, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, OR the included flavor packet
  • 1/4 cup protein of choice
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp sriracha sauce
  • 1 stalk green onion, sliced thin
  • 1/4 onion, diced
  • 1 egg, soft boiled
  • 1 lime wedge
  • Other toppings: corn, peas, parsley, cilantro, kimchi, nori
-Prepare the broth: add one and a half cups of water plus the boullion mix and bring to a boil. Add the ramen noodles and cook until desired done-ness (check package for preferred cooking times).

-Add the rest of the ingredients, and serve!

  • Another good "kitchen sink" recipe, since you can use whatever veggies or protein you have as leftovers.
  • Cooking the noodles in the broth makes for a more flavorful noodle.
  • The included flavor packet is very high in sodium, but if you like the flavor feel free to use it!

Souped Up Ramen Noodle Salad
  • 1 package ramen noodle soup
  • 3 tbsp peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp sriracha
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1/2 carrot, sliced into toothpicks
  • 1 stalk green onion, sliced thin
  • 1/4 onion, diced
  • 1 lime wedge
-Cook the noodles according to the package, but do not use the flavor packet. Drain.

-In a microwave safe bowl, microwave peanut butter, butter, sriracha, juice from the lime, and honey. Microwave for 30 seconds, and mix well.

-Toss the noodles, sauce, and all remaining ingredients. Chill overnight.

  • Can be served hot or cold.
  • The peanut sauce is a great dip for chicken or drizzled on tofu.

Lazy Golumkis
This is the version I grew up with--not necessarily authentic, but tasty and inexpensive!
  • 1 lb ground beef (these days I use a plant-based substitute as well as mushrooms)
  • 1 can condensed tomato soup (10.75oz cans)
  • 1 can diced tomato (12 oz can)
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 head cabbage, shredded
  • 2 cups white rice, cooked
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp dried parsley
In a large skillet over medium-high heat, brown the meat. Drain the fat, and add the onion and garlic. Cook until onion is translucent.

Add the soup, ketchup, and herbs and spices and stir to combine.

Once the mixture begins to bubble, add the cabbage. Stir and cook until the lettuce has wilted. Add the rice and heat until dish is warmed all the way through.

Serve hot, I like to top it with Parmesan cheese!

I omit the salt because the tomato soup and ketchup are salty enough as-is, but feel free to add some if it needs it!

What do you cook when you are working with limited resources? Share in the comments!