Do you stock these cheap pantry staples? You should! Because these basic staples will help you make easy homemade meals fast!
Keeping your kitchen stocked with cheap, basic pantry items is key to saving money on your grocery bill because it allows you to more easily make your own meals at home.
I often get asked what ingredients I recommend stocking, which I find hard to know how to answer since I feel like each family’s pantry staples list will look a bit different due to eating styles and habits.
But, I also know that it’s helpful to see how other people do things too. So I put together this list of the top basic food staples that I try to keep on hand at all times.
Having these cheap staples in my kitchen has been a sanity saver for me because it makes it really easy for me to create a variety of inexpensive meals at a moment’s notice.
Cheap Pantry Staples
Cheap Baking Supplies:
One of the mainstays if you plan to cook or bake from scratch! Not only do I use this in many of my baked goods, but I also frequently use to create roux to thicken soups and sauces.
2. SUGAR (White, Brown and Confectioners)
I make most of our desserts from scratch, so I like to keep all three kinds of sugar on hand.
While I use oatmeal a lot for baking (hello Favorite Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars!), it’s also a staple that I use to make frugal, filling breakfasts too!
Two of our favorites are Easy Basic Homemade Granola, Simple Chocolate Granola and Chocolate Chip Baked Oatmeal.
Keeping this on hand allows me to save money and mix up my own homemade pizza crust or homemade bread and rolls, any time I want!
5. BAKING POWDER | BAKING SODA
I love baking and since most cookies, cakes and brownies require baking powder or baking soda, I make sure to always keep them in my pantry!
A few of our favorite easy desserts are Chocolate Chip Blonde Brownies, Best Ever Chocolate Cake and Easy Apple Dumpling Dessert.
6. COCOA POWDER
I love using cocoa powder to get my chocolate fix with baked goods, Easy 3 Ingredient Healthy Fudge or even homemade hot cocoa.
It is also great for things like Super Easy Homemade Chocolate Syrup and homemade Peppermint Mocha Frappes.
7. PEANUT BUTTER
From peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to energy bites to baked goods to Healthy Peanut Butter Fruit Dip, this is one of those inexpensive versatile ingredients that is just smart to keep on hand!
Plus, if you need a quick pick-me-up, a spoonful of peanut butter with a few chocolate chips does the trick perfectly.
Besides the traditional uses in baking and frying, I also use oil for making my own salad dressings and vinaigrettes. One of our favorite homemade dressings is my easy Mexican Dressing.
Cheap Pantry Items:
This is probably one of the most frugal pantry items and very versatile too, plus a little bit of uncooked rice ends up being quite a lot once cooked!
Rice can stand alone by itself as a side dish and of course, is delicious in main dishes as well.
Several of our family’s favorites Speedy Spanish Rice and Ground Beef Skillet, Easy Ground Beef and Rice Skillet, One Pan Spanish Chicken and Rice and Curry Chicken and Rice Soup.
I’ve experimented with quite a few varieties of rice and our favorites are Jasmine and Basmati. Both have a great flavor/texture and cook quickly too.
Canned or dried, either way, you can’t go wrong with this inexpensive protein staple!
I love using beans to make Creamy White Chicken Chili, 5 Minute Bean Dip and these Easy Mexican Rice Bowls.
Making your own Homemade Refried Beans is so easy and cheap too!
We don’t eat a lot of pasta, but I still like to keep it on hand because it’s a great way to create quick, filling, inexpensive meals.
Super Easy Beef and Macaroni Skillet is one of my go-to recipes for busy days. We also love this No Boil Lasagna recipe too!
12. DRIED HERBS | SPICES
Dried herbs and spices are a great way to add flavor to your recipes. And while I occasionally buy fresh herbs, using dried is much more economical and they last much longer too!
A few of the ones that I use regularly: basil, oregano, Italian seasoning, onion powder, garlic powder, chili powder, cumin, red pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg.
13. CHICKEN STOCK | BOUILLON
Chicken stock is a common ingredient in soups and casseroles and is super easy to make yourself! I also like to keep bouillon on hand since some recipes call for that instead.
Also, if I happen to be out of liquid chicken stock, I can always use the bouillon to make some- although the stock made using bouillon is not nearly as tasty or as good for you as the real thing!
This is another ingredient that I use to make homemade salad dressings. I also use it for various other recipes and it works great as a natural cleaner too!
I have quite a few Mexican-inspired dishes that call for salsa, so I like to always keep this on hand. Plus…..chips and salsa!
This Salsa Chicken Soup is also really easy and although it doesn’t look super amazing, it’s surprisingly delicious!
16. DICED TOMATOES
These are super inexpensive and way cheaper than buying fresh tomatoes. I love using them in recipes to give a bit of added flavor and color.
And I even show you how to can diced tomatoes yourself if you want to try that. It’s super easy!
17. PASTA SAUCE
I know making your own pasta sauce is pretty easy, but since I can buy it so inexpensively, I prefer to just do that.
Pasta sauce is great for a quick meal of meatball subs, pizza, spaghetti or, lasagna to mention just a few.
18. KETCHUP, MUSTARD, MAYO
Okay, so maybe I should have listed these 3 things separately. But in my mind, they all are condiments and similar items and since I’m writing this blog….. 🙂
I use many more condiments than these, but these are the three that I think every kitchen should for sure stock.
I typically make my own bread, but it is something that I always keep on hand.
We often use it to make sandwiches for lunch, toast it to eat with eggs and occasionally use it in recipes like my Cheeseburger Casserole too!
I use these all the time to make enchiladas, tacos, quesadillas and wraps. These Salsa Ranch Chicken Wraps are one of my favorite quick meals!
21. ONIONS | GARLIC
I use both of these items regularly to inexpensively add extra flavor to lots of different recipes.
One thing to consider though: if you frequently have garlic or onions spoil on you it might make more sense to just use granulated garlic or onion/garlic powder instead. Of course, you can always freeze them too, if you prefer.
These are not only a great addition to many soups, but they also make a healthy snack or side dish.
Super versatile! You can use them in soups, casseroles, breakfast dishes or side dishes.
A few of our favorite potato recipes are Creamy Sausage and Potatoes, Cream Cheese Potato Soup with Ham, and Country Potato Soup.
Cheap Fridge/Freezer Items:
We love having breakfast for dinner and with eggs being so cheap, it’s a great, frugal meal too! And of course, you’re going to need them to make most homemade baked goods as well.
They’re also perfect for main dish recipes like my Crustless Zucchini Quiche and my Hamburger Zucchini Bake too!
This is probably the one thing that might seem iffy to put on a frugal pantry list. But, I personally won’t use margarine and since I use butter in quite a few of my homemade baked goods as well as on bread, to me it’s a necessary pantry staple.
Plus, I love using it to make these easy Garlic Butter Swim Biscuits!
I like to watch for sales on butter and then I buy a lot and just freeze most of it. (Aldi typically has sales several times a year where they price their butter $2.50 or less.)
26. SOUR CREAM
I like to keep this on hand to use in soups, to make homemade dips and to use in several casserole recipes as well.
And here’s a little helpful tip: it stays good way past its “best if used by” date. 🙂
This is an item that I try to be conservative in how much I use, just because it’s not the cheapest food ever.
But, since I cook almost entirely from scratch, I do end up using it quite a bit even so.
Just a little bit can make a lettuce salad, tuna salad sandwiches or refried bean quesadillas so much yummier! And we love these White Pizza Grilled Cheese Sandwiches!
28. FROZEN VEGGIES
Often much cheaper than fresh veggies, the other handy thing about frozen ones is that they last much longer!
I use them a lot as a side dish and also in recipes like my Easy Chicken Pot Pie, Cheesy Ham, Potato and Green Bean Bake and Easy Vegetable Beef Soup.
Probably the cheapest kind of meat there is and super versatile too! I love watching for the big family packs to go on sale, then I buy them and freeze whatever I won’t use right away.
A few chicken recipes that we enjoy: Herb Roasted Chicken and Potatoes, One Pan Chicken and Rice, Creamy Crockpot Mexican Chicken and Homemade Shake and Bake Chicken.
30. GROUND BEEF | GROUND TURKEY
Definitely not as inexpensive as chicken, but I still like to keep it on hand because it’s so easy to make lots of quick meals with it.
In casseroles or soups, I often can get by with using less than the amount called for. And if it’s a Mexican-style dish, I’ll cut back the meat and increase the amount of beans used instead.
A few ground beef recipes that we really like: Crockpot Tamale Pie and Super Easy Sloppy Joes.
Other frugal kitchen tip articles you’ll enjoy:
My most frugal pantry item isn’t a food, but it’s my Food Saver vacuum sealer! It helps me be frugal because I can buy in bulk when food is on sale (becoming less and less, it seems, these days), portion it and freeze for later.
Yes, I love stocking up and freezing items that are on sale too! Such a great way to save. I don’t have a Food Saver though, but I know a lot of people that love them!
Denise Jahn Harvey
I so agree with you. We have worn out many vacuum food sealers over the years. Our son upgraded so he can vacuum seal whole chickens (raised on his property). We opted for a slightly smaller model and use it daily. Couldn’t fill my freezer without it.
when canning diced tomatoes can I pressure can them in stead of water bath? If so how long to pressure can?
Yes, you can definitely pressure can them! As for how long, it will depend on your pressure canner and altitude. I would look in the instruction manual that came with the pressure canner and go by what it says there. It likely won’t mention diced tomatoes specifically, but it should have tomatoes listed and possibly even chunked tomatoes listed. I would follow that.
Tomatoes also freeze well! Either whole or diced or roasted. Consider that especially when your garden is at its peak.
Yes, they do! Thanks for that suggestion.
It’s a great list, and I have all of them in the pantry and freezer as well. I would add celery to that list as I use it in making stews. Onions, carrots and celery is your mirre poir for all basic stews. I also like to keep passata sauce (strained tomatoes) for recipes and it’s great for a pizza sauce.
Yes, celery is a great pantry staple, for sure! We aren’t big fans of the flavor so I often just skip it when soups and other such recipes call for it. But you’re right, it’s a good one for most cooks to have on hand. Never heard of strained tomatoes but canned tomato products of any kind are handy to have, I think. There’s just so many ways to use them!
I buy cheese and freeze it. It stays good forever.
Yes! This is one of my favorite ways to save on cheese too. I have yet to have it get freezer burnt…and sometimes it’s been in there for a LONG time. 🙂
Great list! A tip on keeping garlic longer – I buy the 3 packs of bulbs from Aldi and immediately put them in a small ziplock kept in the freezer. It keeps a long time that way!!! The bonus part is that when it’s time to use, you simply have to break off the amount of bulbs you want and once they’ve sat a bit on the counter they are thawed enough so slice off the end where it me the bulb and if you squeeze the papery skin the garlic slides right out – no muss, no fuss! Ready to mince, etc.
I also keep Panko bread crumbs in the freezer as I use them in a variety of recipes. Freezing “ice cubes” of fresh lemon and lime juice (purchasing the fruit when there is a really good sale) is another way I keep things stocked. Lime juice gets used in marinades, etc. and lemon juice is frequently used as well, not only desserts, but certain salad dressings too.
Final note, this is not going to work for everyone, but try to hunt out whether or not there is a good local butcher shop in your area. Or at least within reasonable driving distance. For a 20 minute drive to another town, I can get boneless skinless chicken breasts for $1.19 a lb – the trick is you have to buy 10 lbs worth at a time to get that price. I make a few trips a year and stock the freezer with various meats.
I always keep my eye out when I’m there because you never know what you might see – last time there were packages in the refrigerated meat case of bacon “pieces” – the bits of odds and ends left from trimming the nice pretty bacon slices they sell in the butcher case. Got a great deal on those and they worked just fine for recipes that called for bacon bits or a bit of chopped bacon – just froze them and pulled out what I needed.
Love your blog! Will be trying several of your recipes!
What? I never knew you could freeze garlic! That is totally going to change my life. Thank you! And I started keeping my bread crumbs in the freezer too. I don’t use them that often and had them get rancid on me once. Lesson learned. Freezing lemon and lime juice is so smart! I’ve done that with zest occasionally too.
I wish I could find a local butcher shop that has that kind of price on chicken! That’s really good!
So glad you are finding the blog interesting and helpful! It makes the work that I put into it so totally worth it when I get comments like that. 🙂
There are two grocery stores near me (different companies) that every so often (but always at different times!) have chicken leg quarters for anywhere from 39 to 59 cents a pound. so, 4 to 6 dollars for 10 pounds of those which I take home and bake and debone. I use the bones ad skin along with veggie scraps to make broth and usually enough chicken meat to make 2-cup packs that I stuff n the freezer. It gives me a frugal break from my usual rotisserie chicken per week for much less broth and meat. It does take some work the day you buy but it saves so much money!
That’s an incredible price for chicken, Dmiti! And I love how you use every last bit of it. Such a great money saver!