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stock your kitchen: the frugal pantry.

New to Frugal Foodie Family and wondering where to begin?  Well let’s start here.

I’m about to get personal.  Up until now I’ve shared how I cook family-friendly, (generally) nutritious, made-from-scratch items on a shoestring.  But it occurred to me:  I’ve never actually invited you into the inner most parts of my kitchen that are the basis for how I do what I do.  You know, the often cluttered, sometimes straight-up dirty drawers and shelves that make up my pantry and refrigerator/freezer.  But I’ve had enough of you ask if there really is food on my shelves and is my poor family always hungry? …so I thought I would share how I build a frugal pantry and fridge/freezer to help motivate you to get started.

Now that you’ve seen the inside of my pantry I feel like we’re really close friends…

Here are the items that are my go-to essentials for a number of the dishes I cook and bake.  I try to have these on hand at all times, and then add additional ingredients as needed as I go.

The Frugal Foodie Family Pantry Essentials:

Extra Virgin Olive Oil.  I prefer olive oil to butter or other oils, and use it over and over for cooking, drizzling, sauteing, salad dressings, etc.

Balsamic Vinegar.  A staple for salad dressings and marinades.

Diced Tomatoes.  From sauces to soups, pizza to hearty braised meat recipes, this is a diverse go-to canned essential.

Stock.  I generally use chicken or veggie, but you could pick up beef too!  Extra credit if you make your own.

Beans.  Canned or dried (extra credit if you cook them from dried!), keep beans such as pinto, black, and northern on hand for soups, salads, hummus, and side dishes.

Rice.  I prefer brown to white for stir frys and soups, and use arborio rice for risotto.  Also great for gluten-free recipes.

Oats.  Another diverse ingredient you’ll often use for granola, cookies, bars, oatmeal, crisps and breads.

Breadcrumbs.  Great for coating, useful for meatballs, appetizers, or for a crunchy topping for brussel sprouts, etc.  Extra credit if you make your own.

Garlic.  I like garlic in pretty much anything.  Except maybe ice cream.  I’m not into that.

Onions.  Another staple that seems to be the basis for just about any main dish.

Sea Salt and Fresh Pepper.

Dried Spices.  I keep lots of spices on hand, and especially use cumin, curry, cinnamon, chile powder, italian seasonings, oregano, cayenne, and paprika.

Baking Essentials:  White and Whole Wheat Flours, White, Brown and Powdered Sugars, Baking Soda and Baking Powder, Homemade Vanilla and Cocoa.

Did I miss anything?!!

If you are wondering what I pay for these items, take a look at the spreadsheet I put together that shows what I pay per item, per serving, and where I go to find the best deals.

Stay tuned!  Stock Your Kitchen:  The Frugal Fridge/Freezer is coming up this week!

8 Comments Post a comment
  1. Honey? Jam? Canned pumpkin? Pasta? Dried Tomatoes? Roasted Peppers? Kalamata Olives? I keep all of these things in my pantry, as well as cornmeal, polenta, rye flour.

    January 29, 2012
    • LOVE all these! I use honey and cornmeal the most…and it’s funny because I based this list mostly just on what I use but I’ll definitely add on based on these suggestions.

      January 30, 2012
  2. How about evaporated milk for milk emergencies (Oops — there’s nothing to drink in our coffee!)?

    January 29, 2012
    • With 2 small kids in the house I’m not sure we have ever had a milk emergency, but you never know! I actually just made a tres leches cake last week with leftover evaporated milk I had from a dulce de leche recipe.

      January 30, 2012
  3. Soy sauce. Sesame oil. I’ll stop now. I consider a lot of things essential. Feel free to combine my three comments into one. Look forward to the fridge and freezer discussion. Oh, and the homemade vanilla I made from vanilla beans and three inches of cheap leftover vodka is great. Thanks.

    January 29, 2012
    • Yes! Great for Asian dishes, marinades and dressings! And I’m so glad the vanilla worked out!

      January 30, 2012
  4. Carly #

    So helpful!

    January 30, 2012
  5. Reblogged this on Delorespearlbyamber's Blog.

    February 12, 2012

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