Ever wonder how our ancestors always seemed to have food on the table even in lean times? When we are visiting the grocery store every week to the tune of hundreds of dollars, we long to know their secret. In fact it isn’t a secret at all. It is actually good planning and preparation on their part. Once we realize this and begin doing as they did, we too will see our dollar stretch further.
The items that we have on hand are what determine how far our food will go. Filling your cabinets or pantry with a few useful and inexpensive staples can be the difference between a trip to the grocery store each and every week versus once or twice a month. Stocking just a few choice items is all you need to create wonderful meals.
1. Flour. Flour is a starter item for many recipes. You can add it to some water and make gravy in the pan for meat dishes. Flour is used to make bread (biscuits, rolls, loaves) and to coat chicken. It can also be used to coat a round or square cake pan to prevent the cake from sticking. Of course, the best use for flour is cookies and scrumptious desserts.
2. Rice. We go through a lot of rice, so much that in college we’d buy a fifty pound bag each pay period. Fifty pounds! But we knew we’d at least have something to eat until that next check hit our account. See, planning ahead for the lean times 😉 Rice is a side dish, but it doesn’t have to be plain. It can be jazzed up with veggies to accompany dinner. My mother uses leftover rice for a dessert called sweet rice. Just add evaporated milk and some sugar to a bowl of rice and warm it in the microwave. It is a tasty treat for after dinner. Another popular dessert is rice pudding. Rice can also be mixed with leftover meat and a cream soup to form a casserole. Rice has many uses and your sure to find a few that your family will love.
3. Pasta. There are many different pasta choices and all have great uses. Manicotti can be stuffed with cheeses and covered in tomato sauce. Macaroni can be used to make a creamy salad and also is great combined with cheese or meat sauce. Spiral pasta is used in many different pasta salads. Spaghetti can be used in a casserole topped with cheese or in the traditional way with tomato sauce and meat.
4. Spices. There are other ways to season food besides salt and pepper. In fact, many spices taste better than salt. Even diehard salt-a-holics won’t miss the salt in foods if other seasonings are used. Cayenne pepper, chili powder, nutmeg, cinnamon, oregano, and garlic powder are all useful tools in your flavor arsenal to give foods a fresh new taste. I love using ginger, curry and my new addiction of toasted cumin. I have a tiny food processor and will toast whole spices for a couple of minutes, then grind them myself. It’s very quick, the flavor is much more intense in recipes and it makes the house smell WONDERFUL!
5. Beans. There go those beans again. Beans can top your salad (edamame), make an awesome hummus (garbanzo), and goes well with grilled foods (baked beans). They provide a good source of protein with very little fat. Beans are good in soups, stews, and over rice for a simple yet filling meal. During the summer I love to make a corn and black bean salsa that can be put on burgers, over grilled chicken or top a salad.
You can probably think of several more that will enhance your pantry and save money. Start with these and grow your own list of basic kitchen staples that are versatile and economical. What other items are a staple in your kitchen?
Never worry about what's for dinner again. I've got you covered with the meal plans in the Once a Week Cooking Club. Cook once, eat all week.
Please be aware that some links used are to affiliates. They are almost always to products I use and love.