No matter the time of year, it is always good practice to purge your pantry. Who knows what it will inspire for your next meal. Are you up for the challenge?

Here are the rules of the purge:

  1. Inventory everything and throw out only foods that are expired or rancid.
  2. Menu plan around ONLY what is in the pantry.
  3. Grocery shop ONLY for perishable items and, when needed, additional non-perishable items that support the menu created from the pantry items.

Chili is always a good pantry dish to make, vegetarian or not, as it is made mostly of non-perishable items. Pastas and rice can be perfect starting points as well for quick and easy meals. And canned proteins lend well to making cakes and hashes.

Tale #1: SALMON CAKES – Pantry items: salmon, capers, grain mustard, crushed red pepper, thyme, flour, cornmeal

I have housed a can of pink salmon for so long it should be paying rent. With the help of an egg, onion, garlic and lemon zest these cakes are all “paid up” for brunch or anytime.

Tale #2: PASTA & TOMATO SAUCE – Pantry items: pasta, anchovy paste, tomato paste, crushed red pepper, olive oil

Pasta is one of the most simply satisfying affordable meals. All that is needed is cherry tomatoes, garlic, onion, a little wine (optional) and finished with pecorino Romano cheese. Brava!

Tale #3: FRIED RICE – Pantry items: rice, bouillon, bay leaf, spices, olive oil

Making a pot of rice can be as simple or complex as you want it to be, but you get one chance at seasoning it and that is the first time it is cooked. Add it to a pan of sautéed vegetables such as broccoli, carrots and spinach seasoned with onion and garlic and enjoy, or beef it up with a scrambled egg and/or chicken, shrimp, beef or pork.