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Cooking from your pantry, cooking with leftovers

Save and simplify: Cook from your pantry and cook with leftovers, when you can’t get out to the store, when the store is short on staples, or when you’re just looking to save and reduce waste.

Cooking from your pantry, cooking with leftovers: Recipe ideas to help you make do with what you have, when meal planning isn't in the cards.

It didn’t really make sense to do a new ALDI meal plan this week, given the shortages at many stores and the fact that we’re all still settling into our temporary new normal. So, this week I’m instead bringing you a little pantry & leftovers cooking roundup (including several new recipes for you!).

I’ll be back to posting new weekly ALDI menu plans soon enough, and will also be bringing you more new ideas on ways to cook with pantry staples (and what to stock up on when available), as I also get cooking with mine.

ALDI Finds -- German week, Easter, and panic buying

If you do plan to head out to ALDI this week, check out some of this week’s Finds I did spot at my store, plus an update.

If you’re looking for temporary work to tide you over, also note that ALDI is hiring a number of seasonal cashiers around the country.

A quick pantry & leftovers cooking roundup

Meanwhile, here are some pantry and leftovers recipe ideas to help tide you over this week, as well as a couple of basic recipes to use as building blocks in various dinners.

Recipes using pantry items

Black bean soup made with (mostly) pantry items)

Here are a few recipes made (mostly) with pantry staples. If you are out of one or another of the ingredients and unable to get to the store, though, think about whether you’d be able to substitute something similar (or even omit it entirely).

Then, since we could all use it right now — let’s make life a little sweeter.

flourless peanut butter & jelly thumbprint cookies

… with these easy flourless peanut butter & jelly thumbprint cookies, that is. These are super easy to make with the kids!

Recipes to build on

how to cook rice on the stove top

Here are a couple of basic recipes you can use as building blocks for other dinners. First, here’s how to cook rice on the stove top. Use your cooked rice to to make fried rice, or as a base for burrito bowls, chili, or various other dinner options.

And, since now is not a time to be wasting food: Here’s how to make Instant Pot vegetable broth from veggie scraps. This is so good, and then you can use your homemade broth for various soups, stews, and more.

Have some fresh herbs that are starting to go bad? Check out how to dry herbs in the microwave, and preserve them for later.

Recipes to use up leftovers

We’ve been training for this with meal planning all this time, right? Cook once, eat twice, with planned uses for various leftovers. If you have been cooking up some of the meat from your freezer (or whatever you can find at the store), check out some of these ideas for the leftovers.

If you have leftover chicken

easy leftover chicken fried rice -- homemade fried rice with leftover chicken

Leftover chicken gives you so many dinner options, depending on what else you have on hand! Just for starters:

Pick one of the above (or change them up a bit), depending what you have on hand at home.

easy leftover chicken soup -- homemade soup with leftover chicken

And if you’re looking for some comfort food to get you through turbulent times, you’ll definitely want to throw together a batch of easy leftover chicken soup.

If you have leftover turkey

leftover turkey chili is easy to throw together with leftover turkey plus pantry staples

Did you finally get around to cooking the turkey that’s been in your freezer since the deep discounts around the holidays? Here are a few ideas for the leftovers.

You can also throw leftover turkey into quesadillas, sandwiches, and just about anything you’d use leftover chicken for.

If you have leftover ham

leftover ham and asparagus quiche

Same goes for the holiday ham you may have pulled out of the freezer. Try:

I also like to throw ham into scrambled eggs or omelets, grilled cheese sandwiches, or even fried rice.

If you have leftover pork

pulled pork and potato bowls

One of those big cuts of pork gives you leftovers for days! Try:

Or use yours in sandwiches, tacos, burritos, enchiladas, and more.

Stay safe, everyone

Stay safe and keep cooking on, everyone. And, stay tuned: I’ll be bringing you a lot more recipes and resources over the next few days! Please comment with your own favorite pantry cooking ideas, too.

To round things out today — If you need your news on the brighter side at the moment, here’s a little article with “10 positive updates” on the current outbreak from around the world.


Wednesday 10th of November 2021

Hello Rachel! My family and I have loved your meal plans and enjoy aldi shopping (sometimes kroger substituted items when needed). Given as prices continue to rise and we are making it work on one income, this page has been a huge blessing to our family of almost 4 (baby due May 2022). From this stay at home mama and homemaker, thank you for narrowing down the work and providing aid in meal planning and ideas. It's my most hated chore despite loving to cook. May God bless you.


Sunday 22nd of March 2020

I'm thinking of this duration as one big, long pantry challenge! Everyone be safe. Thanks, Rachel, for always coming through. I need reminders of some old tricks now and then. And the yummy recipes.

Rene Tetreault

Saturday 21st of March 2020

I have been sharing a number of your articles on my web site. They are as important today as every day in being able to practice resourcefulness. While THIS is invaluable information, the weekly Aldi meal plans have helped a number of my site's followers and I just want to thank you from the bottom of my... and their... hearts. Thanks, Rachel!


Thursday 19th of March 2020

Thank you for this! It is exactly what I needed. I want the connection I feel by reading my usual friendly blogs, but it is so not business as usual when it comes to shopping. Thanks so much for this post! Cooking really is a form of meditation or therapy for me. :)


Thursday 19th of March 2020

Me too -- I've been meaning to write more about this as it gets clarified in my own head.


Wednesday 18th of March 2020

I just wanted to thank you. I was out of my mind and then came across your website last week. I'm a random mama from Texas and I thank you for all your thought and hard work. your plans are helping me not have to think about ways to feed my family and the recipes that I tried are awesome!


Wednesday 18th of March 2020

Thank you, and I'm sorry about the timing! Glad you're enjoyed what you used so far, and I will get back to the normal meal planning, hopefully next week.