Back in 2015, we were trying to pull ourselves up by the bootstraps and recover from the loss of around 90% of our income in late 2014. When we sat down to update our personal budget, we realized that we really need to find a few ways to save money on groceries without sacrificing the quality of what we were eating. We started with a list of things to stop buying and make homemade and homemade cleaner recipes. Doing that helped some, but didn’t drop our grocery budget as low as we wanted. Then, we moved onto finding ways to save money on meat. Before long, we had dropped our grocery bill to under $200/mo for everything food, paper and pets. What I reaffirmed to myself back then was something that my Father taught me many years ago. Have a pantry with frugal food staples kept in stock is a great way to cut your grocery bill.
Most of us know which foods are frugal and which aren’t, but I wonder sometimes if we make the connection as to how those foods save us money and how running out of them can cost us money. Believe it or not, there actually can be a direct connection between running out of the frugal food staples on this list and spending more at the store. It might not be obvious to you though since it is very easy to overlook. When you run out of one of your frugal food staples, what do you do? If you’re like most, you’ll head to the store to pick it up. When you’re in the store, you open yourself up to making impulse buys. Impulse buys are when you purchase anything that wasn’t on your list such as a candy bar or a soda. In essence, it’s something that you buy when you don’t need it and end up wasting money on. The more often you’re in the store, the more impulse buys you’ll find yourself making.
Frugal Food Staples Every Pantry Should Have
When you keep these frugal food staples in stock though, there’s no running to the store to pick them up which lessens the amount of impulse buys that you’ll have. Not only that, but this list of frugal food staples can be used to make a wide variety of inexpensive family meals by themselves or paired with other common ingredients to make even more. If things would get really tight for your family though, you could almost survive off of recipes created simply with these ingredients.
Rice – Rice is incredibly cheap, especially when you buy it in bulk, which means there is no reason for anyone to not have rice in their pantry. Not only that, but it can be used in so many ways that it really is a frugal food staple. Eat it by itself, eat it with broth or make it part of the main course for dinner.
Eggs – Eggs are cheap if you can catch them on sale or buy them in bulk. Yes, I said buy them in bulk. Eggs can be preserved to be shelf stable for 6-9 months with very little work which means that when you find a good sale, you should pick up a few more dozen than you normally would.
Beans – “Beans, beans the musical…” we’ll just stop here, but know that keeping beans in your pantry as a frugal food staple is important. They’re incredibly high in protein and fiber which means that should things get very, very rough, you’ll still be able to get those nutrients even if you can’t have fancy dinners. Not only that, but they can be used to stretch a meal so that you can feed more people cheaply instead of needing to cook more food.
Pasta – We all know that pasta is cheap which makes it a must-have frugal food staple. Pasta, like beans and rice, can create a multitude of meals and also be used to stretch a meal should you need to. When we buy pasta, we buy in bulk using free Sam’s Club gift cards that I earn free from Swagbucks.
Milk – If y ou have the freezer space, stocking up on milk is a no-brainer. It can be frozen for several months and only needs a good shake once it has thawed. If you don’t have the freezer space, stocking up on freeze dried powdered milk is another great option. You can stretch both to go farther than normal by mixing up a batch with 1/2 each and chilling it very well.
Butter – Keeping butter, not margarine, on hand is a must. Butter is more expensive than margarine but you will actually save money simply because of the health benefits you’ll get. Margarine is really unhealthy – it’s really close to being literal plastic – for you which is why it is so cheap. No matter which one you choose to use though, make sure you keep it on hand.
Flour – Another frugal food staple that is cheaper in bulk, flour – both all-purpose and self-rising – is important in cooking cheap family meals. You’ll use it for bread and quick bread recipes, for thickening, for making roux and batters and more.
Sugar – Like flour, sugar is one of the frugal food staples that you need to keep stocked. Drinks, baked goods and even some regular recipes – such as a homemade pasta sauce recipe – will all use it. Like the ones I’ve listed before this, sugar is cheaper to purchase in bulk.
Baking Powder – Baking powder biscuits are so tasty and a pretty frugal addition to any meal. With that said, most of your baking recipes are going to call for baking powder which makes it a pantry staple that you need to keep on hand. We buy the big containers of baking powder at Sam’s Club since they’re usually cheaper than the smaller containers and keep us from running out so quickly.
Garlic Powder – Of your basic seasonings, garlic is one you’ll want to use often. Not only does it have fantastic health benefits, but it can take a bland meal and make it full of flavor. If you’re going to buy garlic in bulk, be sure to store it in an airtight food storage container and freeze or to store it in mylar bags with oxygen absorbers until you’re ready to use it.
Onion Powder – Onion powder is the other main seasoning that most people use and should be considered a frugal food staple like garlic.
Baking Soda – Baking soda is useful for more than just baking. It is a staple in homemade cleaner recipes and in a lot of homemade beauty recipes. At less than $1.00/lb there’s no reason for a family to run out. This is another one that I buy in bulk at Sam’s Club.
Chicken Broth (or Bouillon) – If you can, find a good sale on chicken broth and stock up. It can be used for much more than making your favorite chicken noodle soup recipe. You can cook rice in it, use it to make a gravy and more. If you can’t get a good price on it, opt to stock up on bouillon instead. It’s cheaper and will likely make a much more flavorful broth.
Evaporated Milk – A few times a year, evaporated milk hits the list of store sale cycles for a good price and is always a good price at stores like Aldi and Save-A-Lot. While it might not seem like it, evaporated milk is a frugal food staple. It is a much cheaper substitute for regular milk in some instances and if you happen to be out of regular milk? Mix evaporated milk with equal parts water and you’ve got – you guessed it – regular milk.
Peanut Butter – What kid doesn’t like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? Stock up on smaller jars when they’re on sale and larger jars when there are no sale prices. If things are super tight, a peanut butter sandwich is a great way to keep a kid happy (and full) plus get them the nutrition that their body needs.
Yeast – Yeast is super cheap and the only way to get a fluffy bread when y ou make homemade bread or homemade pizza crust. Buy as much as you can reasonable use before it goes bad and store it in the fridge to help it last longer.
Cornmeal – Cornmeal is a fantastic frugal food staple because it allows you to make things like your favorite homemade cornbread recipe which are great for helping to stretch a meal to make it seem larger. It’s also useful for dusting a table or pastry mat if you’re working with a sticky dough like pizza dough.
Celery and Carrots – Celery and carrots are probably the two cheapest vegetables that you can buy and as such, I personally consider them one of the biggest non-grain frugal food staples. They can both be eaten as snacks and both are great for adding to several different types of recipes. They can be frozen, dehydrated using your favorite dehydrator recipes and carrots can be canned for longer term storage.