There’s no Food in the House! Clean-Out-the-Fridge Meals

“There’s no food in the house!” Is a common refrain in my house.

Brett will look over at me, eyebrow arched in doubt. “I don’t believe you,” he’ll say, reassuring me of his supreme confidence in my ability to make something, anything for dinner based on what we actually do have.

And I will. In part out of laziness to go to the store, and in part out of being unable to back down from a challenge. It’s like the daily Iron Chef battle in my own kitchen: make dinner using only the ingredients already in the house, and get it done before we’re both so hungry we’ve eaten a meals worth of cheese and crackers while I cook.

Over the years of playing this game, I’ve developed a few go-to dishes that make for a beautiful, filling meal from a few basic pantry items plus whatever else you’ve got around. Here are mine, one for each season. What are yours?

Celebrate the Arrival of Spring with Pasta Primavera

Easy Spring Meal

Base ingredients: dried or fresh pasta, olive oil or butter, garlic, Parmesan cheese

Best add-ins: asparagus, herbs (basil, parsley, tarragon, oregano, sage, rosemary, etc), peppers, spinach, broccoli, onions, peas, tomatoes

Bask in the Bounty of Summer with Bagna Cauda

A great summer meal

Base ingredients: bagna cauda (anchovies, olive oil, garlic, butter)

Best add-ins: hard or soft boiled eggs, bread, endive, shrimp, potatoes, cauliflower, zucchini, green beans

Find the Fun of Fall with Thai Red Curry

Thai Red Curry

Base ingredients: curry paste* (this is the brand/type I use), coconut milk, plus I sometimes doctor it with ginger, garlic, kaffir lime leaves, and fish sauce

Best add-ins: any meat or fish (I often use lamb or shrimp), Butternut or other winter squash, onions, spinach or kale, bell peppers, eggplant, sweet potato

Stave off Sickness with a Winter Hot Pot

A great winter meal

Base ingredients: hot pot packet* (again, the brand I use. Other people make their own broth, or don’t use flavoring, but I love this stuff)–here’s my usual set up, optional dipping sauce (I make mine with peanut butter or tahini mixed with a touch of soy sauce and coconut milk)

Best add-ins: raw shrimp or squid, meat (thinly sliced, I’m a big fan of offal here, as well as lean beef and lamb), fish (usually mild and white), any Asian noodle, greens (especially cabbage), dried or fresh mushrooms, potato or sweet potato, tofu, daikon, bok choi, pretty much any vegetable that you can slice so thin that it cooks quickly


*This is an affiliate link. I make a few cents if you purchase this item. But you can also buy it at your local grocery store.



  1. Just got this link via TheEverywherist, and I love this post. Making something from apparently nothing, is one of the most enjoyable challenges around. Mine is Frittata, which (for 2 people) is 4 eggs beaten with about 1/4 cup milk or cream and some herb. Add to that about a cup or a bit more of cut up cooked veggies and cheese of your choice. Pour into a pan of bubbling butter and let almost set on low heat for about 10 minutes. Then either turn off the heat, put on a cover and let sit for another 10 minutes or so (until set) or pop it under a broiler until set. Good warm or at room temperature. My favorite combo: sautéed red peppers, spring onion, feta and oregano. By the way, if you have no cooked veggies on hand, just sauté them in the pan you’ll make the frittata in, then pour on the egg/herb/cheese mixture. This is very, very flexible.

  2. I’m also here via the Everywhereist because, obviously, the title of the link struck a chord. I admit that sometimes when everyone is whining that there’s nothing to eat, I declare “choice night” — i.e. every person for himself. That’s likely to result in eggs for my husband and some type of canned soup for me. Your go to “there’s no food in the house” recipes looked yummy, but I’m thinking that only food bloggers happen to have endive on hand when there’s “no food in the house”. ;-)

  3. Also here from the Everywhereist link. This was a good article but like Suzanne said I don’t carry several of things in the fridge when there’s nothing to eat. I’m definitely going to try a few of your recipes above. Thank you! :)