When budgets get a bit tighter and those weekly outings to your favorite local bistro get less frequent, make sure to stock your pantry with these essentials. Using the right ingredients, you can cook up creative goodies in your own kitchen that are easy and economic. With that said, here are the top 10 money-saving pantry essentials you should always keep on hand.
Top 10 Money-Saving Pantry Essentials
It’s been a classic for generations and can be used to create everything from pancakes and waffles to biscuits and cobbler toppings. Not only is it economical, but it’s also easy. And that, you gotta love.
A healthy, easy snack or yummy mix-in for pancakes, homemade granola, and cereal. We also love raisins as a sweet and unexpected addition to salads, pasta, and rice dishes, or as a stuffing for chicken breasts or pork.
8 Garlic & Olive Oil
If we could take just two food items to a desert island, these would our picks. Yes, it’s two in one, but they go hand in hand. Olive oil can be pricey but has gotten much more affordable over the last few years. Check places like Aldi and Lidl for greatly discounted prices.
Plus, a little goes a long way. Almost any food on the face of the earth can be prepared simply and deliciously using only these two ingredients. Well… and a trusty sauté pan.
Start with a simple can of soup and add fresh veggies, pasta or rice, roasted chicken, grated cheese, and you’ve got a real meal! We also love soups as a base for casseroles — the cream of chicken or cream of mushroom soup can be the inspiration for a quick-and-easy chicken potpie or tuna casserole. So, get souped up!
6Pasta Sauce & Canned Tomatoes
A jar of pasta sauce dresses up noodles, naturally, but it can also spice up cooked veggies, jazz up chicken cacciatore-style, or cover ready-made pizza crusts or English muffins for instant pizzas. Talk about gettin’ saucy!
Canned tomatoes can be used in a variety of dishes such as American Chop suey, create quick sauces and toppings for healthy, robust meals.
Tuna is more than just a mayo-and-relish sandwich. Toss with noodles and veggies for a yummy pasta course. Or with lettuce, potatoes, and olives for a Nicoise salad. Think outside the can!
A must for breakfast (adored by both kids and adults), a staple for mixing into meatloaves and muffins, and an essential ingredient in our greatest all-time addiction: oatmeal cookies. Another way to save pennies: skip the pricey cereals at the supermarket and whip up your own granola using oats, honey, or maple syrup, vanilla, nuts, and other goodies.
Like pasta, rice is one of those versatile staples that makes us feel like we’re eating like kings and queens, even when we don’t have the budget. From healthy stir-fry dishes to hearty rice-chicken-cheese casseroles, pilafs, or cold veggie rice salads, we love the many personalities it can take on. And it’s super-easy.
2Beans & Legumes
They don’t have the most glamorous reputation, but beans are our idea of a gourmet treat. Sauté black beans with garlic, olive oil, and tomatoes (and a pinch of cinnamon, if desired) for a delectable Spanish-flavored side dish.
Spice up salads or pastas with canned chickpeas. Or whip up a big batch of vegetarian chili using kidney and white beans and whatever veggies you have laying around (sweet potatoes, zucchini, corn, peppers, and eggplant are a few faves).
Pasta is the number one item of pantry essentials. Aside from the fact that we could live on pasta and be totally happy, it is also one of the cheapest meals around. And the possibilities for dressing it up are endless.
Toss with a simple red sauce, butter and garlic, roasted chicken, frozen or fresh veggies, and almost anything else you can think up. As cheap as $1 a box, pasta is our #1 must-have all year round.
If your pantry is stocked with flour, salt, and various seasonings, you can easily make your own tasty pasta in a multitude of flavors. Some of our favorites are Pizza Pasta, Old Bay Pasta, Rosemary Pepper Pasta, and lemon poppyseed pasta.