If you want to start saving more money but you don’t know where to start, take a look at how much you’re spending on food.
If you’re like most people, groceries and eating out is probably one of your highest expenses outside of your rent or mortgage. This means that you can save a bunch of money on food if you’re willing to put in the work and make smarter choices like cooking more, eating out less, and meal planning just to name a few.
Related: Meal Planning Made Simple
A great way to start cutting your food budget is by coming up with a list of frugal kitchen staples. These are things that are generally inexpensive, have a long shelf life, and can be combined in a million different ways to make something delicious.
They are your go-to ingredients that should always be well stocked in your kitchen to help prevent those last minute food runs because “there’s nothing to eat” in the house.
To help get you started, I wanted to share my list of 20 frugal kitchen staples that I always have on hand and ready to go. I understand that everyone’s tastes are a bit different so your list may look a little different than mine. However, I tried to include basic ingredients that I thought everyone could use.
I’ve also included a number of simple and easy recipes using some of these ingredients for those nights you want to change things up but don’t have the brain power to look for recipes.
Follow our Cheap and Easy Recipes board on Pinterest and find all of the recipes found in this post along with other super easy recipes to help you make more meals at home. Save this list of 20 kitchen and pantry staples to your Pinterest board to come back to it later.
If you cook regularly like me then you probably already have a number of these staples in your kitchen. However, if you’re just starting out or don’t like cooking much (I also fall into this category) then I’d recommend slowly adding one or two different staples every week or every other week.
This way you don’t overwhelm yourself and you give yourself more time to actually use the ingredients. The last thing you want to do when you’re trying to save money is to spend a lot of money to buy everything on this list and then decide that cooking isn’t in your future.
In the pantry
Rice is one of the staples that I use the most. It can be used in so many dishes as a side or even the main dish. You can easily make Spanish rice to put in a burrito bowl or make fried rice as the main meal.
Beans are pretty cheap to begin with but are even cheaper when you buy them dried. You can make this super simple chili recipe or use them as a topping on tacos. You can even make this easy rice and beans recipe if you need something quick and easy.
Pasta is a crowd pleaser and requires very little to make it into a hearty meal. Add a little sauce and a protein and you have an easy cheap meal. Check out these simple recipes, Parmesan Pasta and Instant Pot Pasta with Meat Sauce, that’s so easy and yummy.
Any type of nut butter can be used as a quick healthy snack or can be made into a tasty breakfast (oatmeal with PB) or lunch (PB&J). Did you know that you can make multiple PB&Js and freeze them until you need them? You can make 5 on Sunday, freeze them, and pack them for lunch for the rest of the week. It’s that simple.
Flour is an essential ingredient to have on hand if you ever bake. It has a long shelf life and it’s pretty inexpensive. You can make muffins or bread for a fraction of the price than you would pay at the store.
Spices are a must if you cook at home whatsoever. Everyone’s spice rack is The ones I use the most are cinnamon, cumin, chili powder, and garlic powder.
Canned tomatoes are great to use in soups and sauces. Most canned tomatoes can be found for $1 or less. I like to add one can of tomatoes to my jar of spaghetti sauce to make it thicker and to feed more people without spending a whole lot more. I also love making salsa at home with canned tomatoes. Tastes just as good as eating it at a restaurant.
Bread is super affordable! I’ve bought a loaf for as little as $0.59. You can make this really easy french toast, sandwiches, or grind it up to use as breadcrumbs.
Tortillas are pretty inexpensive and easy to store. We have taco nights once a week but I will also make a quick cheese quesadilla if I need something easy and fast.
Oatmeal is so healthy and filling and it costs pennies per serving. It has a long shelf life which is a huge bonus. You can even bake healthy treats like these oatmeal chocolate chip muffins.
Oils are one of the most used pantry items on my list. I use it while cooking eggs, baking muffins, or even when making my own salad dressing. I love coconut oil because it adds a little bit of extra flavor to my baked goods.
Sugar is used in so many recipes that it’s a must. It goes into pretty much everything I bake. I mostly use sugar in the raw and brown sugar.
Stock (beef, chicken, or vegetable)
I make a lot of different soups and casseroles and most of them call for some sort of stock. You can make your own if you choose but I usually just buy it because it’s one less thing I have to worry about making.
Onions are a flavor booster. No wonder they are used in so many recipes. They are inexpensive and can last 1-2 months in the summer and 6 months in the winter as long as you store them in a cool and dry place. I chop them up pretty fine and even those who hate onions can’t tell they are in there.
In the fridge/freezer
Eggs are a versatile ingredient and one of the cheapest proteins. You can use them when baking a loaf of bread, making a breakfast burrito, or when you want a healthy snack. There are so many meals and dishes you can make with them.
This vegetable stays fresh in the refrigerator for 4 – 5 weeks. They’re the perfect healthy snack or you can easily make soups and stir-frys with this low maintenance veggie.
I cannot seem to buy enough bananas. They are super easy to pack in lunches and eat on the go, making them a perfect go-to snack. If I happen to be lucky enough to have ripe bananas, I use this super easy recipe for banana bread or make a refreshing peanut butter and banana smoothie.
Frozen veggies are just as healthy as fresh veggies and oftentimes are cheaper than fresh veggies. It’s perfect for the months when your favorite veggies are out of season. It also comes in handy to buy a vegetable melody so you don’t have to chop up 6 different vegetables to make a stir-fry or a soup.
Cheese is a staple in our house. It pretty much goes on everything including eggs, casseroles, and pizza. I buy blocks of cheese and shred them myself since it’s a lot cheaper.
If you and your family eat meat, make sure to stock up when it’s on sale and freeze it. I’m able to build my meal plan around what I already have in the freezer and then buy only a few ingredients that I don’t happen to have on hand.