A well-stocked pantry is something that brings me peace of mind and takes away a little of the stress at the end of a long day. Here are five things I keep in my pantry that help me get dinner on the table when I don’t want to think too hard:

Veggie Pasta

Sometimes, all I can muster for dinner is cooking up some pasta. A few years ago, I discovered pasta that has vegetables built right in. Where was this magic when my kids couldn’t read and didn’t enjoy vegetables?  If I don’t have any fresh produce in the house, I can serve my kids this pasta and feel a LITTLE better and it tastes and cooks up like other pasta.

Canned Tomatoes

Canned tomatoes are so versatile. The best restaurant style salsa is made with canned tomatoes rather than fresh. A quick pasta sauce can be thrown together with some seasonings. My favorite tomato soup recipe is a can of tomatoes, carrots, onions and chicken broth.

Tuna

Tuna is already cooked, doesn’t require more than a quick few minutes to turn it into a meal. My kids love to make tuna melts for lunch or dinner. At 9 and 11 they can make this for themselves. Another quick meal we love is a salad of boiled baby potatoes and green beans tossed with chunks of tuna, olives, and any other veggies I have on hand and topped with a vinaigrette.

Lentils

Lentils are a little bit controversial in my house. We all enjoy lentil soup occasionally and that is one of the easiest and cheapest meals in my rotation. What some of my family will disagree with is when I say lentils can be so many other things. I have made a bag of lowly lentils into taco filling, meatballs (that got me into trouble with my son who demanded I call them something else because they “don’t have meat”) and sometimes I serve them with rice. They cook quickly without needing to be soaked. Worth keeping around!

Bacon Crumbles

Bacon crumbles let me turn up the flavor on a boring meal. They are already cooked and chopped up and ready to go into whatever you have going. Cheese and bacon make a baked potato a meal. If you have never enjoyed the magical combo of maple and bacon, I implore you to give it a try! Sometimes I heat up the bacon crumbles in a pan and then add maple syrup for something different on pancakes or waffles. A quick omelet or scramble is leveled up with a little sprinkle of bacon. Warm bacon dressing over a simple salad is a quick dinner.

What are your pantry MVPs?