Tips for Using Pantry Items Before You Move

When you’re preparing to move, you’ll likely have food that needs to be used. To make the most of the items, a bit of planning — and creativity — will help. 

Start by going through your pantry, sorting through what’s expired and should be discarded; what you’ll use; and what can be donated to a food bank or via the Move For Hunger initiative, which many of our agents support. (Here are some tips on what to donate.

Then, avoid buying new food as much as possible, limiting yourself to a handful of fresh ingredients to liven your meals. 

Turn Beans into a One-Pot Wonder 

Have extra cannellini or pinto beans? Chop a few cloves of garlic, a carrot or two, an onion and some celery, and sauté it over medium heat until tender. Nudge the veggies to the side and add a link or two of cubed, smoked sausage. Once it’s browned, combine everything, adding a can or two of drained, rinsed beans, a few pinches of dried herbs like chopped rosemary, marjoram, oregano or basil. If you have a splash of wine or chicken stock, add it in, too. If not, a splash of water will do. Season with salt and pepper and simmer on low for 10–15 minutes before serving. Serve over rice, if desired. 

Make the Most of Dried Pasta 

Odds are, you have an opened box of pasta in your pantry. The good news is that’s the perfect foil for pantry puttanesca. Make a quick sauce with minced garlic; crushed, canned tomatoes; chopped capers; minced anchovies; and chopped kalamata or green olives. Add a dash of white wine, if you have some, and let the whole shebang simmer on the stove for 20–30 minutes before spooning it atop a nest of cooked noodles — even creamy, cooked polenta. Sounds too complicated or running out of time?  Combine your extra noodles with that unopened jar of red sauce and dinner is on the table in no time flat. 
Fry Up Some Rice 

Fried rice can contain a kitchen sink’s worth of ingredients. Plus, it’s a great use for day-old rice or that opened package in your pantry. Chop up some garlic and veggies you have on hand, such as onions, carrots and broccoli. Have some chicken or shrimp? Chop some up and set it aside. Add a splash of vegetable oil to a large frying pan and stir-fry the veggies.  

Turn up the heat, push the veggies to the side of the pan and toss the protein in, cooking it until it’s translucent and starting to brown. Next, add soy sauce, a dash of fish sauce, a drizzle of sesame and/or chili oil, and some oyster sauce. Then, make a well in the center and add a couple of cracked eggs, scrambling them until they’ve formed curds. Toss everything together and cook for a few minutes more, until the rice is no longer moist and the flavors have combined. Then again, you can instead pair leftover rice with the one-pot bean dish above. 

Slurp Some Soup 

Turn those cans of broth into a comforting meal, adding the likes of diced potatoes; canned chickpeas or beans; chopped frozen or fresh greens; diced tomatoes; and Parmesan cheese. Have leftover rotisserie chicken? The remnants of a Sunday roast? Dice it up and add it to the pot. You can also up the flavor ante with a shower of dried herbs, granulated garlic, onion powder and the like. Season with salt and pepper. After half an hour or so over low heat, it should be good to go. 

 Pulse Some Pesto 

Both pine nuts and walnuts make a mighty fine pesto sauce, which can be used on pasta, drizzled on pizza or served as a condiment for grilled meat. 

In the bowl of a food processor, add two cups of fresh basil, a few tablespoons of pine nuts or walnuts, a few cloves of garlic and ½ cup of olive oil. Season it generously with pepper, add a sprinkle of crushed red pepper and finish with a hefty handful of Parmesan cheese. Give the mixture a whiz until it’s smooth and fully combined. Season with salt to taste. Pesto will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for about a week and in the freezer for several weeks. 

Mind you, these are just starting points. Feel free to get creative. Don’t hesitate to swap ingredients based on what you have. And don’t forget to donate the rest of your non-perishables for those in need. 

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