Grandma to the Rescue! 9 Ingredients to Have on Hand


We interrupt the regular insanity that is my working-mom life for a visit from Grandma! My mother is in town, taking care of my little one and generally making life much easier for me. She was a working mom, too. And yet she managed to put a tasty meal on the table each night. Of course, it helped that she was a teacher and got home around 4 p.m. each day (unless she had a faculty meeting). But still. I know she was probably tired and often didn’t feel like cooking.

So how’d she do it? Well, for starters, she tells me she always kept the pantry stocked. Plus, my grandfather had a steer slaughtered for us each Christmas, so we had a freezer packed with fresh, corn fed beef. These days, most of us aren’t that lucky. But we can still whip up something good if we’ve got the right stuff on hand. Here’s Grandma’s ingredients to have on hand for quick and easy meals.

(Note: This list will tell you all you need to know about where I grew up. Midwestern comfort food? A-yup.)

  • Ground beef. That one speaks for itself, I think.
  • Onions. No one in my family ever cooks anything without onions. Except dessert.
  • Tomato soup and cream of mushroom soup. Pour cream of mushroom soup over breaded porkchops and bake for a couple of hours. For a delicious stew, pour tomato soup over browned hamburger, some chopped onions and a can of drained mixed vegetables. Bake until bubbly, then put refrigerated biscuits on top and bake until biscuits are brown.
  • Speaking of refrigerator biscuits, never be without them. You can make mini pizzas, pigs in the blanket (wrap the biscuits around breakfast sausage)—even donuts. Just cut in squares, deep fat fry and shake them in cinnamon sugar.
  • Frozen veggies. Serve as a side or use in soups and casseroles.
  • Macaroni and noodles. Use the macaroni in goulash and mac and cheese, and the noodles for stroganoff and casseroles. (See below)
  • Canned tuna. Tuna salad, tuna patties, and—of course—tuna casserole. Now I know people joke about tuna casserole, but this isn’t Julie’s recipe from “Welcome Back Kotter.” No no no. Mix tuna, cream of mushroom soup, onions, frozen peas and shredded cheddar cheese with noodles and a little milk. Sprinkle on crushed potato chips and bake until bubbly. Yum!
  • Lipton onion soup mix. Stir into sour cream for a delicious dip. Or sprinkle on a chuck roast that has been smeared in cream of mushroom soup, and then wrap tightly in foil before sticking in the oven.
  • Cheddar cheese. Sprinkle it on top of everything. Along with those crushed potato chips, of course.

What did we learn from Mom? You can always whip up something good for dinner if you have something to work with. Here are 9 ingredients to have on hand.

Some of our favorite Grandma-inspired recipes

  • Grandma K’s Goetta Recipe: A Cincinnati specialty, goetta is a tasty mixture of beef, pork sausage, oats, onions and spices—sizzled up in a pan.
  • Grandma’s Spinach Casserole: Susan’s grandmother always used to make her spinach casserole for family dinners, and everyone marveled at how it actually made them like spinach.
  • Healthy Comfort Food Recipes: Great list of tips, cookbooks, and healthy comfort food recipes that make any cold day more bearable.

9 thoughts on “Grandma to the Rescue! 9 Ingredients to Have on Hand

  1. Ahh, back in the days before Trans Fat. 😛

  2. Hey, laptop, my mom is from Iowa, too!

  3. Hey, your slaughtered steer reminded me of something… do you buy your meat from a butcher or from the supermarket? I always thought buying from a butcher is more expensive, but my mother-in-law was saying it was a lot more afforable than purchasing meat at your chain grocery store. And, of course, the meat is better quality.
    I guess you need the freezer room.

  4. I buy mine from the supermarket. I know you didn’t ask me, but I’m answering.

    Anyway–I’m not even sure where I’d find a butcher? Sam? Are you out there?

  5. Well, a meat market, I mean. There’s a couple family-owned ones near me.

  6. Sara again – I’m too lazy to log in with my WMAG account…

    I buy from the supermarket but when my husband is cooking one of his fancy dinners, he goes to the butcher. We also like to shop at Findlay Market.

    But yeah… the slaughtered steer. We had a huge freezer in our basement packed with meat. My friends thought roast beef was a huge treat, but I thought it was no big deal since we had it every Sunday!

  7. Are the Findlay Market guys considered butchers? If so, I buy butchered meat all the time! I didn’t notice it was much cheaper though…

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