Keeping these items in my pantry make meals easy to put together and less stress on my budget.
I try to keep a variety of dried pasta shapes on hand, but in a pinch every pasta shape will work no matter what you put with it. While some of the more expensive pastas will have a better flavor, even the cheap boxes are worth trying out. I also keep some cheese stuffed tortellini in the freezer (talk about an easy mac & cheese) but there are other types there in addition to the ready to cook, rather than dried, versions.
Think mac & cheese, baked casseroles, soups, pasta and sauce, salads.
Bread, Tortillas or Buns
As a rule, I don’t tend to keep a lot of bread on hand because I can bake it myself when I take the urge. That being said, I do keep bagels for breakfast and I do enjoy tortillas every once in a while.
A grilled cheese or quesadilla takes less than 10 minutes to make, and are both quite versatile for whatever ingredients you already have.
Tortillas can also be turned into wraps, burritos, enchiladas, or even breakfast tacos.
Buns can be used to for sandwiches, hamburgers or even garlic bread in a pinch.
Rice is just as versatile as pasta, and can be used to make stir fry, burrito bowls, casseroles, soups, or as an easy side dish.
I love to have it with chicken as a simple meal.
I used to buy pretty much anything organic and at a reasonable price. However, I recently tried Raos and now it is the only brand I buy. To be clear, I’ve never eaten pasta sauce from a jar before I tried the Raos. Now, I have to remind myself that the sauce it to go on the meal first. LOL!
You can use pasta sauce not only to make spaghetti or lasagna, but also as a pizza sauce or a dipping sauce for breaded mozzarella cheese.
Ground beef – good for a variety of meals from hamburgers to soups, to casseroles.
Chicken – Plain chicken pieces can be cooked for a variety of meals.
Breaded Chicken – These make a great quick meal along with a salad or rice. Find a brand you like and keep it in stock.
Tater Tots – I use these in a variety of ways. As a replacement for prepared hash browns they are a quick and easy substitute. You can either bake them as is or put them in a large skillet with a little bit of oil and break them down as you cook them. Tots are great accompaniments to burgers, too.
Pasta – Stuffed ravioli, tortellini or shells make a great meal that is easy to prepare, you simply boil the pasta, drain and add sauce. Viola!
Frozen Fruits and Vegetables – Packed at the peak of their freshness, frozen veg is a quick, easy and cost efficient alternative to canned. Easy to use, easy to store, these items can be part of a great meal.
Eggs are flexible and easy on the budget. They can be used in a variety of meals, as part of salads, alongside breakfast meats or in baking.
I always have cheese on hand. I buy a variety so I can use them in different ways and, when necessary, a variety of cheeses makes an amazing Clean Out The Fridge Mac & Cheese.
Don’t forget to pick up some soft cheese to spread on crackers.
Mix and Match
You can mix and match pretty much all of these items to make some great meals without having to have a lot of items on hand.
That being said, adding fresh fruits and potatoes or onions to your pantry, trying different things like couscous or grains will stretch your meal options even further.