1. Meat: Frozen meat at all times – usually ground pork or ground turkey, occasionally beef. I go as lean as I can to avoid super high fat intake, but I also like ground meats because they’re usually not super expensive and they’re really versatile. I split the packages and put half in the fridge to use right away and then the other half into the freezer for whenever I need it. If you’re a veggie, frozen veg of all kinds – diced, pureed, whole, etc. may come in handy! We usually have sausage of some kind (either for sammiches/grill food or to take out of casing and put into sauces), too. Chicken breasts are in either the fridge/freezer abot 95% of the time because they’re the foolproof standby. We toss them into tacos, grill them straight up, bake into casseroles, or pan fry when dinner’s late and we’re ravenous.
2. “Vehicles”: Since SO is Mexican, we also have tortilla in the house at all times…and they’re super versatile. Wrap, taco, flauta, all delish. They last pretty well when you store in the fridge, too! We occasionally have a half loaf of bread or buns of some kind…but only if they’re on sale.
3. Veg: In the crisper I always have greens of some kind for salad and veg of choice (for us it’s usually bell peppers or carrots). In my experience, you get more bang for your buck when you buy loose or bulk greens (i.e. the head of lettuce or loose spring mix instead of the pre-packaged “salad”). Frozen veg (the kind that are flash frozen right after picking) are not that bad either, and are usually pretty inexpensive. Or, I would also suggest buying gourd-type veg, like butternut squash and pumpkins…they last FOREVER! I had one out for at least 2 months and just used it…delish.
4. Random Sundries: In the pantry, we keep the emergency box of mac’n’cheese (99 cents, baby!), rice or some kinda grain (quinoa, cous cous, etc.), a can of soup (either tomato or mushroom) for making quick sauces, and diced tomaters in a can (because you can use them in almost anything). I like to have a liquid for dishes on hand too – something like cheap dry white wine or chicken stock. They will last a long time on the shelf or in the fridge and can really spruce up a lot of dishes.
5. Fats: We always have cheese too, usually parmesan or mozzarella/queso Oaxaca, and yogurt.
6. Fruits: Whatever fruit is on sale that week usually makes an appearance in the fruit bowl, too.
7: The Occasional “Other”: Hummus is versatile, as well (sammich spread, dipping for snacks, etc.), so it’s usually buried in there someplace. It will last for a while after opening as well.
We keep a pretty stocked fridge because SO is like a vacuum cleaner, but I feel like with just a few things (and not all super pricey) that won’t all expire at the same time you can definitely come up with a bunch of combinations. My best advice is to mix fresh/frozen, re-use leftovers creatively, shop sales when possible, and always have those little inexpensive things that can make dinner just-so (even if it’s that once in a while box of good old mac).
(Just as an afterthought…E.g. If you grab ground turkey, buns, chicken breasts, lettuce, veg, tomato sauce, pasta, and rice, I can think of:
ground turkey (either in meatballs or added to sauce) + tomato sauce + pasta, season to taste
grilled bok bok + veg + lettuce for a grilled chick salad
leftover chicken + veg + rice or pasta stir fried
ground turkey burgers + buns + veg + lettuce
grilled chick + veg + lettuce + buns
ground gobbler + tomato sauce + rice + veg (peppers) = stuffed peppers
plain old pasta with sauce + salad on the side
chicken + lettuce + veg (maybe with a spread of choice) + bun = panini (smoosh it on the stove top with a heavy pan on top of the sammich)
And so on…)
Hope this helps, even a teeny bit!!
Oh, and sorry for writing a book…I’m overtired and waiting for SO to get back from out of town, so the logorrhea is on full-force tonight!