How to stock your pantry for impromptu family nights

Oct 1, 2011 at 9:34 a.m. ET

Family night doesn’t always have to be planned: Any night that you are all home together can become a family fun night. If friends or relatives drop by for a visit, include them in the fun, too. Be prepared for an impromptu family night by stocking up on a few essentials so you are always ready to enjoy a spontaneous night with the family.

Woman stocking pantry

1Stock up on favorite quick-dinner foods

Keep your eye on sales at your grocery store so you can stock up on your favorite dinner foods that are quick and easy to make on family night. Frozen pizza, spaghetti sauce, noodles, casserole ingredients and quick frozen stir-fry dinners are all items you can keep on hand for months in the freezer or pantry. By stocking up during sales, you will be prepared and save money, too.

2Have fun snacks on hand

Pick up snacks you can store for long periods so they are always on hand. Salsa, beans, peanuts, granola bars, raisins, trail mix and popcorn make great snacks and can be stored away for several months until you use them. Frozen items such as snack rolls, juice bars, frozen yogurt and ice cream are also good choices for snacks. Some fruits can be frozen and served ice-cold, such as red grapes, strawberries, blueberries and watermelon balls. Frozen cookie dough is another fun treat to keep in your freezer. The whole family can help in baking these easy cookies for a quick, delicious snack.

3Stock up on sodas and drink mixes

Stock up on a few of your family's favorite drinks when you see them on sale. Soda, iced tea mix, lemonade mix and flavored water mixes store well, so you are always prepared. Some fruit or vegetable juices that do not have to be refrigerated until opened are also excellent choices.

4Have baking ingredients on hand

If your family likes to cook or bake together, keep the basic ingredients available so you can enjoy an impromptu baking session. Stock up on flour, sugar, powdered sugar, brown sugar, maple syrup, chocolate syrup, baking soda, salt, vanilla and any other ingredients you know you will need.

5Be prepared with craft supplies

Think about craft projects your family can make from basic items found in the kitchen. Make sure to have flour, salt, alum and oil in the pantry to make your own modeling dough or paper mache paste and food coloring for decorating. Save a few empty paper towel rolls, newspapers, Popsicle sticks, toothpicks and milk cartons in case the kids want to make a craft project. Fun isn't always planned, and sometimes the spontaneous family nights are the most memorable ones.

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