5 Throw-Together Meals for When You’re Busy, Stressed, or Too Damn Tired

5 Throw-Together Meals for When You’re Busy, Stressed, or Too Damn Tired

Although plenty of charlatans may try to convince you that the only way to eat healthfully is to cook everything from scratch and avoid all processed foods (except, often, the supplements and powders they’re selling), the truth is that having some processed and preprepared ingredients on hand actually makes it easier to nourish yourself properly. Pantry staples like sauces, oils, nut mixes, snacks, and shelf-stable proteins can add flavor and nutrients to meals in seconds, and make home cooking possible for folks who don’t have hours to spend preparing food every day (which is…most of us).

SELF’s 2023 Pantry Awards highlight the best of the best in various categories, from breakfast classics to cooking oils to grab-and-go snacks. Some of the winning picks are meant to be eaten as is, while others work best alongside other ingredients. Ultimately, the goal of selecting and celebrating these pantry staples is to make your life easier.

With that in mind, we’ve put together a few ways you can use the award winners in nutritious, satisfying dishes that come together without much fuss. (You can also, of course, swap some of our winners with versions from other brands if need be.) Below are five meals—I can’t even call them recipes, they’re that simple—that highlight how life-saving these pantry staples can be when you’re stressed, tired, burned-out, or just not in the mood to cook.

1. For nights when you have *just enough* energy to boil pasta water and want to use up those greens that are about to wilt: Pasta With Greens and Cream Sauce

Chelsea Kyle. Prop Styling by Amy Elise Wilson at Laird and Good Company. Food Styling by Drew Aichele at Pat Bates & Associates.

For years, my go-to formula for a lazy weeknight meal that includes vegetables has been pasta + green vegetable + jarred tomato sauce + cheese. If you don’t believe me, scroll to the bottom of this 2018 SELF story I wrote just after a cross-country move when I had very limited time—you’ll see a version of this exact combo.

But sometimes, I stray from that classic combination to absolutely glorious results. The last time I was out of tomato sauce and brainstorming other ways to dress up plain pasta, I remembered this Chili Crisp Fettuccine Alfredo recipe. It’s a pretty simple recipe as is, but using that dish as inspiration, you can make an even easier no-recipe, single-serve version.

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