Weeknight Cooking

Caroline Wright's 5 Ingredients for 20-Dollar, 20-Minute Meals

August 15, 2013

Today, Caroline Wright, who writes 20-Dollar, 20-Minute Meals, is sharing the 5 ingredients she always has in her kitchen to help her make quick, easy, inexpensive meals. And to make your meals faster and cheaper, we're giving away 10 copies of her latest ebook!

These five things are the building blocks of my twenty-dollar, twenty-minute recipes. With these ingredients, you can make the bulk of the recipes in my latest book! 

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Fresh vegetables: Fresh produce, without a doubt, is where I begin my cooking. I pick what’s in season at the market, which also means it’s usually the cheapest. Right now I’m trying to eat all the tomatoes I can before they’re gone. (I also keep a few veggies in the freezer for a last-minute meal.)

Good olive oil: One of my favorite ways to elevate a humble, weeknight meal is to give it a little drizzle of a good olive oil. It adds a fresh, green flavor to whatever you’ve spent those cherished minutes to cook, and it makes your dinner look gorgeous.

Your favorite condiments and pantry staples: I love hard-working ingredients, from the humble pack of spaghetti to the flavor-packed tube of harissa paste I find at specialty markets. A few of my favorite staples include lentils, farro, chickpeas, good jarred marinara, olive oil-packed tuna, capers, and Sriracha. If you have the ingredients you like, most often you can find a way to adapt recipes to your tastes by swapping one bean or pasta for another.

Eggs: I love eggs -- I dedicated an entire chapter in my book to them! They are the perfect quick meal and are incredibly versatile. They are an easy way to bring big flavor to the table, whether they’re simmered in spicy tomato sauce or served on top of a cheesy winter vegetable pancake. 

Salad greens: Salad can change a simple dish into a meal, so I tend to keep lots of salad greens on hand. I wash and dry heads of lettuce on the weekend and wrap the leaves in coils of dry paper towels. Stored in a plastic bag, the greens keep all week in the drawer of the refrigerator.

Want more Twenty-Dollar, Twenty-Minute meals in your life? Enter to win a copy of Caroline's new ebook by telling us your most essential ingredients in the comments. We'll choose ten winners at random on August 30th at 3 PM EST.

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A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Lgrothe
  • cookinginvictoria
  • Linda K.
    Linda K.
  • Mrs. Stokes
    Mrs. Stokes
  • Felicia
Before her diagnosis, Caroline wrote a book on cakes called Cake Magic!. She started developing a birthday cake using her gluten-free mix found in that book. Check out other recipes she’s developing for her new life—and the stories behind them—on her blog, The Wright Recipes. Her next book, Soup Club, is a collection of recipes she made for her underground soup club of vegan and grain-free soups she delivers every week to friends throughout Seattle's rainy winter.


Lgrothe August 21, 2013
Some essential ingredients are cumin, coriander, garlic, garlic and more garlic ok toss in some evoo and fresh veggies. I love to cook.
cookinginvictoria August 21, 2013
Fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables; good quality olive oil; dried pasta and farro; an assortment of vinegars and lemons; and an assortment of cheeses (Parmesan, Romano and aged cheddar are always in my fridge).
Linda K. August 20, 2013
I always have cheese on hand. Makes everything better!
Mrs. S. August 20, 2013
Olive oil, eggs, lemons, high-quality short grain brown rice, and seasonal veggies!
Felicia August 20, 2013
Olive oil, eggs, and goat cheese!
CookieLady August 20, 2013
I always have garlic, onions, olive oil, lemon, red pepper flakes and an avocado waiting to go.
lizziebeth August 20, 2013
... chicken, olive oil, lettuce and fresh herbs - especially from my balcony garden - and eggs!
Jen P. August 19, 2013
Mine are dried pasta, tortillas, olive oil, garlic, and oil-packed tuna.
Haley August 17, 2013
I always have greek yogurt on hand! It can moisten up chicken or it goes deliciously in cakes! Creole seasoning, bananas, spinach, brown rice, and fine chocolate of course (:
Amanda N. August 17, 2013
My essentials: garlic, onions, rice, eggs, chili flakes/pepper (because I like my food hot!)
Mallory August 16, 2013
What's essential in my kitchen? Spinach and onions. Spinach can be cooked or left raw, making it a staple for my lunches & dinners. Onion just tastes amazing with everything
jilloc August 16, 2013
garlic, eggs, something green and Siracha - you can make a great dinner year round with that group of ingredients.
francine August 16, 2013
team garlic for life!!! also, bread. almost anything can be stuck between two slices and made into a sandwich!
erin August 16, 2013
As an acient Chinese saying would say, fuel, rice, oil, salt, sauce, vinegar and tea are the essential ingredients in all kitchen.
KaffeeAndKuchen August 16, 2013
Onions and garlic - you can make almost anything with at least those two things. If you have eggs, flour water and salt - onion tart! if you only have meat, veggies or pasta; onions and garlic will transform them!
lazychef August 16, 2013
ditto eggs, whatever's growing in my garden, and lots and lots of fresh herbs!
Desert D. August 16, 2013
Garlic, onions, pasta, rice, tomatoes, and bacon. I hate to admit how often bacon is used in my house.
Lynnie491 August 16, 2013
Always: Spinach, spring greens, broccoli, cauliflower and feta cheese with an olive oil, Dijon mustard, lemon juice dressing I make. It's my go-to dinner - I steam the broccoli and cauliflower so that it is a warm vegetable salad.
Ellie R. August 16, 2013
I always have at least 2 chicken breasts in the freezer, a small bottle of olive oil, and Cayenne pepper. It tastes good on almost everything!
Ellie R. August 16, 2013
I thought it was only 3 items! Misread that lol ill add beans, garlic, and angel hair pasta. Those are ALWAYS in my pantry. If they're on sale, I have tortillas and some sort of berries in the fridge as well.
Jr0717 August 16, 2013
Always: Homemade red sauce in the freezer and fridge, homemade chicken stock, fresh produce and vegetables, beans, and a mix of grains (cornmeal, quinoa, and barley, usually).