Using Pantry Staples in New Ways Part 1: Main Dishes

The links in the post below may be affiliate links. Read the full disclosure.


Tired of always making the same thing with your pantry staples? Do you need new ideas for ways to use the items in your stock pile? Maybe you are just in need of some simple meals for the coming week. Here are some ideas to help you use the items you probably already have on hand in new and exciting ways.

This week, we will focus on main dishes for lunch and dinner in addition to a kid-friendly meal choice (adults will love it too!). Next week, look for part two of our pantry staple recipe round-up to give you ideas on quick and easy appetizers. Happy cooking!


Lunch Dish: Quick Pasta Salad

Pantry Staples Needed- Pasta, Italian Salad Dressing, Black Olives


1 (12 oz.) box tricolor rotini pasta (or substitute a different type of pasta depending on preference)

1 (16 oz.) bottle Italian dressing

Desired Toppings: 1 (2.25 oz.) can of sliced olives, diced red or green peppers, sliced salami or pepperoni, shredded cheese, grape tomatoes, etc.


1. In a large pot of boiling water, cook pasta al dente, rinse with cold water, and drain.

2. In a large bowl, combine pasta with desired toppings. Add dressing and toss until all ingredients are coated.

3. Refrigerate the salad for a couple of hours or overnight before serving.


Dinner Dish: Cheesy Chili with Chicken or Beef

Pantry Staples Needed- Canned Corn, Kidney Beans, Chili Beans, Rotel, Diced Tomatoes, Velveeta


3 cups cooked chicken (cubed or shredded) or beef

1 can of corn, drained

1 can of kidney beans, drained

1 can of chili beans, drained

1 can of Rotel, including liquid

1 large can of diced tomatoes, including liquid

1 lb. Original Velveeta cheese (cut up into chunks so it melts faster)

Desired Toppings: Fritos corn chips, sour cream, avocado


Heat all of the following in a large pot on the stove until cheese is melted and chili is heated through.

Serve with desired toppings.


Kid-Friendly Dish: Chili Tortilla Bites

Pantry Staples Needed- Canned Chili, Black Olives, Jar of Salsa


3 flour tortillas (each will make approx. 7 bites)

Cooking spray

1 can chili (any variety)

½ cup shredded cheese

Desired Toppings: Salsa, sour cream, green onions, chopped black olives


1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Use a round cookie cutter, biscuit pastry cutter or an inverted drinking glass to cut circles out of the tortillas.

2. Spray two mini-muffin pans with cooking spray and press a mini tortilla circle into each cup.

3. Add a spoonful of chili to each tortilla cup. Top with shredded cheese.

4. Place the trays in the oven for 12 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the shell is light brown.

5. Top with desired toppings and serve warm.


  1. Katie says

    You are so welcome, ladies. I hope you enjoy the new recipes! Stacy, I absolutely love your idea for a summer pasta salad bar. I am certainly going to give it a try this summer! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Stacy says

    We do a “Build You Own Pasta Salad” In the summer. We use all sorts of salad dressing. Then we add other toppings like shredded cheese, olives, bacon bits, cubed ham, grilled chicken, thawed peas, corn, broccoli, bell peppers, mini pepperoni, avocado… Possibilities are endless! Its great because its cold, and everyone gets to choose what they get. Its also a great way to use up even more staples from the pantry or fridge.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *