10 Frugal Pantry Staples

By: Emilie Sennebogen

Is your pantry stocked with staples? See more canned and boxed food pictures.
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How great would it be to have a pantry stocked with healthful and affordable ingredients that are ready and waiting for you to whip into a quick meal after a long day at work? The good news is that stocking your pantry with affordable and versatile foods that have an extended shelf life is a lot easier than you might think. These staples can be simple snacks for your family or help provide the building blocks for nutritious meals. Check out these 10 must-have frugal pantry items and then start making your list.

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10: Canned Tomatoes

If you love any sort of Italian fare, then canned tomatoes and canned tomato sauce are a pantry must. Canned versions are much cheaper than most jarred products and they're the basis for any authentic red pasta or pizza sauce. They're also great bases for soups and salsas along with many other recipes. And the fact that they're full of disease-fighting antioxidants just sweetens the pot. Fresh tomatoes are usually reserved for dishes like tomato pie, but drained whole canned tomatoes will always do in an out-of-season pinch.

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9: Rice

Rice can accompany just about any meal.
Rice can accompany just about any meal.
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Bagged rice is cheap to buy, easy to make and has an infinite shelf life. Plus, it makes a great addition to so many different kinds of meals. You can add it to all kinds of casseroles and soups, or it makes a great stand-alone side dish. Want to whip up a quick stir fry? Serve it over rice. Cooking chicken breasts and vegetables? Add a side of rice. For a healthier alternative for your family, stock up on brown rice and skip the white stuff.

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8: Dried Beans

Beans are full of fiber and protein, and they provide delicious texture to all kinds of dishes. Toss kidney beans in soups and chilis, add garbanzo beans to salads, stick some black beans in your salsa or season them and serve them as the main course.

Believe it or not, beans are even great for breakfast. Beans and toast are a popular English breakfast duo, and upon closer inspection, you'll find egg burritos with black beans on many restaurant breakfast menus. Dried beans are the cheapest but take more time to prepare, so you may want to keep a few cans on hand for meals when you're short on time.

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7: Pasta

The choice of pasta you have on hand is totally up to you.
The choice of pasta you have on hand is totally up to you.
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Spaghetti and linguine are great noodles to have on hand for a quick pasta night, while elbow makes perfect mac and cheese and twisty rotelle tastes great in a chilled pasta salad. Choose whole grain and whole wheat options to up your family's fiber intake. If you have any gluten-free eaters in your family, or just want to switch it up, try Asian rice noodles with your favorite sauce.

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6: Lentils

Lentils are another member of the legume family and are chock full of fiber and protein. They're also super easy to make. And unlike their bean brothers, lentils don't need to be soaked first, which means you can pop them right on the stove after a quick rinse. Brown lentils are the cheapest and best option for soups because of their mushy cooked texture. Green lentils are firmer and more flavorful, so they go great in salads, and sweet red lentils make excellent additions to Indian food.

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5: Dried Spices

Go bold with flavor using a range of spices.
Go bold with flavor using a range of spices.
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Fresh herbs and spices are delicious, but they can add a lot of money to your grocery bill. Sticking with dried, packaged spices with a long shelf life is a great way to ensure delicious meals. Keep a stock of the basics like oregano, basil, thyme, rosemary and, of course, salt and pepper. These seven versatile spices work in all kinds of meals, so you're safe if you're having burgers or pasta and almost anything in between.

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4: Peanut Butter

Peanut butter is a must for any frugal pantry. It keeps for at least six to nine months, so you can buy it with a coupon or when it's on sale and stock up. It's really a pretty versatile food item. Aside from every family's favorite, the PB&J sandwich, you can add it to a banana or apple slice for a grab and go breakfast. You can also use it when you're baking and in other recipes as well. Add a spoonful to your next Asian noodle bowl and you've got peanut sauce, or use it in your marinade for chicken or beef kabobs.

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3: Canned Tuna

Tuna is an incredibly versatile protein to have on hand.
Tuna is an incredibly versatile protein to have on hand.
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No frugal pantry is complete without a respectable stack of canned tuna. It keeps for years, so you're sure to use it up before it spoils. It's actually one of the few great sources of protein you can keep in your pantry long-term, and there are plenty of coupons and sales on your name brand canned tuna, so keep your eyes open for deals. That way, you'll always have tuna on hand for sandwiches, casseroles, and to add to a family favorite, macaroni and cheese.

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2: Vinegars

It's not often that you can get a food item that also doubles as jack-of-all-trades of home remedies. If you keep a collection of red wine, white wine, apple cider and balsamic vinegars on your pantry shelf, you'll be opening yourself up to a world of wonderful marinade additions and salad dressings that are much less costly than the packaged versions you buy in supermarkets. And they also have plenty of household uses.

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1: Oats

Oats: It's what's for breakfast.
Oats: It's what's for breakfast.
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If you're looking to eat breakfast on a budget but still want to fill your body with something healthful, then your pantry definitely needs to have some rolled oats, because they're cheap and they keep. This cereal grain makes a great daily breakfast, packing your body with an abundance of cholesterol-lowering goodness. They're also yummy when tossed into a freshly baked batch of Tollhouse cookies. You'll save some calories if you replace the nuts in the recipe with oats.

Lots More Information

Related Articles

  • Alt, Tracy. "10 Pantry Staples to Make Quick Booking Taste Like All Day Cooking." Menus4moms.com. October 16, 2011. http://www.menus4moms.com/articles/10_pantry_staples_for_quick_cooking.php
  • "Build a frugal pantry." Goodcheapeats.com. October 16, 2011. http://goodcheapeats.com/2010/02/build-frugal-pantry/
  • "Canned Tuna Recipes." Marthastewart.com. October 16, 2011. http://www.marthastewart.com/342021/canned-tunarecipes/@center/344318/fish-and-shellfish-recipes
  • "Frugal Pantry Staples Save You Time and Money." Prairieecothrifter.com. October 16, 2011. http://prairieecothrifter.com/2010/05/frugal-pantry-staples-save-you-time-and-money.html
  • "History." Peanutbutterlovers.com. October 16, 2011. http://peanutbutterlovers.com/pb-lovers/pb101/history/
  • "How To Cook Dried Beans - How To Soak Dried Beans." Whatscookingamerica.com. October 16, 2011. http://whatscookingamerica.net/Vegetables/driedbeantip.htm
  • "Oats." Whfoods.com. October 16, 2011. http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=54
  • "The Wonders of Vinegar." Forestsong.com. October 16, 2011. http://www.forestsong.com/html/the_wonders_of_vinegar.html
  • "Tomato Facts." Tomatofacts.net. October 16, 2011. http://www.tomatofacts.net/
  • "What are Legumes?" Diettriffic.com. October 16, 2011. http://www.dietriffic.com/2007/09/09/what-are-legumes/

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