Cooking is not something I enjoy. I’d much rather have someone else prepare the food. But that’s not a budget-friendly option. After a day at the office I don’t have the time energy to make a meal from scratch.
With these 10 items in my kitchen pantry it’s easy to pull together a nutritious, inexpensive meal. Granted, they’re better with some perishables but that’s a topic for another day.
1. Canned Beans. Sometimes called nature’s perfect food, beans are low-fat and full of fiber and protein. I stock up on cans of organic black, pinto, great northern, red and even refried beans when they’re on sale. Store brands are fine, just check the added sodium.
2. Dried Onions. Onions would go bad before we use them so I use dried or frozen. The fact is, I wouldn’t cut them anyway as I can’t stand the tears and redness in my eyes.
You can use dried onions for any recipe where there’s moisture to rehydrate them. Also buy dried peppers for use in the winter.
3. Canned Tomatoes. My cupboard includes three types of canned tomato products. I use tomato sauce the most in various pastas, casseroles and more.
The next two are diced tomatoes with one difference. In addition to plain, we stock tomatoes with chilies for dishes that need an extra kick.
4. Pasta. While whole wheat pasta is healthier, I can’t get my family to eat it so we mostly buy brown rice pasta. Stock different types to add variety to your food and based on recipe needs. My pantry includes spaghetti, rotini, elbow and penne.
5. Rice. Many quick meals will include rice either in the dish or as a base. We stock both brown and white rice. Cooking rice is easy, it’s cheap and filling.
6. Spices. Use spices instead of fat to add flavor to your food. My favorites include garlic powder, chili powder, red pepper, cinnamon and taco seasoning.
Several of my go-to recipes include taco seasoning as it’s a zesty mix of spices. Look for low-sodium to try to cut down on salt intake.
7. Cooking Soups. Many casserole recipes call for a can of some kind of cream soup. The varieties I buy are: cream of chicken, cream of celery, cream of mushroom and cheddar cheese. These can be pricey so buy the store brand or stock up on sale. A local grocery store recently had cooking soups on sale for 88 cents each.
8. Canned Meat or Fish. Keep canned chicken and tuna on hand for a protein to add to recipes. We don’t eat spam or chipped beef, but my mom cooked with them both when I was a kid. This is the most expensive item on the list so buy it on sale or at your warehouse club for better prices.
9. Broth. I buy chicken broth by the case at the warehouse store but also stock beef and vegetable broth in the pantry. This is a core ingredient for many of the soups I make. You can also use it to saute food for a low fat option.
10. Vegetables. Canned vegetables are not my preference but a good backup to fresh or frozen. I also use them in casseroles and skillet meals.
Keeping these essentials on hand makes it easy to pull together a meal without advance planning. Are your essential pantry items on the list? What would you add?
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