By: Meghan Weiten-Scott
After eight moves in 10 years, I would love to say I am the master at successfully eating down our refrigerator, freezer, and pantry before we PCS… but that would be a lie!
Every military family knows it is a delicate balance to keep enough food in the house to feed one’s family while simultaneously eating up as much food as possible so you’re not unloading dozens of random condiments on your neighbors or throwing away freezer-burned vegetables by the trash bag. We were only at our last duty station for 11 months, and I tried my hardest to not buy 12 different kinds of vinegar, five different mustards, and eight different oils.
Alas, I failed. What can I say: I love to cook!
In an attempt to use up the odds and ends I have–and to help you do the same–I am sharing a few of my favorite PCS recipes below:
We almost always have a box of pasta (in some random shape), a pound of ground beef/turkey/pork, and a can of diced, crushed, or whole tomatoes in the pantry and the freezer. This easy (and it really is!) recipe is filling, fast, and a great way to use up several pantry staples.
Items Used Up: ground meat, bread crumbs, canned tomatoes, pasta
Asian Tuna Cakes with Spicy Mayo
This isn’t your grandma’s tuna! Even our son–who isn’t big on seafood–loves these. Depending on what we have left, I’ll make a noodle salad or coleslaw to accompany them. They could also be made into lettuce wraps with added toppings like scallions or zoodles.
Items Used Up: canned tuna, panko, Sriracha, mayo, chili-garlic sauce, sesame oil
I never really use a recipe for this; I just wing it based on what I have on hand. It’s a great way to clean out the fridge or freezer.
I thinly slice up some chicken (you could also use steak, turkey, or tofu), and sauté it in a very hot pan with sesame oil, diced scallions, and some minced garlic. Once it’s cooked through, I set it aside, add more sesame oil, garlic, and scallions and fry whatever vegetables I have thinly sliced. Some of my favorites are peppers, broccoli, zucchini or yellow squash, canned water chestnuts, canned baby corn, asparagus, green beans, and onions.
I loosely follow the Basic Stir Fry Sauce linked above, and I like to serve the stir fry with brown rice made in my beloved Instant Pot. You could also serve it with white rice, noodles, or cauliflower rice. It’s a tremendously versatile meal!
Items Used Up: loads of fresh and frozen veggies, rice, garlic, sesame oil, soy sauce, chicken broth, rice vinegar
Quiches and egg casseroles are a great way to use up cheese and veggies. The above links contain several great recipes both with and without crust. A strata gets bonus points because it uses up bread too! We like to serve this with fruit salad, hash browns, or a simple salad.
Items Used Up: eggs, cheese, lots of veggies, bread
I have found this recipe to be the most reliable in my bread maker. I always end up with extra baking items when we move, and making bread in a bread machine (if you’re fortunate to have one), couldn’t be easier. In the past, we have gifted these loaves of warm, homey, deliciousness to our neighbors. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have home-baked bread from my neighbors instead of a pile of pantry items I likely won’t use.
Items Used Up: flour, yeast, applesauce
This one is my husband’s favorite use it up recipe. It’s super easy and doesn’t create a lot of extra dishes to wash.
Items Used Up: flour, eggs, sugar, chocolate chips
My mom always baked these cookies when I was a kid, and now that I am an adult, I see why. The recipe is easy; you don’t have to let the butter soften, and everything comes together quickly. They’re great treats for kids and movers alike! The recipe duplicates well, and I love that it uses up that shortening that lurks in the back of my pantry.
Items Used Up: shortening, chocolate chips, flour, sugar
Now that I am starving, I’ll let you head off on your own adventures in the kitchen. I hope these recipes help you use up some of those pesky items lurking in your refrigerator or pantry.