27 Frugal Pantry Staples to Keep on Hand for Quick and Cheap Meals
Learning how to build a frugal pantry is easy and can save you both time and money.
Having a stocked frugal pantry will take the stress out of cooking and provide a base for easy recipes to have on hand for dinners or freezer meals.
I can’t tell you how many times the kids have looked in the cupboards and said there was nothing to eat. What they don’t realize is the magic of putting together a few ingredients and making a full meal!
Below is a list of frugal pantry staples that will help lower your grocery budget and ensure that you have a stocked pantry full of food to make everything from freezer meals to gluten-free recipes.
Chicken, bone and vegetable broths are not only good to have on hand for cooking, but they are also great to just sip. Although broths are not very expensive, to begin with, homemade ones are SOOO much better for you! Chicken and Bone broths are chocked full of skin and bone healthy collagen. Plus broths are great for digestion.
2. Beans, Legumes, and Grains
Black beans, garbanzo beans, kidney beans, split peas, couscous, quinoa! I could go on and on with this list! Dried beans are so inexpensive and can be used in so many recipes. These types of ingredients last forever, so don’t be afraid to stock up on them! To help reduce the cooking time for things like dried beans, soak them in water overnight. It also helps with making them more digestible. One of our favorite recipes for dried beans is homemade refried beans! Just a few (frugal) ingredients and a crockpot, my kind of cooking!
White sugar, brown sugar, and confectioner’s sugar are great to have on hand for baked goods. I have been doing a lot of research lately on how to make things more homemade rather than purchasing canned good. Let me tell you, I am amazed at the things you can make with only a few simple ingredients! For example, homemade sweetened milk: milk and sugar.
Breads, biscuits, donuts, sauces, gravies, muffins, scones, and rues. Flour is a MUST HAVE in any kitchen and is a very affordable ingredient. Even if you don’t “bake” it is still good to have on hand. You can also use it to thicken sauces or try your hand at homemade pasta!
5. Baking Soda and Baking Powder
Ok, this one is mostly for baking. If you do any kind of baking then you absolutely must keep these handy in your frugal panty. I always buy the industrial size of baking soda because I also use it for cleaning purposes.
Continuing along with our baking theme, yeast is good to have on hand if you are planning on making the more savory baked items. Breads, biscuits, etc.
7. Lemon Juice or Lemons
You might be surprised as to how many recipes call for lemon juice. It is also great to have in the morning right when you wake up with some honey and warm water. Although, if there is one thing you have to splurge on, make it this. DO NOT get the “lemon juice” that comes in those big green plastic bottles. You know exactly what I’m talking about. They smell like cleaner, it is not real lemon juice.
Eggs are just for scrambled eggs and omelets. Eggs can be used in both sweet and savory recipes and baked goods. Plus they seem to last forever!
Ok, so I lumped these ones altogether. Potatoes, onions, and carrots are so cheap and can be used in so many recipes together or on their own. Plus carrots can be used in both sweet and savory recipes. One of our family favorites (besides the classic carrot stick) is brown sugar glazed carrots. Although I normally used canned, you could also use fresh. Simply saute in butter and brown sugar-delish!
10. Peanut Butter
We go through so much peanut butter in our house I should probably buy it by the gallon! Of course, there is always the classic PB&J sandwich, or just straight up peanut butter sandwich. Another frugal pantry staple that can be used in both sweet and savory recipes. One of my kids’ favorites is 3 ingredient granola bars. So easy to make, although they eat a whole cookie sheet worth in a day!
Of course, you need some oats to make the aforementioned granola bars. But oats go beyond breakfast. You can put them in smoothies, use them to stretch your ground meat, make breakfast and anytime cookies, and of course granola!
12. Creamed Soups
At least once per week, I make something with creamed soup as part of the recipe. Stroganoff, tuna casserole, chicken and rice. When I stock up I just buy a whole bunch of creamed soups, mostly cream of chicken and cream of mushroom as those seem to be the staples in most recipes. But it might also be a good idea to stock up on some cream of celery and cream of potato also.
13. Spices and Herbs
I always try to buy my spices and herbs in larger quantities. Especially the ones that I use on a regular basis like salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, cinnamon, and rosemary. Although whenever possible I try and use fresh, especially when it comes to mint!
14. Rice and Pasta
Rice and Pasta are another one of those frugal pantry staples that you can stock up on that will last forever. Plus there are so many varieties!
15. Chicken Breasts
Ok, so this one is probably going to be the most “expensive” on the list, however, is great to have on hand. You can make SOO many recipes with chicken breasts. Although I prefer to buy fresh ones, we generally just grab a big bag of frozen chicken breasts, they are much cheaper and I don’t have to worry about cooking them right away.
It seems everytime I buy hot chocolate mix it’s gone within a few days. Darn kids, can’t keep anything in the house! Cocoa is not only a baking essential, it’s great for homemade hot chocolate. Bonus, my kids don’t know how to make it so it last a lot longer.
The two big staple oils you should keep in your pantry are olive oil and coconut oil. Both are great for baking and cooking as well as for homemade beauty products. Of course, vegetable oil is also a good staple to have on hand.
18. Dried Milk
Ok, going back to my earlier research, there is a ton of stuff you can make with dried milk. Plus, if you run out of milk and need some for a recipe, or to drink, it’s good to have.
19. Frozen Vegetables
Oh, I love it when bags of frozen vegetables go on sale for $1 each! Time to stock up! Generally speaking, frozen vegetables are significantly cheaper than fresh and you don’t have to worry about them going bad.
20. Green Onions
Bonus on the frugal-meter, foods that you can regrow from scraps! Green onions are so easy to regrow. Simply leave about an inch at the bottom and pop in a small jar with enough water to cover the roots. Place in sunlight and harvest when you need some green onions!
I LOVE garlic! I always try to keep both fresh and canned, minced garlic on hand. I love using whole garlic for making roasted garlic recipes, and the minced garlic for just about everything else. It’s so easy to add to recipes for a punch of flavor.
Tortillas are another super cheap and super versatile, frugal pantry staple. You can use them for tacos, burritos, wraps, quesadillas (breakfast, lunch, or dinner), enchiladas, or chips.
Vinegar, like baking soda, serves two purposes in a frugal pantry; cooking and cleaning. I suggest having both Apple Cider Vinegar and White Distilled Vinegar on hand. In a pinch, you can also substitute vinegar for lemon juice or make buttermilk.
24. Ground Meat
We generally prefer ground turkey, but this might also be a little more expensive in terms of the other items on the list. However, if you can find it on sale, stock up and freeze it. At our local Aldi, we can get a pound of ground turkey for under $2!
Unless you are vegan or lactose intolerant, you most likely have milk in your fridge. But do you ever do more than drink it or add some to a recipe here and there? There is so much you can do with milk, such as homemade yogurt, evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, cheese, and ice cream. Often times, the homemade version is WAY cheaper than store-bought, especially when it comes to yogurt!
So admittedly, I am super cheap about butter. I think the stuff I buy is more considered margarine, but it seems to work for all of our recipes. Plus I can get 4 stick for less than $1. I do however buy actual butter for putting on toast and things.
27. Sour Cream and Cream Cheese
I could live off of baked potatoes, although they have to be drenched in sour cream and butter! It’s such a cheap and easy meal. There are so many things that call for sour cream or cream cheese or that you could use those as a substitute for other, more expensive ingredients.
Related post: 10 Frugal Dinners for When You’re Broke
There are so many ways to save on your grocery budget. The main things you need to keep in mind is planning in advance and having frugal pantry staples on hand to make quick and cheap meals.
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What are some frugal pantry staples you always keep on hand?
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