After powering through a 7 a.m. boxing class, a nine-hour workday and a two-podcast commute, the last thing you want to think about is making yourself dinner. But even the most Seamless-dependent New Yorkers can channel their inner Ina: The key is an arsenal of ingredients that can be mixed and matched for an array of quick and easy dishes. Here, ten go-to items that make whipping up a meal almost as easy as grabbing a slice.
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They don’t call them the “incredible edible” for nothing. Fry up an omelet for a simple (but filling) supper, throw a poached egg on toast for an easy breakfast or keep a stash of hard-boiled eggs in the fridge as a post-workout protein boost. FYI: Raw eggs should last about five weeks from the pack date (or usually around three weeks after you buy them).
Look for the whole-plum variety: They have the best flavor and can easily be squeezed directly into the pot or chopped up (a cross-hatch motion with two butter knives does the trick). They’re a great base for a batch of pasta sauce, a warming autumn stew or a quick but impressive shakshuka.
Roast them with some cumin and paprika for an addictive snack, blend them into a smooth and creamy hummus, chuck them in a soup or throw them on a salad: A can of chickpeas is the hero of your pantry and can be opened, drained, rinsed, seasoned and eaten within seconds. (It doesn’t get easier than that, folks.)
Yes, it’s possible to get your vitamins without setting foot in Sweetgreen (at least occasionally). You can’t go wrong with spinach, Swiss chard or kale: Sauté with olive oil and garlic as a simple side dish (and a good dose of fiber and iron), or grab those tins of chickpeas and tomatoes, some rice or small pasta (orzo or ditalini work well), throw it all together, and you’ve got yourself a one-pot feast.
Having a couple shapes around never hurts. Try long shapes (spaghetti, linguine or bucatini) for sauces and slurpable comfort and short or medium (ditalini, orzo or orecchiette) for soups, pasta salads or sauces other than classic tomato. And with all the gluten-free, whole-grain, spelt, quinoa/corn/brown rice options out there—have fun and mix it up every time you hit the grocery store.
Rice is the ideal ingredient to buy in bulk—it’s way cheaper that way and stores well in a jar or sealed bag. It’s a great starch to have with a multitude of meals, from tacos or build-your-own burrito bowls (mix in a hearty handful of cilantro and juice of a lime) to a one-pot chicken and rice and even cold salads perfect for work lunches. Made too much? Use the leftovers for a Chinese-inspired fried rice or a warming cinnamon and sugar porridge on cold winter mornings.
Dried beans are crazy cheap and easy to make with a little planning (and soaking). Cans are great to have around, too, and can be added to soups, chili or blended into dips. Get whatever you like—black and kidney are always great standbys to have on hand. A big pot of beans goes a long way throughout the week and can be packed as burrito bowls on the go, with scrambled eggs for a quick breakfast skillet or to amp up a midweek taco night.
For its small size, garlic plays an indispensible role in a number of dishes. A bulb keeps for ages—out of the fridge—in a bowl or basket, and after a little practice mincing and slicing, you’ll be starting sauces, soups, garlic bread and dips with this handy little bulb.
Milk (or A Nondairy Alternative)
Not only to be added to morning coffee and tea or over a bowl of oatmeal, milk is key as the base for a creamy mac and cheese, a warming chai, for mashed potatoes and countless other things (like a super-simple but utterly impressive poached cod with potatoes and leeks).
A close buddy to garlic, onions play the foundational role in almost any savory dish. Roughly chop and add to a pot with garlic, spices, carrots and stock for a cheap and hearty soup; caramelize and top on pizza dough or puff pastry for a cocktail-hour app; or throw in a roasting pan with some chicken and other veggies for a surprisingly impressive dinner.