Quick food for busy families: Pantry mixes and (nearly) instant meals

With an 11 day old baby in the house, time for leisurely cooking just doesn’t exist. As part of my quest to prepare for our new baby ahead of time, I have a fully stocked freezer full of meals. As much as possible however,  I am saving them for when my wonderful husband goes back to work and I have to face the reality of homeschooling and running a household of 8 with a newborn in the mix.

My latest find to assist with menu planning and being able to throw a meal together in minutes has been pantry mixes. This is a totally new concept to me but I love them. There are so many mix recipes that can be made up in bulk ahead of time and either stored in the pantry, fridge or freezer. When you are ready to prepare the recipe, the addition of just a couple of simple ingredients in no time at all creates a freshly cooked meal or snack.

Today’s lunch (in the photo above) literally took 10 minutes and that includes getting everything out of the fridge, making the cheese scones, cutting up the fruit and cleaning up the mess. My kind of cooking! Not to mention that they are super tasty hot from the oven. As I try each new bulk mix I will blog about the successes so today here is the link for baking mix (bisquick) which takes 10 minutes to put together and sits in the fridge waiting to be made into all manner of yummy things. So far I’ve only used it for scones (biscuits) but there are numerous recipes that use it as a base. (Scone instructions under the basic mix recipe at the “baking mix” link above.)

My other new favourite is a pantry mix for brownies. In less than 5 minutes I can whip up a batch of delicious brownies and have them ready for unexpected visitors, take them for supper when I remember an hour before I am supposed to leave or just make them for the fun of it. The mix itself again takes about 10 minutes to mix up and sits in the pantry waiting for the addition of 3 wet ingredients to turn it into fresh brownies.

Another great benefit of these recipes other than the time-saving factor is that my 8 1/2 year old is quite capable of mixing them up independently. The first time through I keep an eye on proceedings and from then on he is on his own. I slide them into the oven and 20 minutes later we have hot brownies.

I have a huge list of recipes to try that I am slowly working through. Last night I used one of my pre-prepared bags of seasoned rice mix. I had already diced and browned bags of sausages, bacon and chicken and put them in the freezer and stocked up the frozen mixed vegetable supply. We were out in the afternoon and arrived home with no meal ready, a hungry baby and 5 children who needed to get through the shower. All I had to do was dump the pre-measured seasoned rice into the rice cooker, fill with water, add a bag of cooked diced meat and a cup or two of mixed frozen veg and it was  done. Dinner was ready 20 minutes later with less than 5 minutes of preparation required.

We followed it up with some chocolate pudding from our pantry which looked and tasted almost exactly like Yogo from the supermarket “only better” according to the children who raved about it. This one required about 10 minutes to actually cook it (it requires stirring) and a little while in the fridge to cool it down and set but we went off and did our family devotions while we were waiting and came back for dessert. Delicious and definitely a keeper. It could easily be done earlier in the day and served whenever you need it.

I am definitely hooked on the pantry mix idea and will be seeking to have a store of breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack foods sitting at my fingertips for days when I just don’t want to cook can’t do anything else or my older helpers want to prepare a meal to bless us all (and get the rave reviews and pats on the back that always accompany their efforts!)


4 Responses

  1. Ang, this post is a God-send for people like me who don’t enjoy cooking! The less time faffing about in the kitchen the better, if you ask me!! (I’ve reluctantly come to the conclusion in the last couple of years that it’s just not my gifting, but I am good at lots of other things!) Thank you so much and I look forward to more ideas from YOU!!!

  2. Thanks for this Ang, I love the pantry mix concept and can definitely see the time-savings!!! Thanks for all the links.

  3. Ang, I forgot to ask you about some of the recipes that contained ingredients that were definitely US in origin. I was wondering how much substituting you have had to do? Also, when you did the dinner using the rice mix, meat, and veges, did you add more water to the rice cooker than you would have if you hadn’t added the meat and vege? ie. did the veges need extra water?

    Thanks so much for your time tonight!


    • Hi Meredith

      I haven’t really noticed that I needed to substitute a lot of ingredients. I made my own dried minced onion and use stock powder instead of bullion and butter instead of shortening or other fats but they are the only ones I can think of. Oh, I also found out that cilantro is coriander leaves. With things like the 18 ounce can of cocoa in the chocolate pudding mix, I just googled how many grams and measured cup fulls instead. (4 1/2 cups is an 18 ounce can by the way.) Were there other ingredients you are referring to specifically?

      With the rice dinner, I pour the seasoned rice packet into the rice cooker and measure the water to suit that. Then I add the veggies and meat, so no, there is no extra water, only what you would normally measure in for the rice itself.

      It was a pleasure swapping ideas with you – I’d love to see your list of 14 dinners you rotate through each fortnight. It might give me some new inspiration.

      Ang xox

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