We know that meal planning means time and grocery savings. More importantly, it should go hand in hand with a pantry staples list.
But we cannot just list down things without careful thought. What we need is a balance between use and cost.
So, to help you prep a cost-effective grocery list, here are my budget mainstays fit for creating a well-stocked pantry and cooking frugal meals.
No pantry staples list is complete without one or two dry items. Aside from being affordable, you can easily buy them in bulk, which further help manage your grocery budget.
Dry goods are also a perfect go-to for quick and filling recipes, especially for mums who love to cook like me. Plus, they are easy to store and shelf-stable. Here are some of what I got in my kitchen pantry cabinet.
You’ll save more money if you buy flour types that you often use. For example, if you like baking, you can make both cakes and bread with plain flour. It also works as a thickener for sauces and stews.
Wheat flour is perfect for your healthy diet goals. On the other hand, making gluten-free bread with rice or soy flour is cheaper than buying store-bought loaves.
A bag of rolled oats is our healthy staple for budget morning meals or winter warmers. It’s also easy to spice up with your favourite toppings.
There’s no need to add snacks to your pantry staples list, too, when you can bake cookies or bars with oats. Burger or meatloaf from scratch? You can also mix in some oats as a stretcher!
Rice is one of the best pantry staple items because it’s cheap, available in bulk and easy to pair with anything. Did you know that you can also cook rice in the pressure cooker?
Like flour, choose varieties of rice that you frequently use or find the most versatile. For instance, long-grain rice is perfect for several recipes like casseroles, pilaf, burritos, fried rice and more.
A frugal pantry should not be without dry pasta. I especially like using it for one-pot meals for quick cooking and cleaning time. And who doesn’t love mac and cheese?
Alternatively, if you prefer creating food from scratch, you can make fresh pasta with flour, eggs and oil. It’s a little time-consuming, I know. But homemade is cheaper and 100% tastier.
5. Beans and Lentils
These are perfect for your pantry staples list as they are both affordable and nutritious. Dry beans and lentils are excellent protein sources. Plus, their high fibre content can bulk up your delicious meals.
While they often add texture to your dishes, you can also process them to make bread spreads or fillings. Chickpeas are great for making a hummus dip or creamy sauce, too.
If you’re after convenience, you can stock up on canned beans instead.
Canned goods are frugal pantry staples and the best for fast weeknight dinner prep. They’re not the healthiest food choice, however.
So, make sure to read the label and buy the ones with fewer additives. Better yet, try making home-canned foods with a pressure canner.
6. Canned Meat
Flavoured canned tuna is readily available at grocery stores. But, when grocery shopping, I prefer plain ones in brine. That way, I can use it on any casserole or pasta bake recipe.
7. Tinned Tomatoes or Pasta Sauce
I know it’s easy to make tomato sauce from scratch. But I see to it that I have bottled ones in my home pantry for when I need to whip up something fast.
Also, canned tomatoes are not only for pasta dishes. You can also stir them in soups and stews. They go well with your homemade pizza dough, too.
Condiments and Flavour Enhancers
A homemade meal is not complete without a dash or splash of flavour boosters. Aside from being inexpensive, condiments in general also have long shelf lives.
And you don’t even have to buy the most expensive brand of oil or vinegar. With your good cooking skills, generic options will give the same delicious results!
8. Herbs, Spices and Powders
Herbs and spices can be expensive, especially if you buy a lot and do not use them often. So, stick to flavourings that you like, and try to find other recipes that need them.
If you’re into curries or Indian dishes, then stock up on cumin and curry powder. Or does your family love all things Italian? Then write down basil, thyme and rosemary on your pantry staples list.
I try not to have several types of oil in my pantry as they can go rancid over time. So, it’s best to limit your options to one low and one high-temperature cooking oil.
If you know how to render fat from bacon or beef fat, you can do that, too, to buy less store-bought oil. A tablespoon or two of rendered fat will also add natural flavours to your dishes.
Like salt, a sprinkle of white sugar can work wonders for a home-cooked meal. It’s perfect for my morning cuppa, too!
But if you’re into home baking, you can add both white and brown sugar to your pantry staples list. You might want to stock up on powdered sugar as well.
Vinegar is a versatile ingredient. It comes in handy for making marinades, picked vegetables and dressings and more. A splash can balance out the flavour of your inexpensive meals, too.