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

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#31 of 41 Old 10-16-2012, 02:27 PM
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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.

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#32 of 41 Old 10-17-2012, 11:48 AM
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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

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#33 of 41 Old 01-01-2013, 12:57 PM
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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.



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#34 of 41 Old 01-01-2013, 01:43 PM
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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 :-)

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#35 of 41 Old 01-06-2013, 07:26 AM
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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.

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#36 of 41 Old 01-06-2013, 01:28 PM
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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....

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#37 of 41 Old 01-07-2013, 06:46 PM
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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.

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#38 of 41 Old 01-13-2013, 06:39 PM
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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

There are three things I learned about life. It goes on. -Longfellow


stillheart.gifRIP DH DJ Delicious but mucho gracias for our children and all I have learnedstillheart.gif

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#39 of 41 Old 01-14-2013, 04:25 AM
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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!

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#40 of 41 Old 01-14-2013, 06:42 AM
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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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#41 of 41 Old 01-20-2013, 06:49 PM
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Ooo good post!


We do:



garlic powder

minced onion



red pepper flakes

salt and pepper

25lb bag flour

25 lb bag sugar

crisco (yes really)

olive oil


rice (we aren't big on rice though)

canned fruits and veggies


honey (especially in winter)


cocoa powder

tomato sauce

tomato soup

vinegar by the gallon

baking soda by the gallon bag

giant baking powder container


chocolate chips

tortillas (something I should keep more often because I forget how great an addition they can be to certain meals)

ginger has been a recent addition too



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