Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Frugal Pantry, Stage One

What makes a pantry “frugal”? These are items that you should always have on hand, use often, and are there so you don’t need to run to the grocery store for every meal. They are also a cushion in case of a long winter’s storm or other emergency. We’re in earthquake country, so a minimum of two weeks of groceries on hand is recommended. In addition to what’s listed below, we also keep a few days of “zero preparation” foods, like prepared soups and stews that only need a can opener for preparation. If you live in an area where this type of preparedness is needed (who doesn’t???) you might want to add these types of foods to your list. But I digress!

Think about your family

I’ll be posting my sample Pantry List in two “stages”. This post covers Stage One -- these would be my suggestions for families who are just starting out in stocking their pantries. If you’re not quite ready to jump in to baking your own bread and making everything from scratch, but STILL want to cook at home and keep your food costs down, this is the list for you. Now, you will want to adjust this list for your OWN family’s health needs and preferences. It doesn’t make sense to stock items your family is allergic to, doesn’t meet health goals or needs, or won’t eat. Also, a family of six will have different needs from a single person. Adjust as needed!

Make a List!

First, you’ll need a rough list to get started -- use this one or make your own, based on your own family’s preferences and needs. Base your list on at least a week’s worth of meals planned. Use that plan to figure out how much of each item you’ll need. Don’t have a menu plan? Start with seven dinners your family enjoys. Then, buy what you need! Wasting food because it has gone bad before you use it is NOT frugal! For the most part, except for the fresh items, you should look for great prices on these and stock up. How do you know what’s a good price? I recommend keeping track of prices of items in a Price Book or List, a concept introduce by Amy Dacyczyn in The Tightwad Gazette. More on that in a later post!

So what can you make with all this? How about these ideas?

Breakfast: Oatmeal, Pancakes with fruit, Scrambled eggs and sausage, Biscuits and gravy, Omelets, Granola.

Lunch: Peanut butter and jam, Tuna salad, Green salad with hard boiled eggs, toasted walnuts and a Dijon vinaigrette, Lentil soup, Split pea soup, and Baked potato with chili and cheddar cheese.

Dinner: Everything included above (breakfast for dinner is always a fast and frugal solution!) plus spaghetti with meatballs, chili with cornbread, quiche with a seasonal vegetable or sautéed greens, and macaroni and cheese to name a few.

The possibilities are endless, all made possible with a well-stocked and frugally purchased pantry. More on what you can make with your pantry staples in an upcoming post!

Sample Pantry List, Stage One:

Dry Goods

All-purpose flour
White sugar
Corn Meal
Rolled oats
Brown sugar
Rice – Arborio and a long grain, preferably brown rice
Baking Soda
Pasta – spaghetti, penne, macaroni, egg noodles
Baking Powder

Canned Goods

Tomatoes –  whole or diced, crushed, sauce, paste
A variety of canned beans – pinto, chili, kidney, black
Basic red pasta sauce
Fruits – applesauce, peaches, pineapple
Tuna or salmon
Evaporated milk
Soup – Cream of Mushroom, Cream of Celery
Chicken (if budget permits)


Milk (soy or cow)
Dijon mustard
Cheese – mozzarella, cheddar
Plain yogurt
Condiments – ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, relish
Fresh veggies – carrots, celery, greens, other in season
Fresh fruits –in season
Concentrated stock base (beef and chicken)



Nuts  -- walnuts, almonds, pecans
Chicken – whole and/or parts
Ground meat
Frozen Spinach
Frozen Mixed Vegetables
Frozen Corn
Frozen Peas
Frozen Broccoli


Herbs and Spices

Sea Salt
Chili powder

Other pantry items

Split peas
Peanut butter or other nut butters
Vinegars – white wine, red wine, apple cider, rice wine, balsamic
Oils – canola or safflower, olive
Potatoes – white and sweet
Fresh bread

Tortillas (corn and Whole wheat flour)

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