Fridge Forage: 30+ Recipes From the Pantry (2024)

This post is for all those days when you’re standing in front of the fridge, wondering what you can make with the bits and bobs you see…. From a made from scratch (easy!) Curry to Baked Rice with Anything, Chinese Soup, Fried Rice and a Homemade Hamburger Helper, this list is proof that you can dine like a king even if your cupboards are (pretty) bare! {Click here for PDF version of this post.}

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Nowadays, I go to the shops almost every day. Sometimes multiple times in a day if I’m doing a client shoot and things are not going to plan. My record is 5 times. FIVE TIMES! Boy was I grumpy by the end of the day.

However, back when I worked in corporate, I did my main grocery shop once a week on the weekend. Which meant that unless I did a meal plan, I was usually playing things by ear by Wednesday. Meaning: I’d assess the contents of my fridge and freezer, and that would determine what I was having for dinner that night.

As I sat down to do a brainstorm of all the recipes that I would have made on such evenings, I was pretty happy to see that I’ve published most of the recipes already! There are a few obvious gaps and I’ll get to them eventually. I guess they’re things that I thought you might find too boring – like pasta salads, frittata. Do you want to know how I make things like that?

So here’s my list! And some tips for how to make them using bits and bobs rather than the exact ingredients used in the recipe.

This is a post I was inspired to do after I did a “Fridge Forage” feature for Super Food Ideas magazine. I hope you find it useful!

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CREAMY CHOWDER WITH ANYTHING

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Creamy Chowder with Anything – Got milk, flour, butter and broth/stock? Make a creamy chowder! Dig out those bags of frozen veggies, find bits of ham or chicken or leftover cooked meats. This type of recipe is ultimate proof that you should never throw out any leftover food – raw or cooked. You’ll always find an amazing use for it! Get the recipe.

CURRY

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Easy (real!)Curry – A handul of spices, a can of tomatoes, broth, canned legumes and chopped veggies. You CAN make this with almost anything! Try this easy IndianCauliflower Chickpea Curryor this Caribbean Chickpea Potato Curry.

ALL PURPOSE STIR FRY SAUCE

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Ultimate Standby Stir Fry – You’ve met Charlie, haven’t you?? He’s my best friend for stand by fridge forage meals! He’s an all purpose Chinese Stir Fry Sauce, an exact replica of none but similar to many sauces of hundreds, possibly thousands, of stir fries. Couple of tablespoons of Charlie, some water, tossed in a wok with whatever proteins and vegetables you have. And you will be gobsmacked how delicious it is. It’s all about the sauce!Get the recipe for Charlie and how to use it / him.

Tip: Get a head start at the beginning of the week by chopping up veggies and storing them in airtight containers.
PS I call him Charlie because it’s a brown sauce and you know “Charlie Brown”, right? 10/10 for originality!

BUILD YOUR OWN STIR FRIED NOODLES

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Fridge Forage Noodles – Got noodles? Got some veggie bits and bobs in the bottom of your fridge, or some tins of stir-fryable veggies? (That’s a word, right?) Toss them in a wok with Charlie and 5 minutes later, dinner is on the table! Add some zing with chilli paste, garlic, ginger, Five Spice Powder, schezuan pepper – the possibilities are endless!Get the recipe to build your own stir fried noodles.

Tip: Don’t forget tinned veggies! Baby corn, bamboo and water chestnuts are great stir fry add-ins!

HOMEMADE HAMBURGERHELPER

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Homemade Hamburger Helper aka Cheeseburger Casserole – Who says this has to be made with beef? Use whatever ground / mince meat you have in the dark depths of your freezer, and toss in whatever vegetables you can find! Got a bag of mixed frozen veggies? Perfect.Get the recipe.

Tip: Make this with other pasta shapes like spirals, orecchiette, penne and ziti.

SWEET & SOUR STIR FRY

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Sweet & Sour Stir Fry – Basically, when a sauce is this good, no one really notices what’s IN the actual stir fry!Get the recipe.

Tip: If you don’t have pineapple juice for the sauce, swap it out for orange or another fruit juice. Pinky swear, it works a treat!

CRUSTLESS QUICHE

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Crustless Quiche – crustless quiche is everything you know and love about classic quiches like Quiche Lorraine, but FASTER and low carb, and you can literally put anything in it. It’s custardy and cheesy inside, puffy and golden on top. The recipe I shared is a Ham and Cheese version, but you literally usewhatever proteins and veggies you have! Get the recipe.

Tip: For watery vegetables like mushrooms and spinach, saute them in a little oil or butter until the liquid leeches out and evaporates. Otherwise they will make the quiche watery.

CHINESE SOUP

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Chinese Soup – When I worked in corporate, this was one of my all time most-made dinners during winter because it’s so versatile and fast to make. Throw together the soup with just chicken stock/broth, a knob of ginger and garlic (or use paste!), a dash of soy and Chinese cooking wine (or sherry!), and you’ve got an instant broth to add in whatever you want. Noodles, vegetables, proteins….or….I don’t suppose you’ve got a stash of frozen wontons in the freezer?? Get the recipe.

Tip: When I’m feeling extra lazy, I cook the noodles in the same broth. Just be aware that this reduces the amount of broth because it’s sucked up by the noodles, so add an extra ¾ cup of broth (or water) per serving if you take this shortcut!

FRIED RICE

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Fried Rice – arguably the ultimate leftovers food in the whole world? Get the recipe: Choose fromChinese Fried Rice(it’s Kylie Kwong’s recipe!), Indonesian Nasi Goreng or Thai Fried Rice.

Tip: Keep bags of cooked rice in the freezer. Defrost in less than 1 minute in the microwave. Uselong grain rice to make fried rice (the rice grainsare dry = perfect for fried rice) and medium or short grain to serve with dishes (because they stay a bit sticky after freezing).

QUESADILLAS

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Quesadillas – You put anything and everything in Quesadillas too, right?

Tip: BAKE ’em so you can make loads in one go, rather than slaving over the stove! Just make sure the filling is cool (helps them bake crisp). Get my Baked Quesadillas recipeor Stovetop here.

BAKED RICE WITH ANYTHING

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Baked Rice with Anything – So here’s the formula: 1 cup of rice to 2 ½ cups of liquid, bring to simmer on the stove then bake at 180C/350F for 30 minutes covered and 10 minutes uncovered. I have so many tips and variations, I’m going to list them (seriously, I should just do a recipe post on this, shouldn’t I???):

  • I always start my baked rice by sautéing chopped onions and garlic in olive oil or butter because it makes it tastier. Then I add the liquid and rice, bring to simmer then bake;

  • To add minced/ground proteins and veggies like zucchinis, capsic*ms and mushrooms, cook onion for 1 minute then add these and cook, then add rice etc. The meat will go beyond the point of overcooked to tender;

  • To add pieces of chicken, use this One Greek Chicken and Lemon Rice recipe as a guide;

  • To add chopped meat like chicken or pork pieces, cook them separately then remove into bowl, and add them back into the rice right at the end after it is cooked. Residual heat will reheat the meat (if you leave it in the rice the whole time, it will be horrendously overcooked);

  • For instant-wilting veggies, like fresh spinach, add them at the end when you fluff up the rice;

  • Consider adding a can of beans to fill it out! Baked Chickpea Pilaf anyone?

  • For a lemon (lime or other juice) flavoured rice, use zest + ¼ cup of lemon juice as part of the total liquid;

  • For a tomato version, use 1 cup of rice, 2 cups of chicken broth/stock and 1 can of crushed tomato + 1 tbsp tomato paste if you want a more intense tomato colour/flavour; and

  • For a Mexican rice, use this One Pot MexicanChicken and Riceor One Pot Enchilada Chicken and Rice recipe, here’s a Middle EasternChicken Shawarma and Chickpea Rice, a Peruvian Chicken with Garlic Butter Riceand here’s a Baked Chinese Chicken and Rice!

I have to stop here otherwise I will keep going. I really think I’ll do a full recipe post on Baked Rice with Anything!

PILAF (AKA FLAVOURED STOVETOP RICE)

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Stovetop Rice Pilaf with Anything – The basic formula for stovetop cooked rice in my world is 1 cup of rice to 1 ½ cups of liquid, cooked over medium low heat with the lid on (no stirring!) for 15 minutes or until the liquid is fully absorbed. Then stand for 10 minutes, fluff and serve. This makes rice that is what I call “Asian” standard – tender and fluffy, not soft and stickywhich I think Asians all over would consider soggy. (Note: This is for long grain, medium, short grain white rice, basmati and jasmine. Use packet directions for brown and other rice).

Now the more interesting part – the add ins! Typically, I start off by sautéing onion and garlic in butter or olive oil, add other chopped veggies or meat (ground or chopped), spices and other dry flavourings of choice. Cook until just cooked, then add the rice, liquid (I use broth/stock unless making plain rice) and other liquid flavourings of choice (if you use really thick ones like tomato paste, you need to add a bit more water).

The possibilities are endless! I feel like I should do a Stovetop Rice With Anything recipe too….it’s such a fast dinner! Here’s a Middle Eastern Lamb, Spinach and Lentil Pilaf to tide you over in the meantime, and pictured aboveis Mejadra, a wonderful Jerusalem spiced pilaf.

ALL YOU NEED IS A GREAT DRESSING

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Salads Made Interesting – My friends and I always chant that a great salad is “all about the dressing”! Even the most basic salad – like just plain iceberg lettuce leaves – can be made so delicious by just drizzling over a fabulous dressing. So whatever you have in your fridge, youcan make an awesome salad with it using a great dressing!

Tip: Make your life easier by having a stash of homemade dressings on standby in your fridge at all times!! Here are 8 dressings that can be stored for 2 weeks+, and here are all my salad recipes (Avocado Dressing anyone?)

RISOTTO WITH ANYTHING

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Risotto Anything – You can seriously almost add ANYTHING into risotto! Here’s a classic risotto base recipe: Chicken and Mushroom Risotto, here’s a tomato based risotto: Chorizo Risottoand here’s how to make a baked risotto!

Tip: Load up the baked risotto with vegetables bysautéing them before adding the rice.

CREAMY PASTAS WORK WITH EVERYTHING

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Pasta + Cream + Anything = sinfully delicious. Really. Use the Italian technique of emulsifying the sauce (i.e. toss pasta with sauce + pasta cooking water = glossy sauce with less cream required).

Tip: To make this with vegetables, start with onion and garlicsautéed in butter then add other vegetables. Think – sliced mushrooms,grated zucchini, small broccoli or cauliflower florets, asparagus finely sliced on the diagonal, even dicedpumpkin! Stir through delicate greens like spinach at the very end.

ONE POT RISONI / ORZO WITH WHATEVER YOU HAVE

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One Pot + Risoni/Orzo + Broth + Parmesan + Fridge Forage = dinner.Try a tomato base: One Pot Italian Chicken and Risonior Greek, a creamy parmesan base: Creamy Salmon Risoni or Chicken and Vegetable Risoni. Click here forall my risoni/orzo recipes – I’m a big fan of risoni!

Tip: Don’t forget canned salmon and even tuna! Great for stirring through!

ONE POT MAC & CHEESE WITH BITS AND BOBS

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One Pot + Mac and Cheese + Fridge Forage = Complete meal. Yessss! Us thisOne Pot Baked Chicken Broccoli Mac and Cheeseas a base.

PANTRY PASTAS (REAL ITALIAN!)

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I’m willing to bet you can make at least one of these 8 Classic Italian Pastaswith what you’ve got in your pantry RIGHT NOW! Pictured aboveis my Spicy Prawn/Shrimp Pasta which is essentially Arrabbiata with prawn added. YUM.

Tip:Use your leftover pasta to make pasta fritters!!

4 INGREDIENT HONEY GARLIC SAUCE FORANYTHING

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Honey Garlic Sauce for Anything – just 4 ingredients, 1 minute, and you can pour it over anything. Sear a chicken, pork chop, piece of fish, steam some veggies and dinner is done! Get the recipe.

SAN CHOY BOW / CHINESE LETTUCE CUPS

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San Choy Bow – Make this entirely with chopped veggies. Seriously, this may be one of the best “can’t believe there’s no meat in this!” meals in the whole world. See recipe notes for quantities. Get the recipe.

Tipe:Don’t have lettuce? Use rice paper wraps or just spoon onto rice. SO GOOD!

VEGETABLE MEXICAN LASAGNA

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Vegetarian Mexican Lsagna– OMG. The Fridge Forage just got real exciting! Tastes like an Enchilada, layered like a lasagna, this recipe was almost made for emptying out your fridge and digging through your pantry for canned vegetables.Get the recipe.

ANYTHING GOES GARLIC BREAD POT PIE

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Garlic Bread Topped Anything-Pot-Pie – Got bread, milk, cheese, garlic, flour and butter? Some frozen veggies or scraps in the fridge, some leftover meat?Good! Make this! Get the recipe.

Tip:Brilliant to throw in loadsoffrozen diced veggies.

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See? No trip to the grocery store required to make an amazing meal! Enjoy! Nagi xx

Click here for a PDF version of this post.

LIFE OF DOZER

His whole life is about foraging. 🙄

PS That’s a raspberry and yes he ate it.

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Fridge Forage: 30+ Recipes From the Pantry (2024)
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