Stock Your Kitchen for Cold-Weather Dinners in a Pinch

As crisp fall slips into frigid winter, those constant trips to the grocery store to pick up one or two stray ingredients start to feel like a fool's errand. Dashing out was do-able back when all it required was sliding into sandals and grabbing the sunglasses. Winter, though, requires a little provision planning. That's where we come in.

We've created a winter planner that lets you shop once, then cook a whole bunch.

When you stock up on these basic ingredients, you can make any and all of the 18 delicious dinners featured below. These are simple recipes, easy to prepare and most are ready in less than an hour. So they're great for busy weeknights.

Food in the pantry
Food in the pantry | Photo by Meredith.

Here are ingredients to load up on:

Dried Goods

You'll want to have a basic collection of spices and condiments on hand. What we have here is the a list -- just the ingredients you'll need for the recipes listed below. Add something like rice to this list, and you can extend the recipes even further -- try a recipe with pasta, and then again with rice.

  • Dried pastas (spaghetti or linguine, penne)
  • Bread crumbs (panko)
  • Flour
  • Olive oil
  • Mayonnaise
  • Hot sauce (chili sauce)

For advice on building a serious pantry, check out The Staple Ingredients in a Perfect Pantry.

Herbs and Seasonings

  • Fresh herbs: Italian parsley, rosemary, thyme, dill
  • Dried herbs: basil, oregano, sage, Italian seasoning
  • Chili powder
  • Garlic powder
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Ground cumin
  • Cayenne pepper

Canned Goods

Stock up on canned tomatoes and canned beans, canned tuna and salmon for tuna cakes and pastas. Cans of broth for stews and chilies. And don't forget the cream of mushroom soup; in a pinch, it can turn just about anything else you have into a meal.

  • Tomatoes, canned (whole, crushed, diced)
  • Tomato sauce
  • Beans, canned (black beans, cannellini beans, kidney beans)
  • Canned tuna and salmon
  • Chicken broth
  • Cream of mushroom soup
Canned tomatoes and dried pasta
Canned tomatoes and dried pasta | Photo by Meredith.

For the Freezer

Nothing wrong with frozen veggies. They're frozen fresh, right at the farm. Frozen chicken breasts and fish will thaw quickly in the refrigerator. If you don't have time for a fridge-thaw, slip your frozen food into a leak-proof plastic bag and place it in a large container of cold water. Here's a great trick for prepping frozen fresh herbs.

  • Frozen vegetables (corn, spinach)
  • Chicken breasts
  • Fish fillets (tilapia, cod, halibut)
  • Freeze fresh rosemary and thyme in plastic bags in the freezer


There's one must-have fruit on this short list of veggies: Lemons. They'll stay fresh longer in the fridge. A squeeze of lemon adds bright acidity and flavor to so many dishes. And if you keep olive oil around, too, you'll always have a salad dressing -- whisk or shake 1 part lemon juice to 3 parts oil. Drizzle the dressing over roasted broccoli or steamed green beans and you have an instant side dish.

  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Bell peppers
  • Carrots
  • Mushrooms
  • Lemons
  • Celery


  • Eggs
  • Butter
  • Milk and/or cream or half-and-half
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Mozzarella

Now let's meet the recipes. For the first few recipes, canned beans step up to help create super-quick, healthy dinners:

1) Pasta Fagioli

"This is the best pasta fagioli that I have ever tasted and I was raised on this stuff," says calead910. "Affordable, easy, and delicious." Swap in a can of peeled whole tomatoes in place of the fresh medium tomatoes.

Pasta Fagioli
Pasta Fagioli | Photo by House of Aqua.

2) Homemade Black Bean Veggie Burgers

"You will never want to eat frozen veggie burgers again. These are so easy, and you'll be proud to have created such a vegetarian delight." -- LAURENMU

3) Black Bean Vegetable Soup

"Half of the black beans in this spicy soup are pureed with tomatoes, the other half are simmered with carrots, onion and kernels of corn," says DeeDee.

Find more top-rated Recipes with Canned Beans

Try these top-rated recipes with thawed frozen chicken breasts or thighs:

4) Chicken With Mushrooms

"AWESOME!" exclaims Jennzer. "I took other's advice and added the cream of mushroom soup and sauteed the mushrooms in some olive oil and garlic first."

Chicken with Mushrooms
Chicken with Mushrooms | Photo by Allrecipes.

5) Baked Split Chicken Breast

"This is a very easy but elegant recipe that looks like you've spent hours in the kitchen when you've barely lifted a finger!" says, Prospective PhD

6) Simple Chicken Parmesan

"Bonus: This recipe makes twice the sauce needed, so freeze half for another meal." -- Pam Anderson

7) Chicken Chili Soup

"This soup is so yummy on a cold day," says Carol. Cooked chicken is diced and simmered with canned tomatoes and kidney beans, frozen corn, bell peppers, and seasonings.

8) Garlic Chicken

"Simple to make, just dip and bake! Garlicky goodness in a breaded chicken dish. Yum!" -- Carol

Garlic Chicken
Garlic Chicken | Photo by Allrecipes.

9) Roasted Chicken with Lemon and Rosemary

"Yum! Used two large bone in chicken breasts, and I added a little white wine to the mixture," says Anne. "Cooked in convection oven at 425 for 40 minutes, turned off oven and left in for 5ish minutes to keep warm while I made rice and broccoli and the chicken was perfectly done. Next time I'll make a gravy from that delish pan juice."

10) Tomato-Cream Sauce for Pasta

The previous recipe calls for cream. This recipe would be a delicious way to use up some of that extra cream. You can also use half-and-half or milk for these recipes.

Tomato-Cream Sauce for Pasta
Tomato-Cream Sauce for Pasta | Photo by CookinBug.

11) Chunky Marinara Sauce

"Very nice, simple recipe. It's a great base that allows for additions to accommodate your tastes. I added a few more spices (parsley, crushed red pepper, bay leaf), omitted the onion, and sauteed some fresh mushrooms with the garlic at the beginning. I did let it simmer for over an hour because I had the time -- the longer, the better. This was really great served over penne pasta." -- CookinBug

Keep fish fillets in the freezer. These versatile recipes will be equally tasty with cod, sole, flounder, tilapia, halibut.

12) Pan-Seared Tilapia

"This pan-seared tilapia dish is a delicious and easy way to prepare seafood! Great for a quick weeknight meal accompanied with fresh veggies. Try this healthy dish full of flavor and nutrition!" -- AppleChef

Pan-Seared Tilapia
Pan-Seared Tilapia | Photo by Dianne.

13) Pan-Seared and Crusted Ling Cod

"This is a simple and excellent way to serve ling cod or other fish. It makes a delicious meal served with rice pilaf and Caesar salad." -- Renee

14) Oven Baked Swai

Use any kind of white fish for this recipe. It's a simple preparation; the fish is baked with sauteed chopped onions, garlic, and diced tomatoes.

15) Light and Crispy Fried Halibut

"Deep-fried halibut coated with panko bread crumbs makes the best fish and chips we've ever made or had." -- Dick Panzica

Canned tuna and salmon are super versatile:

16) Yummy Lemon Salmon Burgers

"A quick, delicious and nutritious way of serving up canned salmon," says MELDS. "You can enjoy this with or without the dressing, in a hamburger bun, or with a salad."

Yummy Lemon Salmon Burgers
Yummy Lemon Salmon Burgers | Photo by ALFANN02.

17) Tuna and Peas

A comforting, quick-and-easy meal of tuna and peas baked in a cream of mushroom soup base. It's great on toast, biscuits, or rice.

18) Easy Tuna Patties

"Easy recipe and deserves 5 stars because it is restaurant quality and the recipe brings out the best flavors of the tuna," says Debbie. "They taste like freshly caught tuna. I'm good to try the recipe with salmon and crab too!"

Find more Canned Tuna Recipes and Canned Salmon Recipes

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