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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Cheap (But Good!) Meals! Pantry Staples.

As a single mom on a budget, I have to be careful where I spend my money. I would love to live off Chipotle & Panera; but that would be bad for both my waistline & wallet. Only about 5% (1 in 20) of the meals my daughter and I eat are from restaurants. To make the most of my food budget, I had to cut some favorite items, make some tough decisions, and get creative.
This week I'll cover the pantry/freezer basics.

I wish I had the motivation to put everything in beautiful containers;
but Ziploc bags will have to do.

The biggest piece of advice I can give you is to stock up on basic grains! In my pantry I have Lentils, Quinoa, Whole Grain Barley (hulled, but still has it's bran), Grits, Corn meal, Flour (three kinds), Wheat Germ & Flax Seed (in the fridge), Brown Rice, White Rice, Oats, Buckwheat Flour, and Pastas. You don't have to buy them all at once. Start off small; buy rice, pasta, & lentils first. Then you can add more as you go, or when you find a recipe that piques your interest. Mmmmm, Buckwheat pancakes.....

Pink frosting is a pantry staple when you have a 5yo girl.
 Next, buy beans. Lots & lots of beans. I buy both dry & canned beans. I usually have on hand: Black Beans, Great Northern Beans (can be interchanged w/ white beans, navy beans, cannellini beans,) Chickpeas/Garbanzo Beans, Split Peas, and Cranberry Beans.

After that, I keep some basic veggies round. Canned Corn & Canned Tomatoes. Tomatoes off season are such a sorry sight. Canned tomatoes are usually canned fresh, near the source, while they're in season. In my freezer I always have Chopped Spinach, Green Peas, and Mixed Bell Peppers.

Then there are Potatoes. Not the most glamorous food., but I always have some in the bottom of my pantry. A five pound bag of Russet Potatoes cost less than a bag of chips. Buy the potatoes, you have no excuse. Give 'em a good scrub and eat the skins too. There's a ton of good flavor & nutrition in there. I keep Russets for baking/microwaving, Red Potatoes (they hold up when cubed & cooked,) Baby Potatoes (roasted w/ salt? yum,) and Sweet Potatoes. They're also ridiculously easy to grow. A bucket, some dirt & hay, some old sprouted potatoes, and you're in business.

What do you consider to be your MVP pantry items? What do you always have on hand? Can't live without?

Next week, I'll post a quick recipe or two using the staples listed today!

5-10 min soup  made w/ kitchen staples!
Don't worry, I wiped down the counters after I ate!


  1. For me, eggs, lemons, onions, oatmeal, whole wheat flour, and canned tomatoes are a must to keep on hand. I use onions as the base for a variety of soups in addition to cooking them or having them in salads.

    Oatmeal I mainly used for baked oatmeal, which my husband loves and makes for a very speedy breakfast. Bake, freeze, and then thaw overnight on the counter or in the microwave. Having one with coffee is a full meal in a bar.

  2. In the fridge, eggs, butter & milk, are a must! For my vegan sister, tofu & soyrizo. Those Oatmeal bars sounds tasty