Avoid the Store a Little Longer: Shop the Refrigerator and Pantry

Cook with every last bit of food on hand to reduce your trips to the store during COVID-19

Many of us feel like survivalists simply by venturing out to our local grocery store to buy supplies, dressed in our pajamas and possibly clean socks, donning homemade face masks and in bad need of haircuts.

To put off your next sortie to the store for a little longer, do a quick inventory of the food you have on hand and use what you find to cook your next meal or two. The following versatile recipes are highly adaptable.

Basic soup

Not sure what to make with the food you have? Make soup. Sauté an onion in fat, chop up whatever vegetables you have, toss them in, add water and cook. Stir in some leftover grains, cooked beans or other protein and seasoning for a delicious meal ready quickly. Here's a basic soup recipe.

Minestrone soup

You can add sorts of different vegetables to minestrone soup—carrots, celery, leeks, cabbage, cauliflower, parsnips, turnips, bell peppers, squash, pumpkin and potatoes, for example. In summer, you might add green beans, corn and fresh basil. Whatever vegetables you include, you will, however, want to add tomatoes. This is after all an Italian dish. In winter, I will use a jar of my roasted tomatoes that I prep and freeze in the summer and eat all winter. Click here for minestrone soup.


If you think topping pizza with anything other than tomato sauce is sacrilege, well, who will know? You’re in quarantine. Top your dough with pesto or tapenade or thinned-out hummusClick here for the basic pizza recipe.


Although some may disagree, you do not have a moral obligation to make chili with red kidney beans. Use whatever beans you have on hand. Again, no one needs to know. Add various vegetables and a handful grains if you like. Here is my chili recipe.


I love Indian food and cook dal once a week or so. This delicious, satisfying and aromatic dish contains dry split peas or lentils, onions, tomatoes and spices. Even my picky daughter eats it. As with all of the recipes listed here, you can improvise with dal, adding a bit of this vegetable and a smidgen of that. Find my basic dal recipe here.


Have a bunch of vegetables and some eggs? Make frittata. My daughter calls this quiche without the best part—the pastry. If you have pastry on hand or want to take an extra step and make pastry, you can use your ingredients to make a quiche instead. Go here for the frittata recipe.

Stir Fry

Like soup, stir fry is easily adaptable to the vegetables you have on hand. Have one green onion or two mushrooms? Slice them and toss them in. Found a small head of broccoli in the crisper that you forgot about? In it goes, along with the leaves and stalk. Wondering what to do with that handful of spinach? It wants to be loved. In a stir fry. Go here for my stir fry recipe.

Roasted Vegetables

If, while searching through your pantry, you stumble upon an overwhelmingly large pile of vegetables, don’t panic! Roast them. Eat some now as a side dish and purée the rest in a bit of liquid, either water or homemade vegetable broth made from scraps and enjoy your roasted vegetable soup for lunch the next day. Here is my roasted vegetable recipe.

Unfed Sourdough Starter (the Discard)

Recipes that use up excess sourdough starter deserve an entire newsletter of their own. When you nurture a starter, you will feed it every day, removing most of the established starter and feeding fresh water and flour to what remains. This can quickly result in a large accumulation of discarded sourdough starter. But don’t waste it! With the discard, you can make (among other delicious food):

Other Use-It-Up Recipe Ideas

Delicious fried rice, pot pie and empanadas will help you polish off all kinds of food. Fruit crumbles and hand pies transform fruit that has seen better days into delicious desserts. Extra carrots, zucchini or puréed squash can go into a quick bread.

How about food scraps? I have ideas for those too. Find 15 of them here. Whatever you have on hand, you’ll find a way to use it with a little bit of creativity.

Wishing you a healthy and safe week,

Anne Marie