Because I regularly keep my kitchen stocked, if I’m really trying to be frugal, I could probably live off of my pantry alone for a few weeks. That would get pretty bland, so most of my grocery shopping consists of adding in fresh produce and some seafood, eggs, cheese, or bread to the mix.
If you came over to my house a few days after grocery-day and you looked in my fridge and said it was pretty empty, you would not be totally wrong—partially because I keep a lot of fresh produce out on the counter, but it’s also because I shop for fresh ingredients once a week, and other than that, most of my food I can make from my pantry.
The times I have to restock items from the pantry, the costs go up a bit, but staples tend to last you longer (you probably wouldn’t use up a whole Costco freezer bag of peas or a whole bag of flour in one week). When stocking pantry items, I try to buy bulk to get the most bang for my buck.
Figuring out the things I always stock in my kitchen came mostly through trial and error and lots of cooking. When I started paying attention to what I cook most often, what is easy to make, and what I want to be able to make more frequently, I was able to figure out what I need on hand.
Here are my kitchen staples:
- Olive oil – for basically everything
- Vinegar – for salad dressings, marinades, sauces
- Spices, Salt, Dried Herbs – for basically everything
- Sugar – for baking and boozing
- Flours – for baking, for thickening, for breading, for noodle-making
- Baking soda / powder
- Popcorn – for snacking
- Breadcrumbs – for crispy things, burgers, and fish cakes
- Soy sauce – anything Asian-inspired
- Rice – risotto, stir fry, side dish, casserole
- Noodles – lazy, hearty meals
- Dry beans – stews, tacos, lasagna
- Canned beans – for tacos, soup, salad, homemade hummus, adding to pasta
- Canned tomatoes – for soups, pasta sauce, stews, curry
- Potatoes – bulks up any meal, good as a meal in and of itself, I’m Polish, what can I say?
- Garlic & Onions – for basically everything, soup base
- Hot sauces! – for basically everything
- Milk – for adding to coffee / tea, to use instead of cream for soup, for making pancakes, omelets, for marinating fish for flakiness, for breakfast smoothies
- Eggs – for basically everything
- Sour cream – for basically everything (it’s a Polish thing); also, sub yogurt or cream
- Cheese – good to have for adding something extra to just about anything
- Tofu – quick dinner – stir fry
- Lemons – for basically everything
- Carrots – soup base, for smoothies and coleslaw
- Celery – soup base, for snacking
- Bread – you never know!
- Fish – quick dinners
- Mixed vegetables – for stir fry, soup, curry, side dish
- Peas – for soup, curry, side dish
- Corn – for soup, curry, stir fry, side dish, salad
- Mixed berries – breakfast smoothie, or dessert
- Bananas – smoothies, banana bread, banana cream pie, banana pudding, banana “nice” cream
What do you keep handy at home? How do you plan ahead?