We all find ourselves in a pinch from time to time. Things get tough and we don’t have enough money to go around. When this happens you may find yourself looking at the pantry wondering how you will make a meal out of what is left so you can get through to pay day. You will be proud of yourself when you serve that meal knowing you did it with what you had in the pantry.

Here’s how to make a meal with what’s left in the pantry:

How to Make a Meal With What's Left in Your Pantry. Grocery saving tips.

Strive for balance.

When it comes to tossing a meal together out of the blue, you want to look for ingredients to make a balanced and filling meal. This means you want to search for a protein, some fruit/veggies and a carbohydrate to create your meal. Canned meats or beans will give you a protein, while rice, pasta, and potatoes for your carbohydrate, are found in nearly any pantry.

Mix it together to have enough to fill you up.

If you find you do not have enough of something for a meal, you could try mixing two things together to make enough to feed your family. For example, you could mix rice and potatoes together in a casserole or add beans to ground beef to make tacos stretch further.

Give your meal a flavor boost.

When it comes to making a meal from very little, the best trick you can use is your spice cabinet. Adding flavor to your mystery dish can make the plainest foods feel like a gourmet meal. Some cooked pasta with butter, spices, and whatever protein and veggie you have in your fridge or pantry can become a new family favorite. When in doubt use garlic, basil, and oregano for a foolproof flavor combination.

Add a Carbohydrate.

Any bread in the house will do. It adds a filling element to your meal making it go further. If all else fails mix 2 cups flour, a pinch of salt, your favorite herbs (basil and oregano for the win again), 1/2 teaspoon baking soda and enough milk or water to create a pancake-like batter. Fry up like a pancake and serve with butter for a filling side to any meal.

Put ramen noodles to good use.

Any college kid will tell you that ramen noodles can be made into a pretty tasty meal. Add some chopped veggies, a scrambled egg or leftover meat out of the fridge. While high in calories and salt the occasional pack won’t hurt you. Or you could omit the packet all together and add some teriyaki sauce.

Cheese goes with nearly anything.

If you’re truly low on food but are lucky enough to have some cheese in the fridge, you can turn nearly anything into a cheesy filling casserole.

Need a little bit more help getting started with a meal idea? MyFridgeFood is made just for people like you. Select the random things running around in your pantry and fridge, hit select and get instant inspiration.

I’d love to know some of your ideas for pulling together a meal with the bare minimum. Let me know in the comments!

Related: Basic Pantry Staples List and a Free Printable Checklist.