I have 2 of them to be exact. One pantry in my laundry room for jellies, dried produce or anything I have done to preserve them for later use. Keeping them in a dark cool place will help them keep for much longer. I also have a pantry for my baking items which I keep in my kitchen itself. One whole cabinet full of items I use to bake. I keep a mental note of how much I have, how much I need, and what items I need to keep an eye out for sales.
Over the years I have found certain foods that keep for a long time, foods that are cheap, and foods that help us get by until the next check. You know those days, you do not get paid for another 5 days and you need to make all your food stretch as far as you can because you truly do not have any money. Everyone has had one of those times. So for those who just do not know what to do to make your dollar stretch, here you go. This list is for you.
Beans beans the magical fruit-Yes we've all heard the rest of that phrase. lol. Beans of any sort can be bought in bulk for 30 cents-over a buck per pound. You just pick what kind you like and work around it. If your really in a pinch, pick the cheapest and work around that one. Chili, refried beans, soups, baked beans, etc . There are so many things you can make with beans. Bulk is best for a few reasons. They last forever, serious. Soak overnight and cook on medium heat until tender. Once cooked they can be put in the freezer for later use. Making them last another 3 months. Packed with lots of protein, beans are a bang for your buck.
Popcorn-Again bought in bulk. this can be your snack food. Pop them in a pan, an old air popper( like mine that I bought at a yard sale for $1.50 a few years ago), or how ever you want to cook them your fancy. Try your hand at different seasonings. Maybe spicy, sweet, or salty. Have fun at it. This snack will save you lots of money, last forever in your pantry, and is super cheap.
Peanut Butter-This one is a staple in our home. My girls have a peanut butter and jelly(homemade always different each week) sandwich each day for lunch. Again a great source of protein. Use in a sauce to add a salty touch or just for your lunches. But beware when you buy it. Cheaper peanut butters will have sugar in them. Save money and grind your own or buy Adams Peanut Butter. This way you can have salt or no salt and control what goes into your body.
Homemade broth-Just having broth instead of water in your meal adds so much flavor. This is free if you think about it. Each time you cook meat with bones or cut up veggies, put them to good use. Meat bones can be put in a pot and add water. Simply boil for about 20 minutes and your done. Broth! Simply put into the freezer for later use. Anytime you cut up veggies save the bits and ends in the freezer until you have a few cups worth. Then put in a pot with some water and again boil for about 20 minutes. Yummy veggie broth for free! Again freeze for later use. This is a great way to control your sodium, those canned brands are loaded with sodium. Best yet, when you make it at home its FREE!
Root veggies-Carrots, potatoes, beets, onions etc. All these items are usually the cheapest and great because they last forever in your dark pantry. I grew potato's and they are in my pantry right now awaiting me to cook them. I dug them up about 2 months ago and they are still fine in my pantry.Carrots can be put into dirt into your pantry and will last forever. I found that putting them in my fridge makes them last long for me. I use them in almost each meal. So stock up on these when they go super cheap even if you do not need them. They last forever.
Cabbage-Don't turn your nose up at this one! I have my kids hooked on cabbage now. We eat stir fry and chow mien often and cabbage is in both of these dishes. Anytime I make veggie soup, I throw some in there too. Cabbage is sweet and super yummy. Plus last forever in your fridge. 2 weeks ago I picked up a head of cabbage the size of a soccer ball. I'm still using it and will probably use it for another 2 weeks. Best part is that I picked it up for only 50 cents. Yes!
Eggs-another great way to get protein in your diet. I buy the largest pack of eggs I can find. Winco has them usually for $4 for 5 dozen. Crazy cheap if you ask me. They just went up to $6 so I grabbed one even though we didn't need them. I know egg prices are gonna rise higher so I would rather pay a tiny bit more now than way more later. They can get up to $10. We use them for pancakes, fried egg's, egg drop soup, baking, etc. Eggs never go to waste in my home.
Oats-not only are these healthy but they are super cheap! In bulk you can get them for as low as 45 cent per pound. I bought a 25 lb bag of them for $9.99 which made them 39 cents per lb. You can use them for breakfast to make oatmeal, in oatmeal bread, and homemade granola. They will last months in your pantry.
Rice-I use brown rice myself so I pay a tiny bit more. But you can use white rice and get it for super cheap. The thing is that brown rice takes longer for your body to break down, keeping you filled for longer, and you don't go looking for snacks within 1 hr of dinner. Or you can buy white rice, your body will digest it super quick and then your hungry again within 1 yr. Your personal choice. Some people prefer the taste of white rice. Either way rice will last forever and can be used in hundreds of recipes. Poor girls breakfast, rice cakes, plain rice, oriental dishes, or even rice salad's.
Pasta-I use whole wheat noodles which are a tiny bit more expensive. Just like rice, keeps you filled for longer. It does take a bit to get used to the texture but once you do you will not go back to regular noodles. They taste slimy to me now. You can make noodle dishes, or cold salads with them. Endless possibilities. Again the last forever in your pantry.
Fruit-We eat only what is in season. Banana's are always cheap so they are usually what we eat. Apples are super cheap right now. Any fruit that's less than $1 per pound will be in our home. If I can freeze it or can it for later, its done. Quince fruit I was able to get my hands on for free so I turned them into jelly. Sometimes I cut fruit into slices and freeze for later use. These are great for cobbler or used in yogurt. We eat it , if it goes bad quick we freeze it, and if I have no room in my freezer then I dehydrate it. Everything is used and nothing goes to waste.
Meat-Our daughters are vegetarians so this makes it super easy for us. But our dog is on a only meat diet so I do buy a lot of chicken. I buy markdown chicken and freeze it for later use. I will buy any type of meat marked down for the hubby and I. I will never pay more than $1 per pound for any meat. Even if you do not need meat at that moment and you find a great deal, do not pass it up. Just freeze it for later use. This takes the stress away from you having to find something for dinner and nothing is on sale. Our meals are fun because you never know what were going to eat. Lots of interesting meals in our home.
Drinks-When you have no money to buy anything , just drink water. One thing we cut out 99% when we went frugal was soda. Biggest waste of money ever! Not only are you buying soda that last maybe 2 days, but your filling your body with a ton of sugar and even sodium. Ive now converted to natural frozen juice instead of crystal light. All natural is our way. I buy frozen juice for as cheap as I can find it. The juice calls for you to pour frozen juice into pitcher and fill that can with 3 more full of water. I do it 3 1/2 instead. This makes it not so sweet which we prefer and makes it go longer. Our home is filled with frozen juice and milk only. This will save you a bundle. Cut the soda habit!
I could go on and on but here are other things I keep in my pantries always.
Whole Wheat Flour
Ground Flax Seed
Powdered Milk (used for gravy etc)
Canned tomato's (used for spaghetti. unfortunately I did not grow enough to can but did dehydrate cherry and pear tomato's for later use)
Now you have a list so get creative. Even if you have the money to go buy more food, make a challenge out of it. Try to use what you have for a few days and not go to the store. I do this at times just for fun. Another way to save yourself money (especially in the stores) is to read labels. Read the ingredient list, sugar content, and sodium content. This alone will keep you from buying so many things. Just do it next time you go grocery shopping and you will go into shock. Its crazy how much sodium and sugar companies pump into their products. Makes my stomach turn thinking about it. My rule of thumb:If I cannot pronounce it, its not good and its not going into my home. Only the lowest sugar and sodium content goes into my cart. We make a game of it too. My girls like to read labels and pick which ones they think are the healthiest. They know healthy food is super food. And what kid doesn't want to be a super hero?