A delicious, nutritious meal is easy to prepare on the day you come home from the grocery store. But as the food dwindles, the urge to order take-out or grab unhealthy frozen pizza grows. Unplanned meals are a way of life. You may not have a personal chef, but with the right pantry you can have great meals that are good for you at a moment’s notice! Great recipes start with a few key ingredients that you can pick up weekly. The secret is adding those ingredients with items already on hand.
A well-stocked pantry isn’t only conducive to a slimmer waist, but it helps fatten the wallet. Over time having supplies becomes more cost-effective. Also, you aren’t racking up extra dollars in the grocery column of your budget!
Feeling a little anxious because your cabinets are bare? Stocking a pantry doesn’t have to done all at once. Make a plan. Give yourself 8-12 weeks to get your pantry in shape. You can spread out the shopping accordingly.
You’d be surprised at how little you need to spend on groceries!
I realized how big a role my pantry plays in my cooking since cutting down my food budget to $5 per day.
Particularly if you live in an area that doesn’t have a ton of markets, a pantry that is properly stocked with things you’ll actually use can
15 items that will get your pantry off to a great start:
- Olive oil makes the difference in a recipe as well as adding good fats and antioxidants in your diet
- Whole grain pastas have come a long way in the taste department and cook in minutes
- Stocks aren’t necessary as a group, but keep at least one on hand- (I LOVE Manischewitz vegetable broth)
- Brown rice or whatever healthy grain appeals to you (barley, bulghur, couscous, quinoa)
- Beans, beans and more beans (I keep dried) chickpeas, black beans, navy beans, pinto and black eye peas are currently in mine. They are perfect for soups.
- Lettuce like spring greens are appealing because they stay fresh and make any salad a bit more special, but romaine works just as well. And I found some iceberg for .99. Go with what’s on sale and seasonal.
- Vinegar like balsamic can be used in everything from salad dressing to roasted veggies
- Dijon mustard can be used as part of a marinade or salad dressing in an instant
- 1 or two seasonal vegetables that keep well (With fall coming on the east coast- it’s all about pumpkin and acorn squash baby- cheap and good.)
- Canned tomatoes can be used for sauces, on tortillas etc…
- Frozen spinach or kale can be added to rice and pasta for an easy meal
- Onions are a quick (and cheap) easy way to add flavor without a ton of calories
- Garlic that is fresh jazzes up any recipe from salad to fish to grilled veggies
- Dried spices like oregano, basil, thyme, rosemary, cinnamon, kosher salt and pepper are critical. You can also add cumin, cayenne and tarragon if the basics are reside in your spice cabinet. Shopping at ethnic grocery stores can help you find good quality spices at very reasonable prices. Buying spices whole also last longer and retain flavor.
Bonus points for:
dried fruits and nuts, firm tofu, tortillas
Are there pantry items you can’t live without? Please tell me in the comment section! I’m always looking for new additions!