I believe that the secret to spending less and eating well really lies within your pantry and deep freeze. Stock them well, and you'll be able to put something together no matter what is in the fridge. What you might stock your pantry with will depend on what your family loves and what you like to cook, but trust me, having a bunch of recipes that you can cook virtually right from your pantry will save you on really busy nights when you haven't even had time to shop.
Stocking the pantry can feel like it's costing a lot and that you are buying extra in the long run, but I find that if I buy just a few things here and there or when there are sales, it adds up. We always have milk, bread, and various basics, but having the following on hand ensures that even if there's almost nothing in the fridge, I'm sure to come up with something delicious.
What's in my pantry?
Beans: I like to keep a variety on hand. Chick peas can be turned into a great curry or hummus, kidney beans can be thrown into a Spanish rice, chili, or soup. If you have a variety you can even make baked beans! You can use dried if you want, but I usually have canned on hand because they are quicker.
Rice: Usually rice is a side dish in our house, but fried rice is a great meal that you can pull together from pantry ingredients. I love to make coconut rice to go with stir fries.
Lentils: Great for soups and in other dishes.
Israeli Couscous: A little hard for us to find, but absolutely worth it since everyone in the family loves it. Larger than regular couscous, they are pearl sized pieces of toasted pasta. Cook them up with some chicken broth for a great side dish.
Pasta: So many dishes can be made with pasta, right from sauces to tossing with what might be in the crisper.
Canned tomatoes and tomato paste: Probably my most used ingredients, these find there way into everything from pasta sauces to soups, stews, braising short ribs, and more. I love the Italian kind, which are always thicker and have less sodium.
Coconut milk: This isn't the sweet stuff but rather the kind that you cook with. It's handy to have if you love to make curries.
Chicken stock: With a couple of cans on hand you'll always have some to make soup with, or a flavorful sauce.
Vegetables: I don't often buy canned veggies, but I occasionally will have some mushrooms or corn in the cupboard, which are handy when supplies are low. They can be included in omelets, stuffed baked potatoes, sauces, stirred into rice dishes, and more.
Go to page 2 for the remaining pantry essentials
Oils/Vinegars: Good for whipping up salad dressings. I also like to have unique ones like sesame oil on hand to put an Asian twist on dishes. We use olive oil the most.
Herbs and Spices: Having a large selection of spices to select from ensures that you aren't leaving out that special flavor when you need it. Take note of the ones that you use the most and make sure they are on hand.
Lemons: When a dish needs a little something, I love to zest in a lemon or add a little juice. That little hit of citrus often hits the spot!
Onions/ Garlic: A good base for many recipes, you can't go wrong with having these around.
Greek Yogurt: Not only my favorite snack, but we use it in place of sour cream. It's fantastic mixed with some mayo and other flavors, then used as a dip for veggies.
Eggs: Scrambled, poached on toast, used in pancakes or softly boiled, eggs are often a go-to meal in my house when the stores are low. Often I make fritattas, or a crustless quiche and use up whatever is in the fridge.
Flour and other baking basics: I bake so much that my cupboard is always stocked with oatmeal, flour, sugar, cocoa, chocolate chips, various sugars, and vanilla. Always great for whipping up a last minute batch of brownies or chocolate chip cookies. If you have flour, you can even make home made pitas or tortillas if you are adventurous!
Soy sauce: dips marinades, on your Chinese fried rice, it's a must have.
Salsa: I like to make my own, but with salsa on hand you can spice up some chicken, a baked potato, or just about anything when no fresh ingredients are available.
Mustard: Stirred in with olive oil and vinegar, mustard helps to emulsify ingredients in a salad dressing. Not to mention, you can make a great honey mustard sauce from it.
Honey/Maple Syrup: On pancakes, stirred into batters, marinades, sauces, or just as a topping on Greek yogurt with some fruit, I love both of these. We often will make a hot breakfast for dinner if supplies are low-it's not only great comfort food, but it's homey and filling as well.
What are your go-to essentials? Do you stock up, or shop by the day? Any really great tips or tricks to share? I'd love to hear them!