Keeping your pantry stocked with basic, cheap pantry items is the key to saving money on groceries. In fact, after meal planning and prepping, this is essentially the key to saving more. And if you want to build a frugal pantry, then this post is for you.
I am taking you through all the cheap food items that we keep stocked. These basics help me put together meals that are super cheap and also super easy and quick to make. And I can’t tell you what a blessing that is especially on busy days.
Have you ever had one of those days when you’re super busy and before you know it, it’s dinner time. And sometimes you have no idea what to make and all you have in your pantry is the most random ingredients? And you don’t want a take out dinner because you are trying to save more money and it’s not healthy to do so every other night?
I think we have all been there. I was struggling when I was working my full time job and a side gig and didn’t have enough time to make dinner. We were eating out every other day. But building a pantry that serves me, worked well. And I am hoping that this list of frugal pantry staples will help you as well.
I know generally speaking, pantry staples are different for every household. It depends on what you usually eat and what are your eating habits like. But I hope you will find some inspiration from this list.
Here is my list of pantry staples that has saved me so much time and money over the years:
Frugal Pantry staples to stock up on:
Rolled Oats: Rolled oats are great for super quick meals. I love making a filling nutritious oatmeal porridge for breakfast, especially in the winters. And overnight oats are a staple breakfast for the summers. Rolled oats can also be used to make homemade granola, or cookies or as a base for super thick oats and banana smoothies or oats pancakes. The possibilities are endless.
Rice: Rice is again super versatile like oats and such a cheap ingredient to stock up in your pantry. We love having rice as a main dish with a lentil or chickpea curry. And if you pressure cook it, it is super quick to make as well.
Lentil curry and rice never goes wrong seriously. If you have never tried that, you need to learn a few quick dal recipes and you’ll be sorted. Other than being a main dish, it can be great as a side dish as well. And you can use cooked rice in burrito bowls, burritos, tacos or simply with grilled veggies.
Pasta: We do not make pasta that often in our house, but still stock up on it because it’s super quick and cheap to make. And you can make it really healthy with a lot of veggies too.
It’s great for filling, inexpensive meals and is perfect for meal prep as well.
Whole wheat Flour: Being an Indian household, whole wheat flour or atta is a staple in our pantry. We love making chapatis and flat breads to go with any curry. We usually keep some kneaded dough in the fridge and make chapatis at least once a day.
It’s great for making whole wheat bread, cupcakes, pancakes and cookies as well. I love using whole wheat flour in cakes as well instead of all purpose flour because it’s healthier.
Lentils & Beans: Coming onto the holy grail of stocking up our pantry, lentils and beans. Our pantry has at least 4-5 types of lentils in stock at all times. Lentils are super easy to make and perfect for days when you don’t have a lot of time to do the chopping etc. Lentils or Daal with rice is our go to dinner in the summers. And it’s packed with proteins so it’s super healthy too.
Some things like beans (chickpeas or kidney beans) require to be soaked in water for a few hours before you cook them. So I usually soak them in the mornings and then pressure cook in the evenings. You could of course use canned chickpeas if they’re cheaper.
Cereal or Home made granola: We do not have cereal, but it could be a pantry staple for you if you have kids and they love cereal. We love our home made granola though.
Super easy and quick to make with rolled oats and puffed rice, having some granola prepped always comes in handy. It is perfect for yogurt with fruits or smoothie bowls and makes for a great snack.
Chickpea Flour: This may not be for everyone but chickpea flour is a staple in our pantry. We love making chickpea flour chillas for breakfast and traditional Punjabi kadhi for dinner at least once a week. It is super flavourful and a family favourite, so chickpea flour is a must have.
All purpose flour: If you do a lot of baking, having all purpose flour in your pantry is a must. We make breads and cakes at least once a week, so we always make sure to stock up on all purpose flour.
Sugar (Brown/White): Again, if you do a lot of baking and make desserts very often, sugar is a pantry staple you should stock up on. We have both brown and white sugar in our pantry because we do make a lot of desserts at home.
Baking powder & Baking soda: I love baking and making breads, cakes and cookies. And most of the recipes require baking powder/ baking soda so we always keep them in stock. Baking soda also comes in handy for cleaning various things like pots and pans and also the kitchen sink, so I always buy it in bulk.
Peanut Butter: Peanut butter is another must have for all the peanut butter and Jam sandwiches. But it’s also great for baking, especially PB cookies or blondies, for energy bites. I love PB stuffed dates coated on chocolate and sprinkled with sea salt. Such a heavenly combo honestly.
Salt & Pepper: Salt and pepper are a must have in almost all the pantries and I always buy them in bulk.
Italian Seasoning: Italian seasoning is again a must for all the home made pizzas, bread rolls and pastas.
Garlic Powder: One of my favourite spices ever. I love having garlic powder and butter toasts, but it’s also great to flavour your meats etc. I also love using it in cooking when I feel like I don’t have the time to peel garlic pods.
Garam Masala: If you know anything about Indian cooking and spices, you’d know what garam masala is. Basically it is a blend of whole spices and is perfect for seasoning any Indian curry. I always make mine at home (will share the recipe soon) but it’s always in stock in the pantry.
Indian Pantry staples: Then of course we have the Indian Pantry staple whole spices like cumin seeds and coriander seeds. I also always keep turmeric powder, asofetida and red chilli powder. Whenever I am pressed for time, all i do for meals is cook dal in pressure cooker and temper it with some ghee (or oil), asofetida and cumin seeds. And it packs a punch of flavour, every single time.
Ketchup: Ketchup is a must have pantry staple. From sandwiches to burritos etc, it’s a must.
Mayo: Mayo or any other creamy sauce is again a must have in the pantry. It is again very versatile and can be used in various sandwiches and burritos.
Jams/Preserves: Jams and preserves are a must have, especially if you have kids. Who doesn’t love a PB and Jam sandwich. And toast with some Jam pr preserve makes for a great pick me up snack for adults too, who am I kidding!
Oils: Depending on what oil you use for cooking and baking, always buy in bulk and keep it stocked in your pantry. Buying in bulk is always cheaper than buying smaller packets and we always buy a big bottle that lasts us a really long time instead of having to buy it every month.
Vinegar: If you make a lot of salad dressings at home like I do, vinegar is a must have in your pantry. I also love using vinegar as a natural cleanser to clean my pots and pans and also the kitchen sink (occasionally), so I always bulk a bigger bottle.
Chickpeas or Beans: If you do not like the hassle of soaking and thr pressure cooking chickpeas and kidney beans then perhaps buying canned will work for you. The best part is that are already cooked and you end up saving so much time on the cooking. So they’re perfect for dinners when you are pressed for time.
Tomatoes: Canned and diced tomatoes are great because they save you so much time. They are also great for winter months when fresh produce is not the best quality and/or is super expensive. I love using canned tomatoes to make pasta sauces at home. For most of the other cooking, I usually use fresh tomatoes.
Pasta Sauce: If you make a lot of pizzas or pasta then pasta sauce is a pantry must have. I usually make mine at home but in batches, so that I always have it in stock. It’s super easy to make as well and super cheap too if you buy tomatoes in bulk.
Potatoes: Potatoes are super versatile and super cheap. You can use them in casseroles, soups, curry recipes or even dishes like honey chilli potatoes or baked potatoes. And you could serve them as a side dish as baked, fries, mashed.
Onions: We love using onions is our cooking and thus stock them up in our pantry. Onions bring so much flavour to anything really. And if you are familiar with Indian cooking you’d know we use them in almost every curry so they are a must have.
Lemons: I always have lemons in my Fridge, always. I think they are so under-rated. lemons are perfect for salads, burrito bowls and also for making salad dressings. I also squeeze in a lemon whenever I am having dal-rice. I think it adds such a nice punch of flavour.
Green chillies, Garlic & Ginger: I know I listed 3 things at once, but all three of them are staples in almost every Indian dish, so we keep them in stock. I also love adding ginger to my Masala tea every morning as it soothes my throat.
Apples: Apples make for a great snack and we always stock them whenever they are in season. Apples are also great for baked goods and apple pies for desserts.
Bananas: Bananas make for a great snack and are perfect for a boost of energy when you’re feeling the afternoon slump. I also use bananas to make banana and walnut bread almost every single week.
Milk:Other than drinking, milk is also a staple for cereals and a few other recipes. We also always have milk in the fridge for our daily milk tea of course.
Cheese: Who doesn’t love cheese? It is perfect to be added to pizza, sandwiches and pastas. But yes, it can be quite expensive. So stock up whenever you find a good deal and freeze it.
Eggs: Eggs make for such a healthy and quick breakfast and is out go to whenever we are rushed in the mornings. Eggs and toast is our go-to breakfast. Other than that eggs are a pantry staple if you do a lot of baking or if you love making recipes like egg fried rice.
Butter: Butter is used in so many recipes so it’s always good to have it on hand.
Greek yogurt: I love greek yogurt. Yogurt and fruits topped with homemade granola and some honey is my favourite summer breakfast. I also love adding yogurt to dal-rice or to my burritos and even tacos in place of sour cream. So i always keep it stocked.
Cleaned and Chopped Veggie Mix: If you eat meat, then meats will be your number one frozen item. For us, we are vegetarians, and we usually freeze cleaned and chopped veggies. I usually do this every month or so and then use the chopped veggies for various recipes throughout the month. I don’t like buying chopped veggies though, because they’re expensive, so I do it on my own. It’s also great for winter months, when getting fresh produce is quite expensive.
Smoothie packets: I love freezing individual smoothie packets. So I will chop up fruits and put them in ziplock bags and then freeze. And on rushed mornings, I will just grab a bag and blend it really quickly and my breakfast is ready to go.