Having a household of six, I found that grocery shopping costs were adding up and I was running out of meal planning ideas. I recently found these top 10 pantry items were essential in my meal planning and I could stretch my menu ideas further and they made it easier on my budget. I’ve listed them here, so next time your at the store remember: by adding these pantry staples to your grocery list you can save money and stretch your food budget.
- Produce: Onions, Celery and Carrot
These produce items will last long properly stored in a cold refrigerator. Carrots and Celery can last a month in the refrigerator. Buying unpeeled carrots will save you money.
*Tip#1 Celery can be brought back to life by placing in cold water with a little bit of white vinegar.
*Tip#2 Never store your onions near your fruit. Onions give off a gas that rippens fruit quickly.
Buying a chicken from a wholesaler in large quantities can save you money. The key is to separate the chicken when you get home into usable portions. Bag it in a freezer bag and thaw as you need it. Chicken should always defrost overnight in your refrigerator.
*Tip #1: Boneless, skinless breasts are convenient but they cost more than other parts. Consider buying chicken that is not skinless to save money. Trim the fat yourself.
*Tip#2: Need cubed chicken for a recipe? If you cut meat frozen, it’s safer and easier slicing.
- Frozen Vegetables
Don’t worry that you’re losing nutrients by cooking frozen, rather than fresh vegetables. They’re just as good and usually as flavorful. The difference is that frozen vegetables are cheaper than their fresh counterparts and they’re convenient. Store brand is cheaper than name brand and you can’t tell the difference in the taste.
Tip#1: Broccoli is one vegtable that does not freeze well. You can buy fresh whole broccoli on sale, just check the grocery store ads.
- Block Cheese
Now this is one of my favorite pantry items. My daughter loves cheese and there is so much you can do with it. Grilled Cheese Sandwiches, Quesadillas, Tacos, Cheese and Crackers, Spaghetti, Casseroles and more. Shred cheese yourself to save money. Buying the pre-shredded cheeses maybe convenient, but if you’re willing to shred as you go, you’ll get twice the cheese for your money. Buying block chedder and Parmesan are the most versatile in cheeses.
Tip#1: Buy placing the cheese in the freezer 15 minutes before you shred, the cheese will shred easier and won’t make a clumpy mess.
- Beef, Chicken, Vegatable Broth, Stock
Broths are made from bones and meat off a carcass. Stocks are made from roasting bones. Both are great for making recipes go further and they add flavor to things like soups. My grandmother always mafe her own broths, stocks and gravies from scratch and they taste so much better.
- Ground Beef
Buying the 20% lean ground beef is perfect for most recipes and is more affordable than many of the lower fat meats. If you buy in bulk like the family paks you are making a huge savings in your food budget. When I get home, I section the meat into usable one-pound segments and freeze in an airtight freezer bag. If I know I’ll be making a meal that may require more, I’ll freeze an extra 1/2 pound in one freezer bag. Always thaw your meat overnight in the refrigerator.
Rice like pasta is another way to bulk up your recipe. Many times I will be low on meat or chicken and add rice or pasta to make my serving portion larger. Rice will last much longer if stored in an airtight container.
- Unsalted Butter
Now this is a first for me. I was always buying salted butter, never thinking wait a minute I can add salt later to my dish and in a quantity that I wanted and a much healthier quantity.
- Canned Tomatoes
Canned tomatoes last longer and are cheaper than fresh tomatoes. There is absolutely nothing wrong with canned tomatoes.
The last pantry essential is eggs. Eggs are always on sale at the grocery store. Just remember to check for cracks before you put them in your cart. Eggs make a perfect meal and if you don’t feel like cooking a big meal for dinner, eggs are not just for breakfast. Eggs will last a long time in your refrigerator.