How to Stock Your Pantry on a Budget
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Food is always a considerable piece of any person’s or family’s budget, so when looking for ways to save money, it’s a natural place to start. With minimal time and effort, by following the seven tips below, it’s possible to reduce expenditures on food by 10 percent to 50 percent. Keep reading to learn how to stock your pantry on a budget.
Let’s just start with the basics of a budget first.
Avoid dining out
The worst value in eating is the meal out. Not only is the food more expensive, even if just a snack from a convenience store, but diners must usually also pay for service and gratuities. And, because restaurant food is often sweeter or fattier than it needs to be, diners can actually improve their health by avoiding or limiting eating out.
Buy ingredients rather than prepared foods
The less preparation food requires, usually the less value it represents. Purchasing ingredients allows shoppers to buy in bulk, creating savings, and allowing greater control over food choices, providing an opportunity to make healthier choices. Most sauces or dressings can be made more cheaply at home from simple ingredients.
Choose natural foods
The most nutritious foods are those that can most easily be linked to a natural source, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. And, quite often, these are the least expensive choices at the grocer. Even canned or frozen, they represent a healthier alternative to and are usually more filling than processed foods like sweet snacks, baked goods, or chips.
Substitute vegetable proteins for meat
Beans and rice combined make the least expensive complete protein that’s readily available. Meats are much more expensive and do not provide nutritional benefits. If meats cannot be replaced entirely, substituting one or more meals with meat alternatives will lower the food budget and produce health benefits.
Drink more water
Juices, sodas, and other beverages are often overlooked sources of excess calories and spending. Water is a far more healthful alternative.
Name brands rarely offer significantly higher quality despite their higher price. While a diet of all organic foods is ideal, the cost of buying just a few organic items is usually not justified by any immediate health benefits. Use coupons and buy items on sale.
Use coupons and buy items on sale
Most products will go on sale eventually, especially at grocers with club memberships or discount cards. Buying sale items will rarely reduce healthful options but will stretch the food dollar. “Health foods” are often highly processed and expensive. Not only are they unnecessary in a healthy diet, they often represent a poor value.
How To Stock Your Pantry On A Budget
It’s a time-saver, a money-saver, and a sanity-saver. Having the right items in your pantry at all times can enable you to easily prepare budget-friendly meals without the worry of making a new grocery list and spending more money. I’ve put together a simple list of the best basic items for your pantry, as well as essentials in produce.
-Rice (instant and converted) -Canned diced tomatoes (assorted varieties) -Canned chicken broth -Canned corn -Canned black olives -Canned chicken (as well as tuna, ham, or even salmon) -Condensed tomato soup -Condensed cheese soup -Assorted seasoned bread crumbs -Dried pasta (plenty of variety) -Jarred Alfredo sauce (as well as tomato, vodka sauce, etc) -Jarred roasted red peppers -Extra virgin olive oil -Stir-fry sauce -Soy sauce -Ramen noodles -Boxed mac and cheese -Bread -Sugar -Flour tortillas -Canned black beans
-Frozen meatballs -Frozen veggies (carrots, green peppers, green beans, mixed veggies, stir-fry mix) -Frozen french fries -Meats (ground beef, chicken breasts, pork)
-Lemon juice -Eggs -Grated Parmesan cheese -Mayonnaise -Dijon mustard -Green onions -Sour Cream -Butter -Shredded cheese (use a variety) -Crumbled cheese (feta, bleu cheese, etc)
-Salt -Black pepper -Garlic salt -Garlic powder -Red pepper flakes -Dried oregano -Dried basil -Dried parsley -Steak seasoning -Cayenne pepper -Chili Powder -Pre-made packets (taco season, enchilada sauce, ranch dressing mix, brown gravy mix, etc)
-Tomatoes -Peppers -Carrots -Onions -Lettuce
Kitchen Pantry Storage Ideas
Keeping a well-stocked and organized kitchen pantry simplifies everything from snacks to breakfast on the go to throwing together a quick meal for a hungry family. The options for organization and storage are endless; the key is picking the ones that work best for your space, your style, and your family’s eating habits.
Professional organizer Lea Schneider recommends separating pantry items into separate groups. Groups of like items allow you to quickly find what you need and to identify what you’re out of before a shopping trip. Schneider recommends these basic groups for pantry organization:
-Snacks -Breakfast foods -Baking/Dessert -Canned goods -Starches
Labels help you keep items grouped in their proper places, which makes storage an easier task. Label everything in your pantry, from storage containers to shelves. If you have small children, use picture labels on items you want them to access, such as snacks and breakfast foods. Store these on lower shelves that children can reach.
Store dry goods in glass jars with screw-on lids. You can order clear glass gallon jars with plastic screw-on lids from online suppliers. These jars are an economical storage solution for bulky items and are airtight, so they’ll keep dry goods like cereal fresh. It’s easier to see the amount of food you have left when it is stored in a clear glass jar, so you know before you run out.
Look outside the kitchen section for decorative boxes. Collect decorative storage boxes, such as those designed for photo storage, to hold smaller items that need to be grouped together. This idea works well for baking supplies such as baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and other supplies in small jars. Use a box to hold extra spices, another to hold gelatin and pudding mixes, and another to hold small bags of nuts, dried fruit, chocolate chips, and other cookie ingredients and snacks.
Having the right ingredients helps you make quick meals. Set aside one section of the pantry for quick meals. Always keep on hand all the ingredients for several quick meals: pasta and a jar of spaghetti sauce, or tortillas and canned green chilies and canned enchilada sauce, for example.
Put each group of ingredients together with a recipe card and a note on additional ingredients, such as ground beef in the freezer. When you’re short on time, you know you have a complete meal on hand that you can make yourself or have someone else make.
Not only will having items on this list keep your dinners quick and easy, but they allow for the preparation of budget-friendly meals. You don’t have to spend a fortune to feel like you did. Here are a few suggestions of things you can make simply by using the items you would already have on hand.
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