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What basic pantry staples would you require on a "no-spend" food budget? - Page 2

post #21 of 41
Originally Posted by worthy View Post
If you could stock your pantry with such frugal essentials now, knowing that your grocery budget would need to be as close to no-spend as possible for a number of months, what would you make sure you had in your pantry?


Unexpectedly, we will not be able to go grocery shopping this week so we have to use what is on hand. I couldn't go months without buying food but I could easily come up with a menu for a week without buying anything new. We are low or out of fresh eggs, cheese, meat and fresh fruit or vegetables.


I am glad to have things like yeast, vanilla extract, butter, honey, plain yogurt, flour, salt, pepper, sugar, milk (fresh, canned and powdered), shortening and oil. I have some powdered eggs that I could use in an emergency.

We always have popcorn, rice, pasta, lentils, and beans.

We generally have pancake mix, maple syrup, apples, carrots, potatoes, onion, garlic, canned tomato, spaghetti sauce, peanut butter, cereal, and oatmeal.

I think cumin, oregano, cinnamon and basil are pretty useful spices to keep on hand. I am glad to have more spices than that though. I keep them stocked up so I wouldn't have to buy much for awhile.

Tea and hot chocolate

We have some frozen vegetables and fruit that I am happy about.

post #22 of 41

Almost forgot the coffee.  No way could I get through months without coffee, and it the most likely thing I would buy out and about if I didn't have any at home.  

post #23 of 41

Now I think about what I wrote, I would be hesitant to buy certain staples in quantities that last more than 2-3 months.  Nuts, seeds, whole grains, coffee-- all these things deteriorate noticeably, and get bitter or rancid.  I also find that buying in bulk can often lead me to spend more (and waste more) than I would have otherwise.  

post #24 of 41

I think for me it would basically be chili ingredients.

Canned tomatoes

For sure olive oil - and a lot of times you can get BOGO free at grocery stores. This can save you $10 if you get a decent brand.

I can't imagine being without peanut butter - would prefer almond butter, but that can be pricey.

Canned soups when they are on sell - you can sometimes get 10 for $10.

Cornbread ingredients. And probably the basic baking ingredients mentioned by others. Flour, sugar, brown sugar, baking soda/powder, cinnamon.
Maybe a huge thing of crisco.

post #25 of 41

Simply Organic all purpose seasoning


bay leaves

sea salt


basil leaves-crushed

olive oil

tomato paste

tomato sauce

canned diced tomatoes

flour/starch (we're gluten free)

cream of tarter

baking soda (both are for making my own baking powder)





choc chips


ground flax seed




spaghetti/pizza sauce



buttered rice

homemade bread




buttered canned veggies


oatmeal cookies

choc chip cookies

baked oatmeal

oat flour pancakes (use ground up oats as flour)

no bake energy balls (flax/choc chips/oats/nut or seed butter/salt)

buttered noodles

post #26 of 41
Pantry 'must haves' --

Spaghetti items (all organic) :
Tomato paste
Vegetable broth (I like Imagine No Chicken Broth, when I don't make my own)
Capellini noodles
Parsley (high in calcium, goes in every soup and sauce)
sea salt

Then there's Rudi's Rocky Mountain Sourdough bread (organic), and Kettle organic Sea Salt potato chips for snacking, bay leaves, flours, vinegar, thyme, baking soda, brown rice syrup, grains and beans.
post #27 of 41
This won't help all of you but I do some foraging and gleaning in my area. Just this week, I've picked up a ton of apples that roll into roads and ditches from neglected old fruit trees. A little flour and sugar and my kids and the hubby have apple pie or apple tart. We eat this for breakfast with a glass of milk or as a dessert. I've also frozen a ton of berries from blackberry bushes around. In the spring you can find sorrel, dandelion and fiddle heads for salads. I'm sure your library has books about foraging or "wildcrafting" as some like to call it.
post #28 of 41

You might want to rethink that sweetener choice, unless you know for sure that the brown rice syrup is low in arsenic. Most is very high, since rice tends to concentrate it, and rice syrup is further concentrated. See: http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2012/02/brown-rice-syrup-puts-arsenic-in-those-organics/

Originally Posted by pek64 View Post

Then there's Rudi's Rocky Mountain Sourdough bread (organic), and Kettle organic Sea Salt potato chips for snacking, bay leaves, flours, vinegar, thyme, baking soda, brown rice syrup, grains and beans.
post #29 of 41
Thanks for the head's up. I haven't been baking the past year, so it's been sitting unused. I don't know what I'd use instead. Honey is something my son can tolerate only in tiny, occasional amounts. Maple syrup has a distinct flavor, and the same limitations as honey. Sugar of any kind is out! He gets migraines from the slightest amount! Barley malt has a distincy flavor and the only organic brand in my area is Eden Foods, and I've had bad reactions from Eden products. So, .... I prefer natural and organic. Suggestions?
post #30 of 41

why is everybody putting "pasta" on their list!?  do you know how drop-dead easy it is to make - you don't need a fancy pasta machine, either.  i make it all the time!

things you do NOT need to buy:

pasta  (it's flour and egg, basically)

brown sugar (make it the same way the manufacturer does:  white sugar in food processor - hit the start button - drizzle in molasses until it's to your liking.  it used to be that brown sugar was less processed - not any more: it's cheaper to put molasses back into white than to divert from earlier in the manufacturing flow.  golden molasses makes light brown sugar but i like blackstrap for the demerara flavour)

vanilla extra (buy a small bottle of vodka - put 3-4 vanilla beans, split lengthwise, in and let it sit for 2 months, shaking daily)

baking powder:  http://frugalliving.about.com/od/condimentsandspices/r/Baking_Powder.htm  (bonus:  the DIY variety contains no aluminum sulphate)

cleaners (you can clean EVERYTHING using one or a combination of the following:  lemons or oranges, vinegar, the cheapest hair spray you can find, olive oil, dish soap, baking soda).  example:  when i work on the car, my hands come out *filthy* because the skin is quite calloused in areas so the grease and dirt really get ground in.  i come in the house and, in the palm of my hand, my hubbie or my daughter puts a pile (about 2tbsp) of baking soda, a quarter-sized blop of olive oil, and a dime-sized dollop of dish soap.  i scrub it all together and my hands rinse free of engine grease and grime and the skin is left feeling much softer.

depilatory - cook up your own body sugar using white sugar, lemon juice, and water.  use an old woven shirt or pillow case for the strips.

grow your own herbs, lettuce, tomatoes, and carrots right in the house.


make your own laundry soap (it's washing soda, borax, and a bar of soap) - works a treat on carpets but do not use in HE machines or septic systems (it builds up a crust from the borax)


use vinegar instead of buying descaler


cat litter - use softwood pellets to eliminate smell:  $6 lasts my two cats 6 wks.


and so on.

but i confess:  i spend like a madwoman on tea.  i have about 2doz varieties of tea upstairs right now, lol.

post #31 of 41

As far as sweeteners. I would go with fruit puree, molasses, or maybe stevia if you just want sweetness. Not sure about baking -- maybe rapadura?


Anyone have any luck making gluten free pasta?

Threenorns, why vodka for the vanilla extract? Is that what they use commercially? I have that stuff. My father died from cirrhosis of the liver, and his drink of choice was vodka.

post #32 of 41

vodka is flavourless, which is why it's used in home extracts.  if you used rum or whisky, you'd have rum-flavoured or whiskey-flavoured vanilla extract

post #33 of 41

I've tried making my own pasta (gluten free). It tasted like thick boiled flour. I'd rather just buy some or use zucchini or carrot strips as pasta.

post #34 of 41

I will never understand why people say vodka does not taste like anything. It tastes just like vodka to me. Perhaps this would be less true if I bought fancier vodka.


Lots and lots of excellent advice above, what I would add is that when you foresee lean times ahead, buying and preserving produce is the difference between a happy family who are getting all their nutrients and and a family of Irish Potato Famine re-enactors. Unless you have a garden currently producing, canned tomatoes cannot be overbought - chili, minestrone, marinara sauce, etc. etc. Frozen fruit can be blended with water, ice and powdered milk for a cheap shot of sweetness and vitamins. 


Daily bread (or biscuit, or cake) baking is a good way to reduce feelings of deprivation. Hard to feel stinted on food when heavenly aromas fill the house. So, flour. Lots and lot of flour :-)

post #35 of 41

I cannot have oats, corn, dairy, peanuts, nuts (I think; I'm reluctant to test further), gluten, coconut (for now, due to adrenal fatigue) and DD cannot have tomatoes so most of everyone's lists are no-no's for us. I also cannot tolerate high fiber and need to eat a lot of fat; I've had part of my large intestine removed due to issues with fiber. We keep:



olive oil

lard and tallow that I render

canned veggies

dried veggies

frozen veggies

root cellar veggies such as winter squashes, onions and carrots

canned fruit

dried fruit

frozen fruit

frozen meat

canned salmon, chicken, tuna, turkey

gluten-free pancake mixes that we use VERY infrequently

organic strawberry jelly from Costco


brown sugar (though I also have white sugar and molasses for after the brown sugar runs out)


Fresh items we need include eggs, apples/bananas and some veggies for DD because she doesn't like cooked veggies.


We are raising chickens and get about 4 eggs a week right now out of 4 hens. I'm planning to soon start some sprouts, lettuce and herbs indoors to see what I can grow fresh.

post #36 of 41

We are big meat eaters...  So I have an insane amount of that to keep me from feeling panicked about buying.  I buy a lot in bulk.  I generally have 25# of sugar and 100# of ww or spelt flour.  I have a canning pantry with jams and pickles and tomatoes.  Aside from that I stockpile Lundbergs wile rice blend, bulk dried mixed beans, olives, popcorn, cases of butter, potatoes, frozen broccoli peas and berries, frozen grated cheese.  This works for us pretty much.  This fall I bought a couple of cases of apples and pears- worked awesome so I didn't have to go to the grocery very often.  


Yesterday I finally made it to the grocery- it had been a month since I had last gone although only 2 weeks since my DH went.  He went without my list and spent tons but bought nothing for you know... making a meal?  So my fully stocked pantry system really was put to the test and worked super well...  I agree with Smithie- it is very hard to feel deprived with hot bread and butter and jam....

post #37 of 41

I would have dried beans, rice, oatmeal, flour, and sugar...all in bulk.  Over the holidays I would ask my friends/neighbors if I could have their ham bones from their holiday hams, then freeze them (some bbq restaurants sell ham bones for very little).  I like making a big pot of beans with a ham bones for flava...and I freeze extras in small portions (I don't cook with a ham bone very often, so its a real treat for us).  Cinnamon, real vanilla extract, salt and pepper....baking soda and aluminum free baking powder...all essential in my home.  I recently bought a jar of yeast for baking my own bread.  I really liked shopping at ethnic (Mexican in my area) grocery stores for fresh fruit and veggies...but now we live too far and the cost of gas doesn't offset any savings, so I just buy what's in season.  Regular grocery store items for us are unsalted butter (for baking), free range eggs, milk, organic lettuce, veggies and fruit, and frozen chicken tenderloins or fish.  We shop mostly at Trader Joe's, Sprouts, and Costco.  We do not buy paper towels or napkins, so we save a lot by using and washing cotton washcloths & cotton napkins.


Short of eating mung...I hope this helps some :)    btw: "Mung" is rice mixed with cans of mixed veggies or whatever you can find at the discount grocery store and any free condiments you can muster up.  I knew a guy who lived on $30 per month eating mung while in college.  He was seriously shell shocked when he and his fiance moved in together and she started buying regular groceries (gasp - fresh produce!).  But now he's a super healthy hippie now...it all worked out.

post #38 of 41
Originally Posted by EmsMom View Post

Flours, white and whole wheat (if I was gluten sensitive, i would probably skip all flours and just eat lots of potatoes and rice), white and brown rice, dried beans and lentils, popcorn, tuna and canned chicken, canned tomatoes, basil, oregano, thyme, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, Better than Bouillon vegetable stock.  Yeast to make bread.  cornmeal, oatmeal.  Salt, baking powder.  whole wheat pasta and egg noodles.  Produce -- potatoes, carrots, yams, onions and garlic, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage.  Other produce as I could get it cheap (either seasonal or from the marked down bins).  Apples, bananas, oranges or whatever fruit was in season and cheap.  Buy cheap in season and freeze or can!  Dairy: Cheese, milk (fresh and/or dry), eggs.  Fats: olive oil, non GMO oil -- I can live with canola but I usually buy sunflower and only use it in baked goods -- and butter.  Also, peanut butter


From those ingredients (although I am probably forgetting several) I can make daily bread, fancy breads like cinnamon bread for a treat, biscuits, popovers, muffins, tortillas, pancakes, cookies, cakes, waffles, quick breads like banana or apple bread.  I can make homemade pizza with homemade sauce, several different types of casseroles such as tuna noodle casserole, or chick pea noodle casserole which is the same but with chick peas.  Numerous kinds of soup: lentil, chicken, bean, vegetable noodle, potato chowder.  I can eat the fruit fresh or make apple butter or apple jam.  Milk can provide puddings, yogurt, an ingredient in baked goods and drunk fresh.  Condiments: sugar, maple syrup, ketchup and mustard. 


Both of my kids are vegetarian, although I am not.  I do buy chicken parts when they are on sale.  I recently actually saw some organic chicken legs on sale for .99 a lb, so I stocked up.  They can be cooked and used in stirfry, casserole, etc.  I just split up big packages and split them up in small packages for the freezer. 


Leftovers become lunch, snacks are popcorn, homemade cookies, bread with butter or jam or peanut butter, fruit.


This is pretty much how we eat.  It is easy to stock up on most of those things -- I always look for sales -- and then I can go for long periods without going into a store except for fresh produce and dairy, which also saves $$.   Even eggs and cheese can be stored for some time when they go on sale. 

My cheapo diet is totally from the 70s when I grew up, I am curious about what others do.  I know there are some fantastic ethnic dishes that use different seasonings.  I use them, but some of those seasonings are expensive and if I really had to stock the pantry from scratch I would only add them slowly. 


This is how we eat as well. thumb.gif

post #39 of 41
Originally Posted by worthy View Post

Or perhaps a "spend as little as humanly possible" or "pantry challenge all the time" food budget?


I'd first start by stocking my pantry with essentials to make the cheapest ingredients go the farthest.  So I'd want herbs, spices, condiments, oils, and other add-ins to make beans, lentils, rice, and other storage grains taste good.  I might also find certain dried or canned or frozen or root-cellared foods essential -- canned tomatoes, for example.


In your pantry, what are those seasonings and essentials, and why do you find them necessary?  What meals or recipes would you make (or DO you make) with them on a no-spend or similar budget?


I'm thinking specifically of dinners (with leftovers for lunches) but breakfasts and snacks are also important.  My go-to pantry breakfast is oatmeal with cinnamon (and possibly raisins) and snack is scratch popcorn. 


If you could stock your pantry with such frugal essentials now, knowing that your grocery budget would need to be as close to no-spend as possible for a number of months, what would you make sure you had in your pantry?


I don't quite understand your question here.. My head is a bit fuzzy tonight, so pardon my ignorance.. But are you asking for a comprehensive list of pantry essentials that would last for a number of months so that you'd never have to set foot in a store for that period of time..? Or is it what inexpensive foods you always keep in your pantry to keep your food budget as low as possible?


Because we are gluten free and I'm not a very good baker, we can't do a lot of inexpensive foods like homemade pizza, bread as a filler etc.. We rely heavily on rice and beans as inexpensive options.


I'm working on setting up my pantry so that we would have enough food for 1-2 months at a time. I'm trying to buy in advance and stock up only when the items are on sale, so it's proving to be a bit of a tedious process. Staples in our pantry for 2 months of no spend would be:

Tomato paste ~ 20 pint jars

Passata ~ 10 pint jars

Rice pasta ~ 20 bags

Canned tuna (both lemon pepper and springwater versions) ~ 100 3oz cans

Canned baked beans (gluten free and ingredients aren't too bad)

Pickled olives ~ 1-2 3qt mason jars filled (they are homemade)

Basmati rice ~ 20lbs

Quinoa flakes ~ 10lbs

Popcorn (raw, for popping) ~ 2lbs

Dried beans (mixed) ~ 8lbs

Pistachios, cashews, almonds, peanuts in shell, pepitas ~ 10lbs mixed

Peanut butter (smooth and crunchy) ~ 4 pint jars

Rice crackers

Lentils ~ 2lbs

Soup mix (dried) ~ 4lbs


Potatoes (yellow flesh, they don't seem to dissolve into the dish with extended cooking) ~ 2 large boxes

Sweet potatoes ~ 1 large box

Onions & Garlic ~ Heaps!

Olive oil


I don't really do many dried herbs and spices at all.. On the odd occasion I'll buy fresh chives or leek, parsley or mint. Garlic and onion do wonders for our dishes..


In freezer:


Sour cream

Frozen peas

Frozen mixed vegetables

Cheese (blocks)

Chicken drumsticks (many, many lbs worth)

Minced beef


In fridge:


Sour cream

Box of tomatoes ~ Can purchase a 20lb box for about $20

Box of lemons


With all of the above, I'd make a lot of soups (dried bean soup, chicken soup, lentil soup), rice pasta dishes (sour cream and chives, spag bolognese, vegetarian pasta etc), spuds (with butter, spicy minced beef, spring onion & cheese), minced beef with tomato & peas, baked chicken with vegetables, quinoa porridge with honey & nuts on top, nuts as a snack, tuna with onions, olive oil & lemon, pop corn as a snack, rice crackers and peanut butter as a snack, boiled rice on the side with many casserole dishes (that use dried beans), baked beans with grated cheese on top, beans with garlic, olive oil and lemon.. Those are the things I think off the top of my head. Hope it helps!

post #40 of 41

Do you have a Costco membership (or know someone who does)? 


I have found that the 8 lb pork loins at Costco are some of the most affordable ways to include a main meat course.  We are a family of 4 (2 adults, 2 preschoolers) and a 1 lb serving of pork loin with vegetable sides makes a meal for us (with some leftovers).  The last time I purchased a pork loin it was around $20.  I divided it up into 1 lb sections and froze them in gallon bags with different marinades.  This makes dinner for our family at a meat cost of around $2.50 a meal.


I have also purchased the ground beef trays at Costco to make burritos -- 6 lbs was around $16, I made refried beans from scratch in my slow cooker and purchased 36 tortillas (I overpaid -- I think I spent around $12) and used spices from my spice rack.  I made up and froze 36 burritos for slightly less than a $1 per serving.  One split in two feeds my daughters as a lunch or a dinner, one is sufficient for me and my husband will have 2.  Because they are already prepared and frozen in advance, we just microwave them up as "replacement" fast food.  Healthier and much cheaper than something like McDonalds -- which cost us about $25 dollars for our family last time we went through the drive through. 


The recipes for the pork loin and burritos that I use are from "Fix, Freeze, Feast" -- you might want to check that out or some other Once A Month Cooking resources as buying in bulk is cheaper and you can freeze ahead.

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