Budget Friendly Food For Your Kitchen
Every family needs a well-stocked kitchen.
There’s nothing more frustrating than going into the kitchen and finding nothing to eat. It’s just one more thing to add to your plate… both literally and figuratively.
This is especially tiresome true when it’s late, or you’re too tired to do anything about it.
In reality, you likely do have something to eat, it just may not be what you have a taste for in the moment. But, what if it wasn’t about pleasure as much as survival?
That’s an experience shared worldwide during lockdown. During that time, convenience was no longer an option.
How well did you fare when the bottom fell out of the world? Did you have to scramble to get food in the house? Most people shop without intention.
That became clear when panic set in. It’s more about a specific meal or replenishing based on want rather than need.
This post will share ideas to provide your family with essential groceries to fill your kitchen and put food in your stomachs. As much as I love kitchen accessories, I will not be covering appliances, gadgets and do-hickeys.
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Pantry items typically have generous shelf lives. In fact, according to the USDA, “most shelf stable foods are safe, indefinitely.” They also say that the date on packages is more about quality than it is safety.
To ensure you are keeping your family safe, use the FoodKeeper App to check your food.
Did you notice how hard pantry items were hit during the height of quarantine? People were looking to fill their kitchens with food that could not only sustain them nutritionally, but also wasn’t in jeopardy of going bad.
This list will get you started.
- Dried/ Canned Beans (Black, Pinto, Cannellini)
- Pasta (Spaghetti, Fettuccini, Penne, Rotini…)
- Sun-Dried Tomatoes
- Olives (Packed in Oil or Water)
- Pickled Vegetables (Peppers, Pickles)
- Canned Tomato Sauce/ Paste
- Canned Vegetables
- Canned Meat/ Fish (Chicken, Tuna, Corned Beef…)
- Chicken Stock (I like Better than Bouillon)
- Dried Cereal
- Nuts (some on hand, some for freezer)
- Peanut Butter (Nut Butters)
- Jelly/ Jam
- Dried Fruit
- Dried Meat (Jerky, Salami, Pepperoni)
- Rice (Long Grain, Jasmine, Basmati, Wild, Brown)
- Popcorn (Kernels or Microwave)
- Flour (Wheat/ Almond/ Coconut)
- Corn Starch
- Baking Soda
- Baking Powder
- Sugar/ Sugar Substitute
- Coffee/ /Tea
- Non-Dairy Creamer
- Canned/ Dried Milk
- Beverages (Water, Beer, Wine)
Snacks and treats aren’t listed, but should be included. And if you’re a baker, Vanilla extract will be a staple for you.
Keep an eye on things like bread. Bread mixes will last for a while, but put fresh bread in the freezer to extend its use.
Finally, if keeping an inventory, rotate your pantry items. Place the newest food in the back and the old ones in the front.
Cost Saving Tips
- Buy Some Items in Bulk (Dried Beans, Rice…)
- Jar Your Own (Tomato Sauce, Jam, Peanut Butter, Pickles…)
- Make Your Own (Bread, Breadcrumbs)
- Transfer Open Boxes to Air-Tight Glass Containers
Well-Stocked Spice Cabinet
Did you know that the spice rack is the hero of any kitchen? It’s a chance to bring some life into the staples you have on hand. Once you get past good ole reliable, salt and pepper, the sky’s the limit.
Again, shop to your taste. Keep the flavor profiles that you use most on hand.
I like a lot of variety in my kitchen, so in addition to what’s listed, I have curry powder, ground ginger, cumin, paprika, and so much more!
- Salt (Kosher, Table, Himalayan Pink, Sea…
- Pepper (Ground, Peppercorns…)
- Garlic Powder
- Lemon Pepper
- Cajun Seasoning
- Bouillon (Dry)
- Cinnamon (Nutmeg, Allspice…)
- Dried Herbs (Basil, Thyme, Rosemary, Bay Leaves…)
- Oil (Olive, Peanut, Vegetable…)
- Vinegar (Apple Cider, Red Wine, Balsamic, Rice…)
- Hot Sauce
- Chili Sauce
- Soy Sauce
- Worcestershire Sauce
- BBQ Sauce
Fresh herbs are easy to grow and so nice to have readily available. Even so, it’s nice to have some dried versions of your favorites in the pantry as well. After all, dry herbs hold up better for longer cooking times, like braising.
Keep in mind that dried herbs are best when used within 1 year of purchase.
Cost Saving Tips
- Make Your Own Spice Blends (Lemon Pepper, BBQ Rub, Taco Seasoning…)
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When possible, fresh is best! Naturally, I shop for refrigerator foods most frequently — about 1 week at a time. In some regions, it’s common to buy fresh meats, fruits, vegetables and breads daily.
I included a few items below (*) that I would consider pantry items, not only because of dry storage, but long shelf life. But, as they are fresh items, they are listed here.
- Dairy (Milk, Cream, Half-Half)
- Nut Milk (Shelf stable also available)
- Sour Cream or Greek Yogurt
- Flavored Yogurt
- Cheese (Block, Sliced, Cottage, Parmesan, Cheddar…)
- Fresh Vegetables
- Fresh Fruit
- Condiments (Ketchup, Mustard, Mayo, Pesto)
Cost Saving Tips
- Grate Your Own Cheese
- Buy in Season
- Grow Your Own
- Buy Direct from the Farm
- In some cases, you can pick your own
The freezer is a great place to maximize your savings. If you have a chest freezer, you can really stock your freezer.
It’s perfect for hunters and fishermen who use their catch to feed the family. Freeze large cuts of meat like your holiday turkey or rib roast. It also stretches your dollar further by extending the life on fresh foods.
For families with children, the types of food you need to keep will grow with you. For example, breast milk will soon be replaced with popsicles.
Moms and dads, help your future selves out. Save time by cooking in bulk and freezing some of your efforts for future meals. You’re busy enough as it is. When the day comes, you’ll be happy you did.
- Freeze the Carcass from Chicken/ Turkey/ Ham Bone for Soup Later
- Frozen Veggies
- Frozen Fruit
- Dairy Products (Butter, Block Cheese, Milk)
- Breast Milk
- Ice Cream/ Popsicles
Cost Saving Tips
- Buy Meat on Sale/ Manager’s Specials (freeze immediately)
- Buy Meat in Bulk (Large Cuts), Cut Down to Size
- Buy a 1/4 of a Cow/ Pig from a Farm (Various Cuts)
- Cook Once, Eat Twice
- ex. Chili, Spaghetti Sauce, Soup, Lasagna, Meatballs, Chicken Stock, Cooked Pasta
- Freeze Fresh Items to Extend Shelf Life or to Stock Up
- ex. Butter, Bread, Milk, Cheese, Nuts
Related Article: Can You Freeze Rotisserie Chicken
Why Is It a Good Idea to Have a Well-Stocked Pantry
Generally speaking, keeping a well-stocked kitchen makes life easier. But, if you’re looking for the best place to focus your efforts, I’d say the pantry is a great option.
For one thing, it’s a great way to feed your family if the power goes out. The weather may be nice now, but when fall and winter storms roll around, it’s helpful to have food available that can withstand power outages.
Pantry staples tend to offer a couple of additional benefits. They are easy to buy in bulk, have longer shelf-life and are economical. It’s easier for a family to feed a large number of people without spending a lot of money.
Everyone could use a break in the checkout line.
Grocery prices have been outrageous lately and there doesn’t seem to be any relief coming. Despite quarantine being lifted and life seemingly returning to normal, the supply shortage remains. This is leaving shelves bare more than expected.
Insulate yourself against some of the volatility taking place in the economy and fill your pantry.
Well-Stocked Kitchen Final Thoughts
To recap, the key to quick, healthy meals for your family is to keep a well-stocked kitchen. It includes the following:
- Well-Stocked Pantry
- Well-Stocked Spice Cabinet
- Well-Stocked Fridge
- Well-Stocked Freezer
By shopping more mindfully, with your families staples in mind, you will always have what you need on-hand.
Think of the things that you cook with most frequently and those you just can’t live without. Staple foods differs for each family based on personal tastes, diets and ideologies.
If your family eats simply, then stock your kitchen that way. You don’t have to have multiple options for rice if long grain will do. But, if you prefer a little variety, be sure to include the things that you enjoy.
For me, chocolate is a staple for the pantry and the kiddo has to have cherry tomatoes and string cheese. So, in addition to the things you need to cook with, make sure to include the occasional treat as well.
Now, what’s for dinner tonight? Thankfully, with a well-stocked kitchen, the answer is only a few steps away.
What are the kitchen essentials your family relies on? Share your list in the comments.