25 Frugal Pantry Meals Using What You’ve Got

Food is expensive these days, and it’s only continuing to get more expensive. Even though we’re constantly being told that inflation is going down overall, you may have noticed that this doesn’t mean that  food costs are going down. In fact, it doesn’t even mean they’re levelling off! It just means that they’re going up a little more slowly than before.

For example, here in Canada where I call home, Canada’s Food Price Report 2024 forecasts that food prices will likely rise by 2.5% to 4.5% in 2024 compared to 5% to 7% in 2023. The average Canadian family is expected to pay just over $700 MORE in food costs in 2024 than they did in 2023! But this is down from an increase of $1,065 year over year in 2023, so I guess we’re doing… good?

And we’re not exactly unique here in Canada. Food costs are up all over the world! Many factors are contributing to this global trend, including climate/weather-related issues, supply chain problems, worker shortages, the war in Ukraine and now in the middle east, as well as high oil prices (which are technically starting to come down, but for how long?)

Indeed, there’s a lot going on in the world that is completely out of our control, but that has a very real impact on our wallets and daily lives. That being said, we’re not completely powerless when it comes to our spending, our grocery bill and our ability to put good, wholesome, nourishing food on the table for our families.

Despite high food prices, food is still relatively affordable and widely available. Plus, if you do any amount of growing and preserving of your own food (which, as a homesteader with a homesteading blog, I HIGHLY encourage you to do!), well then you’re most likely miles ahead of the “average” family on which these estimates are based.

Still, in the dead of winter, or even in the early spring when our seedlings are just starting to sprout, we tend to rely much more heavily on the grocery store to fill in the gaps, so I’m always looking for ways to cut down on our spending by getting creative with the foods we have on hand. We still have dozens of jars of home-canned food, a pantry full of versatile ingredients and a freezer full of meat (we purchased 1/4 side of beef from a local farm last fall).

Having a well-stocked pantry that you build over time is key to whipping up meals without having to make unnecessary trips to the grocery store. However, your pantry need not be as full as ours in order to apply the same approach and save a little money by making do with what you’ve got and planning your meals (and shopping list) around foods you already have in your pantry, fridge and freezer.

If you need some ideas to help get your creative juices flowing, I’ve got you covered with 25 pantry meals you can make using simple ingredients that you likely already have on hand. So skip the store and whip up one of these easy, frugal pantry meals instead! 

*** For more help stocking and cooking from your pantry, you can check out the kitchen and pantry resources section of my Free Resource Library to find detailed checklists, inventory sheets, substitution charts and more to help you stock your pantry when the getting is good and make the most of what you’ve got at home. ***


Common Pantry Ingredients

Some common pantry items you’ll see pop up in these recipes can be broken down into groups, including:

Dried goods

Expect to see pasta, beans (white beans, black beans, chickpeas), canned coconut milk, canned tomatoes, tuna and spices. Assuming you have some onions, potatoes, carrots, and garlic on hand, you have more than enough to whip up a quick pantry meal from scratch. And, if you’re an avid canner and preserver, you’ll also have things like homemade pickles, jams, jellies and perhaps even pressure canned meats, vegetables and more, making it easy to whip up a delicious meal that will feed the whole family.

Freezer Finds

Frozen vegetables and frozen meats will come into play here and are always a good idea to have on hand. These are great options to stock up on when they’re on sale because they last so long (frozen meat can last up to a year before really degrading).

Fridge staples

Ideally, you’ll have some eggs, cheese, and butter on hand to make do with. However, many of these pantry meals don’t require them. 


Pantry Meals

Below you’ll find 25 easy pantry meals to whip up when you can’t (or don’t want to) hit a grocery store. Scroll through and find delicious dinners that make use of what you have on hand right now. (And remember, you can always adapt recipes by substituting or omitting ingredients you don’t have!)



The list of recipes below are full of comfort, humble ingredients, and great flavour! You’ll find simple soups to whip up no matter what you have on hand.

Lentil Bacon Soup

This lentil bacon soup is comforting yet healthy. Made with crushed tomatoes, carrots, lentils it’s a great way to get protein in (from both the lentils and the bacon), and makes for a fantastic pantry meal on chilly nights.

Cabbage and Lentil Soup

This cabbage and lentil soup is a great way to stretch a head of cabbage if you have one on hand! The recipe calls for lentils, cellar vegetables like onions, carrots and cabbage, and nourishing vegetable broth (or substitute chicken or beef broth instead)

Homemade Creamy Tomato Soup

A great way to use up canned tomatoes (whether store-bought or home-canned), this homemade tomato soup is ultra creamy, comforting, quick and easy to make, and made with healthy, all-natural ingredients. Say goodbye to those Campbell’s soup tins for good!

Bread Soup

This bread soup is a filling meal that uses stale bread and meat from your freezer to come together. While it does call for fresh spinach, you could substitute kale if you have some growing in the garden (kale is cold hardy and grows well all year round), or you could just omit it altogether.

Split Pea Soup

Use up that bag of split peas in your pantry with this classic split pea and ham soup. If you have a ham bone kicking around your freezer, you can use it to make a flavourful broth! Otherwise just use water as directed in this recipe, or substitute chicken broth instead.

Homemade Cream of Mushroom Soup

This homemade mushroom soup recipe tastes just as good by itself as it does as a base for a casserole, and it’s so much healthier for you than sodium-filled mushroom soup in a can. Not a fan of mushrooms? Try this Homemade Cream of Chicken Soup instead!

Homemade Broth or Stock

Bone broth or meat stock in general is a pantry staple. Learning how to make your own broth using beef bones, chicken carcasses and/or vegetable scraps not only makes use of items that might otherwise be discarded, it’s also way healthier than anything you’ll find at the grocery store for a fraction of the price! This recipe for homemade broth also includes canning instructions so you can make a big batch and can it to keep on your pantry shelves for whenever you need it (no freezing and defrosting necessary!)


Meat-Based Recipes

The following recipes feature various types of meats you may have in the freezer. They’re easy to make and call for very little in the way of additional ingredients, although they all pair well with simple sides like homemade fries, mashed potatoes or salad.

Chicken Fingers

All you need to make your own homemade chicken fingers is an egg, some breadcrumbs, chicken and seasonings. This recipe is a good way to make a little bit of chicken stretch a long way! Serve your homemade chicken fingers with dip, homemade fries or with a side of kid-friendly carrots and peas.

BBQ Applesauce Chicken

This juicy, sweet and tangy chicken recipe goes well with all sorts of thing. Use this BBQ applesauce chicken on top of noodles, rice, or spooned over bread for a deliciously different sandwich.

Instant Pot Beef Stew

Many of the ingredients in this beef stew recipe are things you may have preserved in your freezer or on your pantry shelves, which makes whipping up this stew really simple. It’s hearty and easy to adapt and customize when you’re in a pinch.

Venison Chili

Chili is a great pantry meal to whip up because you can use any ground meat you have on hand and it always makes a big batch, which is means you’ll stretch your food (and budget) beyond just one meal. This venison chili is very basic, but you could add more fresh ingredients if you have them, or serve with tortilla chips or bread to make it stretch even further.

Dill Pickle Roast

The easiest slow cooker recipe you’ll find! All you need for this dill pickle roast is a cheap cut of beef, pickles, salt, and pepper; A great way to make use of cheap cuts of beef AND those excess jars of dill pickles you’ve got hanging around your pantry!

Slow Cooker Chicken Legs

Chicken drumsticks are often on sale so they’re easy to stock up on. If you’re not sure what to do with them, this slow cooker chicken legs recipe is perfect when paired with mashed potatoes and vegetables (fresh or frozen!).

Easy Roast Chicken

This is the best way to meal prep and use up a whole chicken in your freezer. After your roast chicken is cooked, the bones can be made into stock and the leftover meat can be used in any chicken-based recipe, making this one of the best ways to stretch a buck.

Sloppy Joes

If you’ve never had a Sloppy Joe, it’s simply ground meat (usually beef) cooked with onions, garlic and green peppers and then coated in ketchup and mustard. And it’s DELICIOUS! While the ground meat mixture is typically served on buns like a deconstructed hamburger, it also tastes great spooned over pasta or rice if you don’t have bread on hand.


Casserole and Pasta Recipes

These pasta dishes and casseroles are a great way to stretch a meal while still curbing hunger. Simple, frugal comfort food.

Tuna Casserole

Just about everyone has a tin or two of canned tuna in their pantry, which makes tuna casserole a classic pantry meal that this list just wouldn’t be complete without! This casserole is made with egg noodles, vegetables (you can use frozen), and cream of mushroom soup (try making your own using the recipe above!) The result is a creamy, cheesy, rich casserole that will stick to your ribs long after the last bite is gone.

Bolognese Pasta

If you have ground beef, tomato sauce and dried pasta on hand, you can whip up this simple bolognese pasta in no time. Ground turkey and chicken can work too if that’s all you’ve got. This is a quick meal for when you’re in a pinch, so it saves you time as well as money!

3-Ingredient Mac and Cheese

This homemade mac and cheese recipe uses just three ingredients and comes together very quickly. Enjoy it on its own or as a side with one of the meat dishes listed above!


Vareniki with potatoes on a cutting board before cooking. Dumplings on a cutting board.


The recipes that follow include a little bit of everything. They’re all made from pantry staples and are wonderful recipes to have in your back pocket when you’re in a pinch for time or money (or both!)

Maple Oatmeal

Oatmeal makes for a filling, nourishing breakfast the whole family will enjoy. All you need for this maple and brown sugar oatmeal are a few simple pantry ingredients, however you could also add things like frozen berries or dried fruit, nuts or even a little jam if you have some canned.


This Ukrainian perogies recipe is a family recipe that has been passed down through generations. It’s super frugal and goes a very long way, which means you’ll likely have some to eat now and lots to fill your freezer with! Making homemade perogies can be a bit time-consuming, so be sure to block off an afternoon and enlist help if possible! This also makes for a frugal way to get together with friends and family and spend the day enjoying each others’ company before everyone takes their share of perogies home:)

Vegetarian Chili 

This vegetarian chili calls for squash in place of meat, but thanks to the black beans it’s still packed with protein and hearty enough to keep you full!

 Potato Salmon Cakes

If you’ve got some frozen salmon on the edge of being freezer burnt, or some canned salmon that’s been sitting a little too long in your pantry, these potato salmon cakes are the perfect way to use it up! All you need is the salmon, a couple eggs, some leftover mashed potatoes and a handful of seasonings.

Poor Man Burrito Bowls

These “poor man” burrito bowls are a great way to make a few simple ingredients stretch, making this dish perfect for large families. Made with just rice, seasonings, beans, salsa, and cheese it’s an easy meal to customize but also to whip up when you only have the basics.  

Garden Stir Fry

Everyone needs a stir fry on hand and this garden stir fry is as basic as it gets. You can use up fresh produce from your garden haul with this stir fry or grab frozen vegetables from the freezer. It’s an easy one to add meat to or even an egg for protein. It’s basic and a staple recipe for any homesteader.

Easy, No-Knead Bread

This recipe for easy, no-knead bread is pretty much as simple and frugal as homemade bread recipes get. All you need is flour, water, salt and a little yeast. And when I say “no-knead,” I mean you literally just have to mix the ingredients in a bowl and wait for it to rise! (Which is by far the hardest part of this recipe!)


More pantry meal ideas and tips

If you’re looking for ways to cut back on your grocery bill with simple, frugal pantry meal ideas, this list is a great place to start. But if you could use a little more help either building your pantry, organizing and inventorying what you’ve got, knowing what ingredients you can substitute in a pinch or you could just use some more meal ideas to help you make use of what you’ve got, be sure to check out the Kitchen & Pantry Resources section of my Free Resource Library for printable downloads to help you keep your family fed and your food budget on track!


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1 Comment

  1. Alphabet

    That’s a great item to stock in a frugal pantry, Pam. Thanks for adding it.


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Hi! I’m Anna, and I’m a city girl turned modern homesteader who’s passionate about growing, cooking and preserving real food at home, creating my own herbal medicine and all-natural home and body care products, and working toward a simpler, more sustainable and self-sufficient life each and every day. 
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When homesteaders hit the road for a summer road trip…

What am I missing?

@modernhomesteadingconference here we come!

(Yes, a week early, but we’ve got important business on the way;). Will I see you there???

#homesteadersbelike #homesteading #roadtrip

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The Modern Homesteading Conference is just a few short weeks away, and I have TWO free tickets to give away to one lucky winner.

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I’ll be drawing a winner this Thursday, so make sure to enter by tomorrow night (Wednesday, June 5th) if you wanna win!

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For Mother’s Day this year, my husband is teaching our daughter to empty the dishwasher on her own. It may seem like a small feat, and for anyone who has kids who already do this and more, this may seem like nothing to celebrate. But for all of the moms who understand how much quicker and easier it is to just “do it yourself,” slowing down and allowing our daughter to take ownership of this even if it’s not perfect or takes twice as long is a huge milestone, both for her and for us as parents!

While it may sometimes feel like the work that we do day in and day out is just mundane and repetitive, the way we show up every day over many years with our children will have a huge impact on the type of people they’ll grow up to be.

What we teach them—the skills we pass on and the values we instil—will help to shape who our children become as adults, and who they become as adults will help to shape what our future world looks like.

It may seem as simple as emptying a dishwasher, but what this really symbolizes is that we’re raising a capable human being who takes responsibility for contributing to our household and is a valued member of our family. And since she will someday grow up to run her own household, possibly be a mother herself, and contribute to our future society, that means that we, as parents, (and especially us moms!), have immense power to shape what the future looks like through the simple actions we take every day to teach and empower the next generation.

All of that to say, thanks for everything you do moms! You are more valued and powerful than you know.

Happy Mother’s Day, and may someone else be doing the dishes for you today!

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Hot cross buns are an Easter tradition in our house, so naturally I wanted to learn how to make them at home.⁣

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I’m not always so good at sharing all of the awesome stuff I’ve got going on in life and business here on social media. When you’re a full time homesteader, business owner, editor, mom and wife, sometimes IG falls by the wayside 😬

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Me shopping for Easter candy for my kids, and walking out empty handed because it’s all full of absolute garbage!

I don’t mind my kids having sugar now and again, but I draw the line at food dies, seed oils and artificial ingredients. (Or at least, I try!)

Hey, we’re not perfect, and yes, our kids will get Easter candy on Sunday morning. Ryan has already bought some and I’m sure he didn’t check all the ingredients like I do! I’m fine with the 80/20 rule most of the time. But the meta question here, is why are these types of ingredients allowed in foods to begin with? Especially food marketed toward kids!

Yes, it’s “junk food.” I don’t expect it to be HEALTHY. But it could be made better by omitting the known carcinogenic ingredients that have been linked to everything from ADHD to hormone imbalances to cancer!

Folks, we must demand better. We DESERVE better, and so do our kids.

27 7

We said goodbye to a family pet yesterday. My mom has had Zoe since I was a teenager, and Evelyn has grown to love her during her visits with nanny.

It’s never easy to say goodbye to a family member, human or furry. But we don’t shelter our kids from death either. Evelyn was with us when we found our rabbits dead. She went with my mom to say goodbye to her other cat a year ago. And she knows where the chickens go when it’s their time.

Having a healthy relationship to death is important. It is, after all, the only certainty in life.

Today Ryan is heading down to clean out his dad’s place after he passed last week. They had a strained relationship, so our kids never knew him as their grandpa. But still, it’s never easy.

It does, however, teach us to be grateful for every day we’re alive, and to appreciate the ones we love while we’re still together, because you never know how much time you have left.

RIP Zozo ❤️ See you over the rainbow bridge 🌈 🐾

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When I first started homesteading, gardening, and trying to be more self-sufficient, I had no idea what I was doing. Everything was new to me, and I had no one in my life to teach me the ropes.

I’m not a second or third or fifth generation homesteader. I’m a born-and-raised city girl who had to figure it out on my own, using books from the library and resources from the internet, and advice from random strangers on social media.

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Never before have we had access to so much information at our fingertips. Whether you have a question you need answered, are looking for a tutorial to walk you through a specific task or are searching for a recipe to help you figure out what to make for dinner, all you have to do is Google it.⁣

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