Learning Pantry Basics
Keeping and knowing how to utilize a well-stocked pantry is one of the best money-saving strategies that you can use. This goes double for larger families. With these basic ingredients, you will have a base for literally thousands of meal combinations. There are many uses for some of these items that will save you money in places other than on your food bills.
20 Essential Items to Keep in Your Pantry
- Baking soda
- Canned meats
- Dried beans, peas, and lentils
- Powdered milk
- Dried herbs and spices
- Powdered or granulated bouillon
- Canned cream soups
- Rolled oats
- Peanut butter
- Cocoa powder
You must keep at least two gallons of vinegar in my kitchen at all times. One gallon of white vinegar that you can use for cleaning, and one gallon of apple cider vinegar for consumption.
- 12 oz water
- 4 oz vinegar
This is an awesome window cleaner. Just pour the ingredients in a spray bottle, and give them a good shake.
2. Baking Soda
Aside from making cakes, breads, and cookies, baking soda is also a very good cleaning product to keep around. It neutralizes odors so it’s good for cleaning smelly things like trash cans and bathrooms. It’s also mildly abrasive, so it makes a good polish for metal or glass.
- 1 cup warm water
- 1/4 cup baking soda
This makes an awesome polish for metal or glass at the cost of about 20¢ per recipe.
3. Canned Meats
Canned meats like tuna, chicken, and salmon are good for throwing together protein salads, adding to regular salad greens, or forming into patties as a beef alternative.
4. Dried Beans, Peas, and Lentils
Dried beans and peas are a great source of fiber. After a quick sorting for debris, rinse, and soak, these alone are a good base for hundreds of recipes. And also, if you make a three-inch by three-inch pocket and fill it with smaller beans or peas, and then sew it shut, it makes a pretty good stress ball.
Flour is an essential ingredient in cakes, cookies, and bread. It can also be used to thicken sauces, stews, or gravies.
Different kinds of flours are made for special diets, but we will just stick with plain wheat flour here. It comes in four types that are most common: Bread flour, cake flour, all-purpose flour, and whole wheat flour.
6. Powdered Milk
Though powdered milk isn’t all that palatable to drink in place of milk from a jug, it is a very good replacement for milk in recipes when it’s mixed with water.
7. Dried Herbs and Spices
Most of the items on this list are quite bland on their own. Keeping a variety of herbs and spices on hand to flavor them with will make a huge difference when it comes time to prepare and eat them
Rice is one of the more versatile ingredients on this list. It can be flavored easily with sweet or savory ingredients and used as the main focus of the dish, or as a means of bedding more expensive ingredients to stretch them a little further. Rice is around $1 a pound, but it’s a really useful pantry item.
Salt is good for boosting the flavors of both sweet and savory foods. It also makes a great preservative for dehydrating fresh food items for longer-term storage.
Salt is very abrasive and can be bought in coarse and fine ground forms. This makes it another good addition to your cleaning supplies to help scour and polish metals.
- 1/4 cup of water
- 1 1/2 heaping tablespoons of salt
Mix the water and salt into a gritty paste and spread it out on a piece of cardboard. Strop the edge of your knife in the paste about 25 to 30 times per side. Don’t forget to wash your knife when you are done stropping. This won’t bring a knife to a razor-sharp edge, but it will make it sharper in a pinch.
Noodles are an excellent way to add bulk to your pantry fast. They are available in many shapes and sizes and can be flavored with both sweet and savory ingredients.
The price of a box or bag of noodles will vary. It’s going to depend on what type of noodles you wish to purchase and what grain they are made from. We’ll use regular macaroni as our standard here at $1 for a one-pound box. Five boxes added to our pantry adds $5 to our total bill.
Raisins are a great addition to chicken, pork, or lamb dishes, and can also be used in a variety of desserts, salads, dressings, or breads for a touch of sweetness. They are also a great snack to pass off to the kids.
Note: Don’t just stop at raisins. There are a variety of dried fruits that would make great additions to your pantry. If it’s on sale and you like it better than raisins, then buy it by all means.
12. Powdered or Granulated Boullion
Much like the herbs and spices, boullion comes in a variety of flavors. It also isn’t necessary. By adding boullion to your pantry, though, you will give yourself the ability to add a lot of flavor to your meals fast.
Boullion cubes are about $1.50 for a package of six. If you buy three different flavors at a cost of $4.50.
Sugar is an important staple in the pantry. It can be used sparingly in savory dishes as well as a sweetener for drinks, cakes, cookies, and pies.
Onions store very well even though they are a fresh food item. They are a great addition to egg and meat dishes, soups, chowders, stews, and salads.
There is a vast assortment of potatoes at the grocery store. Potatoes that have a waxy look to them are better for recipes that call for the application of wet heat. Examples of this would be boiling, steaming, or braising. The dryer, more mealy kinds are better for baking. Russet potatoes are the most popular and will cost around $3 for a five-pound bag.
16. Canned Cream Soups
Cream soups like cream of mushroom, chicken, celery, and even creamed corn make very good bases for soups, stews, chowders, and sauces.
Apples are a great snack as they are but can also be made into pies, cakes, tarts, or cookies. They also go exceptionally well with pork or chicken. As with most other produce, apples range in price according to the variety you choose.
18. Rolled Oats
Rolled oats are very good for you. They’re are also very good for your pantry. Aside from the classic oatmeal, rolled oats are a great filler for meatloaf in place of bread. They can also be added to cakes, pies, cookies, and added as toppings for fruit crumbles and crisps.
19. Peanut Butter
Peanut butter is a great source of protein that can be added to soups, sauces, cookies, cakes, pies, and breads. A four-pound jar of peanut butter costs around $6.50.
20. Cocoa Powder
Though cocoa powder is usually seen as an ingredient for sweet recipes, such as in cakes, cookies, tarts, and pies, it can also make an interesting savory ingredient. Cocoa powder is a very bitter ingredient that lends itself well to sauces and soups.