My Pantry Staples

After a trip to the store today, I thought it might be fun to share with you some of the things I try to have stocked in my kitchen at all times. Keeping things affordable is important with our big family, so I buy very little prepackaged convenience food.  The kids help in the kitchen  — they make their own breakfasts almost every day, they keep us stocked in homemade cookies, AND they do dishes. (do you hear the angels singing??) But I do the majority of the serious cooking, and it rarely takes more than an hour or so a day. Check out my recipe page for lotsa quick ideas, the majority of which can be made using the pantry items I listed below. If it’s highlighted on the list below, that means I make it myself and have linked to the recipe for you.

Baking:  Flour, sugar, brown sugar, honey, baking soda, baking powder, yeast, cornstarch, baking cocoa, chocolate chips, coconut, GF flour, cornmeal, quick oats, vanilla, coconut oil, olive oil, shortening.

Spices:  basil, berbere, chili powder, cilantro, cinnamon, cumin, curry powder, oregano, paprika, pepper, salt, thyme, and taco seasoning.

Part of my pantryPantry: Pinto beans, lentils, split peas, garbanzo beans, rice, pasta, ramen, potatoes, onions, garlic, popcorn, coconut milk, evaporated milk, pancake syrup, vinegar, peanut butter, tea, coffee, creamer, raisins, cold cereal.

Fridge:  eggs, milk, butter, block cheese, cream, cream cheese, apples, oranges, lemons or limes, carrots, cabbage, spinach or kale, soy sauce, sriracha, fish sauce, ketchup, mayo, yogurt, mustard, salad dressing, flour tortillas, corn tortillas.

Garden produce (canned): tomato puree(<– video tutorial), dill pickles, sweet pickles, applesauce, canned peaches/pears/plums, salsa, various flavors of jam.

Freezer: chicken, ground beef, corn, green beans, sweet peppers, grated zucchini, pepperoni, grated cheese, loaves of bread, orange juice concentrate, ice cream, pork roasts or a turkey when they are on sale.

Splurge/easy items that I sometimes buy:  salmon, fish sticks, tater tots, hot dogs.  I serve this type of thing a couple days a month, no more.  And though I always have cereal around, we usually only have it for Sunday morning breakfast.  Too spendy for its limited tummy-filling capabilities.

Basics

When I shop I have price points beyond which I will not to buy.  For example, I try to buy meat when it is no more than $2/lb.  I can usually find chicken for that, but it is hard to find ground beef that low, so I stock up when I see it. Turkeys will be affordable soon, and I’ll probably buy two or three, then cook them one at a time in the roaster, serving part right away, and chopping the rest into portions for enchiladas, etc. Right now I probably have 30 lb of ground beef in the freezer, some of which I’ve already cooked up and some of which I’ve made into hamburger patties.  I stock up on butter when it is $2/lb or less, and freeze all but a few pounds.

I try not to spend more than $1/lb for fruit, or $2.25/lb for cheese. I just bought a 20 lb box of apples for $13, and will be buying oranges now as the prices are coming down below $1/lb.  To get eggs for $1.20/doz or less I usually have to buy a 5-dozen pack. I try to buy peanut butter for $.11/oz or less, and pasta when it is less than $1/lb.  I aim for cereal that is $2 or less for an average size box.  All these various price points help me know when to stock up and when to wait, so that as much as possible we are eating things I’ve bought at their lowest price points.

What is on your list of pantry essentials?  What is your favorite way to save at the store?  Your favorite splurge?  Mine has got to be sushi from Fred Meyers.  Our local Fred Meyers has a lady who does a fabulous job on their sushi.  So yum.

Bonus reads:

Y’all know about my cookbook too, right?  If you’ve got a friend interested in good food or saving money on groceries, it makes a great gift!

{ 7 Comments }

  1. Leslie Creech says:

    Mary,
    Do you cook around what’s in your pantry or do you stock your pantry based on what you plan to cook for the week or month? Also, how do you deal with changes that happen in the schedule? For example, I’ll plan to make a large lasagna and then my kids will have other plans leaving only my husband and me, so I have to end up completely changing plans. Great post by the way. I’m cleaning out my pantry and fridge this weekend, and I’ll be comparing to your list!

    • Leslie, I do both. Typically I plan a couple weeks worth of meals before I go to the store, so I can be sure to grab random things that I don’t always have on hand. Then as my stock goes down and I am getting close to needing to go to the store, I try to use what I have in creative ways to stretch my time between trips (A huge money-saver)

      And extra lasagna?? I do not know this thing of which you speak. ;) But seriously, I would just use what we need of an extra-large meal and freeze it again for later or serve it for the next meal where we’re all together. We have leftover lunches at least a couple days a week, so not much goes to waste.

  2. I am in the midst of revising my “essentials” list yet again. I try to keep a variety of meats on hand–ground beef, whole chickens, and pork roasts are usually the cheapest. Sometimes, I can find a good sale on chicken breasts or beef roasts, but are more like luxury items for us. Very, very occasionally we’ll have some fish or lamb or something like that on incredible special. We also eat lots of eggs. I usually buy about 5-6 dozen a week for 5 of us. Beyond meats, I tend to buy onions, carrots, celery, and whatever other vegetables I can find on sale. We were able to participate in a community garden this summer, so we got eggplant, several varieties of squash, peppers, a few green beans, and a ton of tomatoes. I don’t have the proper equipment to can so I made several batches of marinara sauce and froze them. Yum. We try to eat grain free, so for baking I usually have some coconut flour and sometimes almond flour and I have a little bit of tapioca flour I’m trying to learn how to use well. We usually have bananas and applesauce (since the whole family can eat those–including the baby), and when there’s enough money, I’ll buy grapes or berries or whatever fruit is on sale. My biggest problem is snacks. My kids love to snack and it’s hard to find inexpensive snack foods that are good for them and will keep them full–that don’t require me to spend ALL my time in the kitchen!

  3. My cannot do without item has got to be black beans. Black beans go on salads, in soups, blended and put into any hotdish or hidden in sauces, etc., and are great when making black bean brownies and cake.
    Meat for under $2 and fruit for under $1 and eggs for $1.20! Haven’t seen those prices for over three years up here. Getting meat for around $3.29, fruit for $2.75, and eggs for $2.25 is a good day. And milk just hit $5 a gallon by me.

  4. Deborah J says:

    Thanks Mary, that was interesting to read. I am a little awed by the low prices. I’m in Australia and grocery prices here are continually rising. We’ve empty nested and it’s just my husband and I so it’s not really affecting us, but young or large families are really under pressure.
    We buy in kilograms and pay in Aussie dollars of course so I’m going to go do some math.
    Enquiring minds need to know!

    • Deborah J says:

      Woolworths minced (ground) beef here at AUD 9.99 per kg.
      My conversion of that gets me to USD 4.52 per pound
      That probably wasn’t the cheapest in my area but was the budget option at my local supermarket.

      Cheapest eggs are I dozen for AUD 3.39.
      That converts to USD 3.20.
      I can’t get them anywhere cheaper than that.

      Everything is skyrocketing here.