How to Cook the Unloved Foods Still on the Shelves

homemade pasta


Cheapism is editorially independent. We may earn a commission if you buy through links on our site.
homemade pasta

Shelf's Table

In the midst of crisis, we turn quickly to the things that soothe us — movies, music, online shopping, and, of course, food. For those of us lucky to be able to stay home, cooking projects are a delightful way to spend the time. But when you go to shop for the ingredients, the grocery aisles can be picked over. Staples such as eggs, flour, and milk are the first to go. You could try another grocery store and hope for a better outcome, but why not step outside your cooking comfort zone? Here's what to make with the food you can still find at the grocery store.  

Related: 27 Unusual Canned Foods You Might Actually Want to Eat

acorn squash

Acorn Squash

What to make: Roasted Acorn Squash and Honey
If you're looking for comfort food, this will be just about perfect. To make it a meal, serve it over rice or couscous.
Recipe: Epicurious



What to make: Pork Chops with Carrots and Toasted Buckwheat
Missing your favorite restaurants? This recipe feels like it could come from a fancy farm-to-table spot.
Recipe: Bon Appetit


Beets or Celeriac

What to make: Raw Beet and Celery Root Salad
Get in your root veggies with this fresh, crisp salad. Perfect for a light lunch or a starter.
Recipe: Martha Stewart



What to make: Strawberry Rhubarb Upside Down Cake
A box of Jell-O may seem like a one-way ticket to one of grandma's grimmest dessert creations, but it doesn't have to be. Try this charming cake instead.
Recipe: Taste of Home



What to make: Tempeh Tacos With Avocado Kiwi Salsa
Tempeh is a fermented soy-based product originally from Indonesia that's often used as a meat replacement. If you're unfamiliar and interested in trying it out, these tempeh tacos are the perfect gateway.
Recipe: Live Eat Learn

Rutabaga Cake


What to make: Rutabaga Spice Cake with Brown Butter Icing
Who says veggies have to be boring? Try out this cake for a fun way to use a forgotten veggie — it's like carrot cake, but more fun.
Recipe: Veggie Desserts

wild rice and chicken

Wild Rice

What to make: Chicken and Wild Rice Bake
Wild rice isn't technically rice — it's a grass. But it's comforting and delicious in this casserole, which doesn't take much hands-on time and is a great family weeknight dinner.
Recipe: Taste of Home

Stephen Ackerman/istockphoto

Canned Sardines

What to make: Sardine Spaghetti with Chives
Anchovies are having a moment, and sardines should be too — they're flavorful, inexpensive, full of protein, and easy on the environment. Turn your sardines and a few other pantry staples into this easy, flavorful pasta dish.
Recipe: Marisa's Italian Kitchen

Sophie Walster/istockphoto


What to make: Parmesan Crusted Crushed Turnips
These are not your grandma's turnips. This recipe feels fancy but is practical and inexpensive. Plus, it's low carb.
Recipe: From a Chef's Kitchen

dandelion greens

Dandelion Greens

What to make: Dandelion Greens with a Kick
It's a shame to write off dandelion greens as "that annoying weed that grows in my lawn." This simple recipe is flavorful, with a pleasant bitterness.
Recipe: AllRecipes

cabbage steaks


What to make: Crispy Roasted Cabbage Steaks
Cabbage is another vastly underrated veggie — cheap, filling, and healthy. These crispy roasted cabbage steaks offer rich, umami flavor with some crunch.
Recipe: Dinner, Then Dessert



What to make: Skillet-Roasted Okra and Shrimp
Okra's texture is sometimes criticized for being slimy, but in this skillet-roasted shrimp and okra, it's wonderful — crispy and flavorful. Serve over grits or rice.
Recipe: MyRecipes

unsalted potato chips

Unsalted Potato Chips

What to make: Potato Chip Chicken Fingers
A bag of unsalted potato chips might seem really grim, but repurpose it into this family-friendly chicken fingers recipe and you control the salt.
Recipe: Iowa Girl Eats

sweet potatoes

Sweet Potatoes

What to make: Sweet Potato and Kale Spanish Frittata
In some ways, sweet potatoes are the perfect food — nutritious, inexpensive, and flavorful. And, in this Spanish frittata recipe from celebrity chef Giada De Laurentiis, they make the perfect breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
Recipe: Food Network 


Canned Hominy

What to make: Authentic Mexican Pozole
This Mexican soup is simple, tasty, and uses canned hominy — not otherwise a food that most Americans know how to use. It's great in pozole.

artichoke hearts

Artichoke Hearts

What to make: Artichoke Heart Tapenade
Making rice or pasta for dinner again? Grab some artichoke hearts, the base for an easy topping that even picky eaters love.
Recipe: Basically

lima beans

Lima Beans

What to make: Easy Lima Beans
You may think you hate lima beans, but this is an easy, flavorful recipe (that is coincidentally vegan). Plus, lima beans are high in protein and fiber, and low in fat.
Recipe: Ahead of Thyme

egg whites

Egg Whites

What to make: Freezer-Friendly Egg White Muffins
Okay, we'd rather have a whole egg than a carton of egg whites, but these egg white muffins are a tasty, practical, breakfast you can make in batches, and you won't miss the yolks.
Recipe: Just a Taste

frozen peas

Frozen Peas

What to make: Chicken Alfredo Soup
Frozen peas are not the most exciting vegetable on their own; try them in this soup and you'll be glad you bought them.
Recipe: My Recipes

chicken liver pate

Chicken Livers

What to make: Creamy Chicken Liver Mousse
The perfect food for feeling like you're in a little Parisian café. It's elegant, decadent, and delicious. A glass of wine is optional but recommended.
Recipe: Food & Wine

homemade pasta

Gluten-Free Flour

What to make: Best Gluten-Free Pasta
What's that about "when life gives you lemons"? When life gives you gluten-free flour, make pasta. It takes 30 minutes and is easier than you think.
Recipe: Delish

brown rice

Brown Rice

What to make: Korean Beef and Rice
The nuttiness of brown rice plays perfectly with the sweet, savory, spicy beef in this simple, weeknight-friendly recipe. The whole thing takes 15 minutes to prepare.
Recipe: Taste of Home

Chicken Thighs

Bone-In Chicken Thighs

What to make: Instant Pot Chicken Thighs Recipe
There could not be anything less fussy about this easy instant pot dish. This recipe brings out all the best textures in chicken thighs — they're juicy, with crispy skin.
Recipe: Crunchy Creamy Sweet 

rye berries

Rye Berries

What to make: Carrot and Rye Berry Salad with Celery, Cilantro, and Marcona Almonds
Rye berries have a delightfully nutty flavor that plays perfectly with crunchy veggies and other nuts. This salad is healthy, hearty, and unique.
Recipe: Serious Eats

french onion soup


What to make: French Onion Soup
Considering how versatile and flavorful they are, it's kind of surprising that onions aren't one of the first foods to disappear from store shelves. Take advantage of their utility and make this winsomely savory soup.
Recipe: Gimme Some Oven

stinky cheese

Stinky Cheese

What to make: Taleggio Tartiflette
As other folks stock up on pantry staples, you may just get the whole cheese section to yourself. The secret to stinky cheese is that it packs in a ton of meaty flavor and doesn't taste nearly as stinky as it smells. When you put it with bacon and potatoes in this recipe, you will be blown away.
Recipe: Food Republic

hearts of palm

Canned Hearts of Palm

What to make: Hearts of Palm and Avocado Salad
If you're watching "Mad Men" on Netflix and crave a return to menus past, this recipe will be just the ticket. The avocado upgrades and modernizes the classic heart of palm salad enough to be worthy of your dinner table.
Recipe: Food & Wine

alfalfa sprouts

Alfalfa Sprouts

What to make: California Sandwich
Sprouts get a bad rap, but they pack a ton of nutrients and fiber in with basically no calories. Throw them atop this cheerful sandwich for lunch.
Recipe: Saveur



What to make: General Tso's Tofu
Tofu is a great source of protein and all nine amino acids. Use it in this plant-based take on a favorite takeout dish.
Recipe: Simple Vegan Blog

canned corn

Canned Corn

What to make: Chicken Corn Fritters
Let's be honest — canned corn is a bummer on its own. When you use it in these delicious fritters made mostly of pantry staples, it becomes a real crowd pleaser.
Recipe: Taste of Home

blue cheese

Blue Cheese

What to make: Beet Hummus with Blue Cheese and Walnuts
There's no cheese in America as misunderstood as blue cheese. But, this colorful, earthy hummus treat will warm you up to it. You'll make this recipe more than once.
Recipe: MyRecipes



What to make: Black Bean Soup with Pepita Cream
Pepitas, otherwise known as shelled pumpkin seeds, make a great high-protein snack food and add a unique, nutty flavor to this black bean soup. You may even keep on buying them after the pandemic has passed.
Recipe: The Curious Chickpea

cream of mushroom soup

Cream of Mushroom Soup

What to make: Swedish Meatballs
Channel your fabulous 1950s housewife and repurpose a can of cream of mushroom soup into something delicious.
Recipe: Campbell's



What to make: Hot Yogurt and Barley Soup
This recipe comes from famed British chef Yotam Ottolenghi's cookbook "Jerusalem" with Sami Tamimi. After cooking the barley and onions, you add yogurt and eggs. What results is homey, mellow, and worth your time.
Recipe: Food52

beef tongue

Beef Tongue

What to make: Braised Tongue
As local groceries lose restaurant wholesale accounts that once welcomed the more interesting cuts of meat, you may start to see those cuts on the shelves. You may even want to try cooking them. Beef tongue is a great place to start — if you didn't know what you were eating, you'd just think it was another bit of beef. Chef Gabrielle Hamilton's recipe is elegant and flavorful, and might even be a candidate for date night.
Recipe: New York Times Cooking