Pantry meals are great to have on hand for those nights where things don’t go according to plan. You forgot to defrost the meat, you ran out of a key ingredient, your in-laws popped in for dinner. Also, there’s the whole “I don’t feel like cooking or eating what I planned excuse, that pantry meals accommodate quite well. You can make this soup quickly, with a few basic pantry ingredients.
How to stock your pantry
55 Ingredients to have on hand is a good starting point if you’re looking for a list of basics to add to your pantry. The list is a guideline, however, your list should include ingredients that you use regularly and that you know you’re going to replace as soon as they run out.
What is a pantry meal?
You can throw together a pantry meal with a few ingredients that you already have in the house. Fridge, freezer or pantry. Basically, you should avoid going to the store and you’re encouraged to improvise if necessary.
This roasted red pepper and tomato soup is quick to prepare and uses basic pantry ingredients. A no-brainer for busy weeknights.
roasted red pepper, soup, tomato
4 clovesminced garlic
1jarroasted red peppers, drained (300 mL)
2cansdiced tomatoes with liquid(756 mL)
1 cancoconut milk (400 mL)
cheese tortellini (optional) (1/2 cup per serving)
Chop onion and garlic. I like using a mini chopper to get this done quickly.
Put onion and garlic in slow cooker and add drained red peppers and diced tomatoes.
Cook on low for 6 hours.
Puree until smooth.
Stir in one can coconut milk. Let sit until heated through.
If using tortellini, add 1/2 cup cooked tortellini to each bowl.
Fill bowls with soup and serve with a dollop of pesto on top and some crusty bread.
How to improvise this recipe
There are a few swaps you can do to make this recipe fall into the pantry meal category. You can always make it with fresh ingredients too, which is always delicious.
Swap jarred roasted red peppers for fresh ones (about 6 peppers).
Swap canned tomatoes for fresh ones (even better if you roast them first).
Swap fresh onion for dried onion flakes.
Try roasting the garlic for a milder flavor, or use dried garlic or garlic powder if you don’t have any fresh.
Use regular milk or half & half instead of coconut milk. I love using coconut milk though because it adds a nice flavor, it’s velvety and it freezes well. (Dairy tends to separate when frozen.)
On the side
This is the pesto I love to use in this soup. Added bonus: You can smear it on some Easy Weeknight Foccacia to serve alongside the soup. If time isn’t on your side, store-bought French bread or warmed naan is also delicious. If a side salad is more your thing, try a simple arugula salad with parm, a squeeze of lemon and a drizzle of olive oil. Or, if you’ve got greens, here are five salad dressings you should make to go with them.
This soup can also work as a sauce for pasta or drizzled over roasted veggies like cauliflower. Simply omit the coconut milk.
I wrote this post to compliment the interview I did with Kailey Lefko from Educalme for The Balanced Educator Podcast. You can have a listen right here!
On the heels of report cards and parent-teacher conferences, one of the busiest times of the year for us teachers, I thought I would write this post for all the people that I spend most of my days with. A typical day for any teacher could include a wide range of tasks and responsibilities. When we get home from work, we. are. spent. (and still thinking about school until we go back the next day.) Teaching isn’t one of those jobs that just ends when we leave the building. So, as we try to manage all the tasks and responsibilities of work life, home life may sometimes take a backseat.
Meal plan the way you lesson plan
Finding balance can be a challenge. While our home lives and school lives can be often unpredictable, taking control of the predictable aspects, like preparing and eating food to sustain ourselves will help reduce some of our daily stress.
At school, we know that there will be students and that we will most likely teach something. That is predictable. At home, we know that there are humans that need to be fed, and we will most likely feed them something. In the same way that we wouldn’t go in to work without, at the bare minimum, a plan of how we would like our day to go, it’s helpful to treat meal planning for our families the same way.
Have a plan…and a plan B
Just how we would have a plan for how we’d like our school day to go, having a meal plan for how we’d like our meals to go is the equivalent. Creating a 5-day plan allows for flexibility on the weekends. Being flexible and open to changing the game plan helps. Stocking your pantry with essentials that will allow you to pull together a healthy meal, is your back-up plan. Should your schedule or meal-time plans change at the last minute, you’ll be in a better position to adapt and change the plan.
Use your schedule as a guide
Following your schedule when planning your classes just makes sense. You wouldn’t plan your French lesson for your Spanish class, just like you wouldn’t roast a chicken for dinner when you know you have to drive your kids to their music lesson twenty minutes after you get home. Applying this principle to your family meal plan works just the same. During the week, I generally won’t make a meal if it takes longer than 30 minutes to make.
Hands-free, make-ahead meals for busy days
If we have meetings or activities that will impede my cooking time, I make something in the slow cooker before I leave for work in the morning. Green chili and Minestrone Soup are some of our favorites. If we are rushing in from work, then rushing out again to an activity, I’ll make something the night before like a salad or a grain bowl, which can also travel well if you have to eat on the go. Other quick options are breakfast foods! They too are portable and cook up quickly. Try a breakfast bagel, burrito or mini quiche. Burritos and mini quiche can be made in large quantities on the weekend and frozen for whenever you need a healthy lunch or dinner.
Be inclusive and encourage risk-taking
This tip is specific to teachers who also have children at home. When lesson planning, it’s important to consider your audience and each student’s individual needs. Accommodating special needs and encouraging students to push their limits and step slightly outside their comfort zones come with the territory. Factoring these variables into your plan mirrors what meal time with your kids might look like. Everyone has different tastes and let’s be honest, some of our kids “don’t like” (insert any food you just prepared).
Be considerate without catering
Making sure that there is at least one item on the table that everybody likes, will prevent you from becoming a short-order cook and will encourage your kids to try new foods that they currently “don’t like”. What this looks like in my house is a plate of raw veggies at every meal. In another family, it may be a glass of milk or a piece of bread. When kids know that they have to eat off the menu, they choose what they like and if they’re hungry, they’ll try more than just what they like. If they know we’ll go to the kitchen and make them a different meal, they will wait. us. out until we do.
Prep for a sub
It’s no secret that some teachers would rather go into work sick, than prepare for a substitute teacher. It’s so time-consuming and the end result may not be what you had in the plan. When you are the primary cook at home, planning for a sub for when you’re not there can be helpful. If Dad or Grandma is your usual stand-in, a simple conversation about what is on the menu and where to find the food might be sufficient. If it’s the new babysitter, maybe more detailed instructions or a simplified dinner option is the route to take. Either way, being flexible and willing to adapt is key to reducing stress in meal planning for your family and in teaching.
A summary of this lesson
Don’t go in blind! Make a plan. Even if you stray from it, make it.
Also, have a back-up plan. Stock food in your pantry, fridge, and freezer that you can easily use to throw together a quick meal in a pinch.
Be inclusive and encourage risk-taking. Don’t stress yourself out by becoming a short-order cook for your family. Make one meal that includes at least one item that everybody will eat.
Know your schedule. Plan your meals according to your activities.
Plan for a sub. Sometimes you just can’t be there, so set someone else up for success.
A final thought
Meal planning is one aspect of our lives that we can 100% control. Letting go of that control means more variables, which means more unpredictability and more stress. You do this every day in your job, you can do this every day at home. You got this!!
Meal planning for Busy Families Workshop
Still need a little more help? Join me for my first workshop! In this interactive workshop, you will learn strategies and tips on how to meal plan, prep, cook, and grocery shop efficiently. You’ll also learn how to execute these strategies and turn them into habits so you can reduce your stress related to mealtime and have more free time to do what you want!
We had our first snowfall in Winnipeg in early October and even though I’ve been making soups weekly since September, this snowfall really inspired me to have some solid soup recipes on deck for the winter.