Going to the grocery store too frequently can be draining. Walking aisle after aisle, hoping that something grabs your attention. Just hoping for some sort of dinner brilliance … we do this over and over again.
You’d pay almost anything on most days to avoid it if you could.
If you could just figure out a way to make dinner with what you already have on hand – without feeding the kids cereal for dinner again.
Guess what! You do have something at your disposal to help you with this – your pantry. This is your #1 kitchen tool. Used wisely, it will save you many trips to the grocery store. Having frugal pantry staples in your kitchen can end up saving you a ton of time, and money, too.
With these basics, you can create a whole range of meals, usually very simple, and inexpensive meals. Take a look at these pantry staples and download the Pantry Staples Shopping List for your next trip to the store.
When you go shopping, stock up on these items and make sure you always have some of them on hand. You’ll be able to whip up a meal any day of the week if your pantry is stocked.
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Frugal Pantry Staples
There are so many different kinds of pasta available that there really is no limit to the number of meals you can create using them. Boil some up and add a jarred sauce or even make a sauce from scratch. I like to just toss ours with some butter, pepper and parmesan cheese for a great side dish. Maybe you want some noodles with an Asian flair; toss them with some sesame oil, garlic powder and a dash of soy sauce. If you’re in a big hurry remember that smaller noodles cook the quickest, so keep angel hair pasta on hand for a really fast meal.
2. Beans, Legumes
Just like pasta, beans come in many varieties. You can have canned beans or dry. By far, dried beans are much more economical. They take a little longer to prep and cook, but if you’ve got the time, you’ll save a lot by using dried varieties. If you have an Instant-Pot, your beans can be cooked from dry in 20-30 minutes. You really can’t beat that. Canned beans are great for a 15 minute Chili, use them to whip up some hummus, or add them to a main dish salad for great protein and fiber.
You don’t have to think of rice as just a side dish. One of my favorite meals is rice topped with a fried egg and tossed around with some soy sauce and gochujang (Korean pepper paste). It’s great for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. You can also make Fried Rice, Spanish Rice, or Taco Bowls.
Having a few sauces on hand can turn a very boring meal into something that will Wow your family. How many times have you cooked chicken breasts for dinner? If you’re like me, it’s easily hundreds of times. By keeping some sauces on hand you can quickly turn those boring chicken breasts into Chicken Teriyaki, BBQ Chicken Sandwiches, or Chicken Cacciatore. Don’t forget to stir some salsa into your shredded chicken for quick Tacos, Rice Bowls, and Quesadillas, too.
Don’t think of bread as just a sandwich maker. Bread can be used to make Strata, French Bread Pizza, and our family’s favorite, French Toast. You can even take something as simple as toast and dress it up in a crazy amount of ways. Check out 21 Ideas for Energy-Boosting Breakfast Toasts. And, of course, the options for sandwiches goes on forever.
Forget the obvious burritos. Your tortillas can be used for quesadillas, wraps, and casseroles, too. Did you run out of bread? Put your sandwich fillings in a tortilla instead. The nice thing about tortillas is that they have a really long shelf life, so you can buy an economical package and keep them in the refrigerator to have on hand for dinner emergencies.
Oatmeal has saved us many times when we’ve run out of either milk or cereal. Plus, it can go in meatloaf, cookies, pancakes, breads, muffins, and more.
8. Tomato Paste
Tomato paste is cheap. And, this stuff is amazing … it can be turned into spaghetti sauce, pizza sauce, sloppy joes, basically anything you need a tomato sauce for. The cans take up so little space and can usually be picked up for less than $.50.
Having popcorn on hand, means you can always have a quick and cheap snack. The kids will go crazy over it and it’s healthier than chips or granola bars.
If you want to make frugal meals that taste good, you’ve got to have a good supply of spices on hand. Try to buy them in bulk, where you can pay just pennies vs. $3.00 and up on the spice aisle.
Potatoes are very inexpensive to keep on hand. I always buy the big 10 lb bag and cook my potatoes in bulk. If I’m making baked potatoes for dinner then I’ll make twice what I need and we can use the leftovers to make home fries for breakfast or a side dish for dinner on another day.
Apples make a great side dish for any meal. Don’t have time to make potatoes or a salad to go along with dinner? Slice some apples to eat on the side, or saute them quickly with some butter and cinnamon if you’re feeling fancy.
In The Refrigerator or Freezer
Some people only think of dry foods as part of their pantry, but the refrigerator and the freezer are valuable parts of your pantry as well. Don’t neglect these areas in order to have the most success with your pantry meals.
Eggs are really quite inexpensive and can be used any time of the day for a meal or snack. You don’t even have to limit them to breakfast. Learn how to use eggs to stretch your budget here. And, don’t forget … using them as a base for meatless meals can save you a ton of money.
14. Dinner Sausages/Kielbasa
With these, we can have dinner in just minutes. There are so many different flavors to buy, too, from Chicken Apple to Spicy Italian. You can use them as the main part of a meal with a couple sides, or you can throw them into your pasta, soup or beans.
15. Frozen Veggies
You can pick these up for less than a dollar and have a guaranteed side dish every single night. There are many different kinds, from peas and corn to riced cauliflower. They can be tossed into your casseroles and pasta dishes, as well.
Looking for more ways to save money on groceries? Take a look at these articles.
Remember, you don’t have to constantly run to the store if you keep these foods on hand. It will be downright live-changing to be able to make a meal right out of your cupboards every single day. You’ll be so happy to save the time and money.
Download the Pantry Staples Shopping List and you won’t forget to pick them on your next shopping trip.
Do you have special foods you keep in your pantry? What is your biggest dinner saver?
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