Several open cans of beans and vegetables with their colorful contents revealed.

Simple Recipes Using Pantry Basics

Delicious recipes featuring items that are inexpensive and easy to find.


This cookbook gives you simple, delicious recipes featuring items that are inexpensive and easy to find. All of the recipes are designed to taste great and are good for you. We encourage you to try these recipes and share your favorites with family and friends.

These recipes were collected by the Portsmouth Diabetes Prevention Project at Eastern Virginia Medical School. Special thanks to April Reichmeider, RD, for her role in creating this recipe book and to the Portsmouth General Hospital Foundation for the grant that made this project possible.

More Recipes

Looking for more recipe options? Try the VeggieBook app, which allows you to create your own mobile recipe books for different vegetables based on your cooking equipment, taste preferences and vegetables on hand.  You can even create your own collection of tips for mealtimes. Created at the University of Southern California, the app provides recipes and tips in both English and Spanish.

Cooking Terms 

These classic cooking terms are used throughout this cookbook. 

  • Bake: Cook by heating in the oven.
  • Beat: Mix ingredients in a rapid rotating motion using a fork, spoon, whisk, or mixer.
  • Blend: Thoroughly mix 2 or more ingredients.
  • Boil: Heat a liquid until it bubbles constantly and steam is given off.
  • Dice: Cut into small cubes (usually ¼ inch).
  • Flake: Break into small pieces using a fork.
  • Fold: Blend in an ingredient using an under and over motion to trap the air in.
  • Heat through: Make sure all of a food that has already been cooked is hot; often involves stirring.
  • Marinate: Soak a food in a liquid to impart flavor.
  • Preheat: Heat the oven or other cooking equipment to desired temperature before adding food.
  • Sauté: Cook food in a pan using a small amount of fat.
  • Simmer: Cook in a slowly bubbling liquid, gentler than boiling.

Cooking Tips

Make cooking easier and more healthful with these tips.

  • Read through the whole recipe first to make sure that you have everything you need and can allow for steps that take time, like marinating.
  • When beginning to cook a recipe, make sure all your ingredients and cookware are ready and easy to get to. Measure out any ingredients that you can ahead of time.
  • Wash and save your scraps from chopping vegetables in a quart sized bag in the freezer. When the bag is full, simmer the vegetables in 8 cups of water for about an hour, straining the scraps when done, to make your own vegetable stock.
  • If you are making a dish that will be served on crackers or chips, consider the salt from the chip or cracker when seasoning to taste.
  • Test the readiness of hot oil by throwing a piece of what you are sautéing into the pan and making sure it sizzles before adding everything.
  • Do not overcrowd the pan so that everything can heat properly.
  • Clean as you go.

Recommended Staples


  • Italian Seasoning: A blend of herbs for Italian cooking
  • Garlic Powder: Flavorful spice without added sodium/salt
  • Onion Powder: Gives subtle onion flavor without added sodium/salt
  • Cayenne: Adds heat so a little goes a long way
  • Salt and Pepper: Basic seasonings for almost any dish
  • Salt-Free Seasoning: Adds flavor without extra sodium/salt

Good fats 

  • Olive oil
  • Canola oil
  • Sunflower oil 

Other items

  • Vinegar: Tartness balances other flavors in cooking.
  • Sugar: Use for desserts or to balance the acidic taste of tomatoes.