Can you guess the secret to creating cheap, quick meals? If you guessed that it’s keeping a well stocked pantry, then you win! There are just certain ingredients that make dinner time more efficient and less expensive. You can even stock your home with pantry staples on a budget!
This well-stocked pantry list will help you create frugal, healthy, and quick meals. You can keep these cheap food staples on hand to make dinner time much easier. And feel good about both your grocery budget, and what you’re feeding your family.
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30 Pantry Staples on a Budget
UPDATE: I put together a printable list of cheap and easy meal ideas that anyone can make, plus step by step instructions for how to make them. Regardless of your cooking skills, these meals can be made quickly and inexpensively!
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Dry and Canned Goods:
1. Pasta – So many varieties to choose from and an endless amount of meal possibilities!
2. Couscous or instant brown rice – These make nutritious, quick-cooking side dishes.
3. Spices – No meal or pantry is complete without spices. Here are some of the best spice staples:
- Chili powder
- Seasoned salt
- Black pepper
- Onion powder
- Italian blend
4. Canned beans – Dry beans are inexpensive as well, but for quick meals, nothing beats canned. Here are some to keep on hand:
5. Canned tomatoes – Tomatoes are so useful and versatile in everything from spaghetti to chili and beyond. Be sure your pantry includes:
- Tomato sauce
- Crushed tomatoes
- Tomato paste
- Stewed tomatoes
- Diced tomatoes
- Whole tomatoes
6. Stock or broth – Premade stock makes so many dinners faster and easier. Some varieties include:
- Bouillon cubes
- Stock paste
7. Tuna – Canned tuna or salmon are excellent no-cook sources of protein.
8. Baking ingredients – Some of the best frugal pantry staples are for making baked goods. Here are some ideas:
- Sugar (white, brown, powdered)
- Dried fruit
- Baking powder
- Baking soda
- Vanilla extract,
- Cocoa powder
- Quick yeast
- Cake or brownie mix
9. Baking mix – If you really want to make it easy, buy some baking mix (such as Bisquick). You can make everything from pancakes to biscuits, muffins, blondies, and even as a coating for chicken.
10. Condiments – Nothing jazzes up dinner like some flavorful sauces and condiments. You can make sauces out of:
- Soy sauce
- Vinegar (white, balsamic, red wine, or rice)
- Barbecue sauce
- Maple syrup
- Peanut butter
- Hot sauce
- Salad dressing
11. Condensed soups – You can use condensed soups to make a huge array of cheap pantry meals. The ‘cream of’ varieties and condensed tomato soup are quite versatile.
12. Tortillas – Another one of the best budget pantry staples is tortillas. They have a much longer shelf life than a loaf of bread, but can be used for anything from tacos to individual pizzas.
13. Pasta sauce – A spaghetti dinner can come together super quickly with the use of a jar of pasta sauce. You can always doctor it up with more spices or fresh ingredients if you want.
14. Instant potatoes – Believe it or not, you can make more than just mashed potatoes with these. Try using them to make gnocchi, as a binder for meatloaf or a thickener for sauces and gravy, or even as a crispy coating for onion rings.
15. Jarred salsa – Salsa is good on everything from eggs to baked potatoes, plus it’s a super easy side dish or appetizer with tortilla chips.
16. Roasted red peppers or sun dried tomatoes – These two pantry staples really pack a flavorful bang for your buck. Great in everything from pasta dishes to pizza toppings.
17. Breadcrumbs – Having a canister of breadcrumbs in the pantry will help you bread chicken, top fish or baked dishes like macaroni and cheese, or as a binder for meatballs or crabcakes.
18. Potatoes – Russet, red, and sweet potatoes all have an incredibly long shelf-life when kept in a dark, cool place like your pantry. They are so versatile for side dishes!
19. Onions – Onions also stay good for a long time, and add an incredible amount of flavor to any savory dish.
20. Canned vegetables – Canned veggies make quick side dishes, and easy additions to soups and stews. Some to keep on hand are:
- Green beans
- Diced green chiles
- Artichoke hearts
- Chinese vegetables
- Water chestnuts
21. Olive and canola oil – No kitchen is complete without olive oil for flavor and sauteing, and canola oil for higher temperature cooking and baking.
Fridge and freezer staples
22. Eggs – If you really want a quick and cheap meal, make something with eggs. From omelettes to breakfast burritos to scrambled in a hash, there is no less expensive source of good protein.
23. Butter – Both as a topping for breads and baked potatoes, to an ingredient in sauces and baked goods, butter is an ideal ingredient to keep in your kitchen.
24. Greek yogurt or sour cream – Much like butter, plain yogurt and sour cream can be used as a topping or ingredient.
25. Cheese – Both parmesan and cheddar cheese pack a flavorful punch to many quick meals.
26. Lean proteins – Keeping a few different kinds of meat in your fridge or freezer means you’ll never have to run to the store before making dinner. I like to stock up when there’s a great sale, and use my Foodsaver to lock in the freshness. Some protein ideas to keep in your kitchen are:
- Ground beef
- Ground turkey
- Chicken breasts
- Chicken thighs
- Turkey kielbasa
- Turkey bacon (or regular bacon of course)
- Foodsaver Review: How to Save Tons of Money on Meat and Produce
- How to Create a Grocery Budget (and actually stick to it!)
- How to Make a Cheap Grocery List (+10 Money Saving Tricks)
27. Long-lasting vegetables – Some vegetables will stay good for weeks. Here are a few ideas:
28. Lemons and limes – These citrus fruits are excellent when squeezed on a variety of dishes, plus they make drinking water and cocktails more flavorful.
29. Frozen vegetables – Since the freezer-section veggies are frozen at the peak of freshness, they contain most of the health benefits as fresh vegetables. They’re also crunchier than the canned varieties.
30. Frozen berries – Berries from the freezer are usually far less expensive than not-in-season fresh berries. They can be thawed and eaten with yogurt or on oatmeal, or used to make tasty baked goods.
There you have over 30 ideas for pantry staples on a budget! You can use this well-stocked pantry list to create tons of quick and cheap meals.
By keeping these ingredients on hand, you’ll never have to run out to the store just to make dinner. It also makes meal planning a breeze.
New to meal planning? Check out these super handy resources:
- How to Get Started Meal Planning Today: 10 Super Easy Tricks
- 5 Easy Meal Planning Strategies for Beginners
- How to Create Your Own Meal Planning Kit
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P.P.S. Don’t forget to download your list of super easy and cheap meal ideas!