Every year, the average household tosses thousands of dollars of unused food right into the trash. Thankfully, reducing food waste in your kitchen is easier than you think — and it doesn't mean you have to eat the same meals every night. With some careful planning, clever ingredient choices, and delicious seasonings, you can make five completely different dishes with the same five ingredients. Just remember to keep a few shelf-stable pantry items like canned tomatoes and coconut milk in the cupboard for added versatility.
The first ingredient on your capsule shopping list should be chicken, which will serve as your main protein source. Chicken is packed with vitamins and minerals, and when cooked in minimal fat, it's relatively low in calories. Of course, while chicken may be the most popular meat, it's not everyone's favorite. If you're willing to adapt the meals below, you can switch out chicken for another meat like turkey, beef, or pork. Fish like salmon and vegan proteins like tofu also work well as a staple protein.
Next up is your main carbohydrate: rice. Rice is incredibly versatile, so it's perfect for a low-waste meal plan. Both white rice and brown rice work in any of the dishes below, as do varieties like basmati and arborio. Pasta is another great staple carb, but it won't work so well in many of these recipes. If you'd like to switch out rice for a substitution, your best bets would be quinoa, barley, couscous, or cauliflower rice.
Sweet potato packs a big punch of fiber and adds a delicious, caramelized flavor to any meal. It's also rich in crucial nutrients like vitamin A, B, and C, and it can be cooked in a wide variety of ways to stave off dinnertime boredom. However, if you don't have a sweet tooth for sweet potato, there are plenty of other vegetables you can use in its place. Butternut squash and pumpkin, for example, have similar flavor profiles, textures, and uses. You can also switch sweet potato for regular potatoes, but the latter won't offer you as many nutritional benefits.
You'll also want to add another vegetable to your shopping list, and you can't go wrong with onion. Red and white onions are nutrient-dense, loaded with antioxidants, and undeniably delicious to boot. They're one of the most flavor-rich vegetables you can cook with, which makes them ideal for packing plenty of taste into a minimal-ingredient meal. Of course, you can also get your flavors from seasonings and substitute in another tasty vegetable like zucchini, carrot, and corn.
Last but not least, pick up some cheese at the grocery store. One of the best things about cooking with cheese is that there are so many varieties to choose from. Cheddar, mozzarella, gouda, gorgonzola, and parmesan all work perfectly depending on your palate. Note that dairy cheese can easily be substituted for vegan versions, but you can also do away with cheese entirely if you prefer. Anything from chili sauce to sauteed mushrooms to fried egg can make an equally tasty topping.
One meal you can always make no matter what you have in the fridge is soup, but this creamy chicken and sweet potato soup is anything but a fallback. The best part is that it's incredibly easy to make in just one pot. Sautee the onions, then add your chopped sweet potato along with chicken stock and seasonings. Once everything is tender, blend the soup until it's smooth. Then, just return it to the pot, add chopped chicken, and cook until done. You can grate your cheese on top, or whisk it into the soup as its cooking.
Making a delicious risotto takes a little time, but the results are well worth the effort. Roast some seasoned, chopped chicken, onions, and sweet potato in the oven for 30 minutes. Next, add your rice to a heated pot and gradually spoon in ladles of chicken stock, waiting for the liquid to absorb between each spoonful. For every cup of rice, you'll need 3 cups of stock. By the time your roasted chicken and sweet potato are ready, the risotto should be fully cooked. All you need to do then is stir everything together with a generous serving of finely grated cheese.
Believe it or not, you can make delicious Indian food like butter chicken at home with minimal ingredients and no prior experience. Brown some marinated chicken in a skillet, then set it aside and use the same pan to sauté your sliced onions. Once they're soft, stir in a can of crushed tomatoes and plenty of curry powder to taste. Let the mixture cook until dry, blend it up, then add it back to the pan along with your cooked chicken and a can of coconut milk. When everything is cooked through, serve over hot rice.
Stuffed sweet potatoes are a super easy meal that you can make with almost any ingredients you like. First, set your whole, unpeeled sweet potatoes in the oven to bake for around an hour. While they're cooking, cook up your fillings. Shredded chicken, sauteed onions, and cooked rice all work well in a stuffed potato. To spice things up a little, give them a burrito twist by cooking them in Mexican seasoning. Once the potatoes are cooked and slightly cooled, cut them open, mash the insides, then top with your fillings and a handful of grated cheese. Keep in mind that the bigger the potatoes, the longer the cooking time, and adjust your schedule accordingly.
Last but not least, few meals are easier than roasted chicken and vegetables. All you need to do is chop your chicken, onions, and sweet potato, then coat them in oil and seasonings of your choice. Let them roast in the oven for 30 minutes, and you have a whole dinner ready to go. If you want to make the meal even heartier, feel free to serve this roasted delight over a bed of rice.