To Your Health | Stocking your pantry for quick weeknight meals, Part I


To Your Health | Stocking your pantry for quick weeknight meals, Part I


What are you having for dinner tonight? If you are not sure or do not think your pantry has the goods for a quick meal, you are not alone. The evening routine can be hectic and seems to get busier in the spring with nicer weather and the start of spring sports for many families.

Your pantry and fridge can be set up for success and your answer to the evening dinner question. Over these next two months, we will be going over a stocking success plan and a few easy recipes to try, tested and approved by families across Illinois.

For part one of our stocking success plan, we are going to start with two of the easiest food groups to stock: grains and vegetables.

— Grains: When purchasing grains, stick with whole-grain choices most of the time, such as whole-wheat pasta, 100 percent whole-grain bread, oats and brown rice. If you follow a gluten-free diet, look for higher-fiber, gluten-free choices.

— Vegetables: Stock your pantry and your freezer with canned and frozen vegetables. These are great in recipes, such as soups and casseroles, and work as a quick side dish on their own. If you are limiting salt intake, opt for more frozen versions to reduce sodium. Canned beans, such as black beans, chickpeas and kidney beans, are another item to keep stocked for use in soups, salads and other recipes.

This month's recipe is a family favorite and can be easily changed based on what is available in your pantry and kitchen. You can use ground turkey in place of ground beef, or make it meatless with double mushrooms. Serve with a green salad and piece of fruit for a balanced, healthy meal.


Servings: 8 (makes 9 cups).

1 jar (24 to 28 ounces) spaghetti sauce

1 1/2 cups water

2 cups (8 ounces) whole-wheat spaghetti pasta broken in half, uncooked

2 cups cooked 90 percent lean ground beef

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded or grated

8 ounces white mushrooms, sliced

In a large skillet, combine spaghetti sauce and water. Stir to combine and bring to a boil.

Break spaghetti pasta in half. Add to skillet and stir well, keeping spaghetti under sauce. Add mushrooms.

Cover and reduce heat to simmer for 20-25 minutes, stirring frequently. Add more water if mixture starts to look too dry.

Add cooked meat to skillet and simmer 5-10 minutes, until meat is heated throughout.

Top with cheese and serve.

This recipe is available online at

Many other recipes are available at University of Illinois Extension's "Eat. Move. Save.: Making Healthier Choices on a Budget" website at

Beth Peralta is a registered dietitian and media communications specialist for University of Illinois Extension, and a spokesperson for the Illinois Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics. Contact her at 217-244-7405 or