The Frugal Pantry: Top 10 Staples

I don’t eat meat, and I’m a cheapskate.

You might assume I’m malnourished and bitter.

Wrong and wrong.

I am fat and happy, thank you very much!
I keep my pantry stocked with non-perishable ingredients year-round, and supplement them with fresh seasonal vegetables. Right now, for example, I’ve got fresh native corn and broccoli (6 ears and 2 big bunches for three dollars and change) from the farm-stand, and a bounty of crunchy green beans that I picked from my friend’s mom’s garden.

I eat very well, thank you… and don’t spend a lot of money doing it.

Here’s my list of Frugal Pantry Staples.


1. Canned tomatoes

12-ounce can, Great Value (Wal*Mart) brand: 48 cents

Several varieties: regular, “petite-cut” (less chunky), Italian (with onion, garlic, oregano), and even “Chili Ready” (thick and spicy, with onions and peppers).

I will not purchase jarred pasta sauce. First of all, it’s ridiculously expensive. Secondly, I always end up needing to doctor it anyway, because it’s usually too bland and sweet.

I can make my own sauce with one can of tomatoes, one can of tomato sauce (#2, below), some spices, and a little simmering love. And let me add that I am a total unrepentant snob when it comes to Italian food. So you can trust me on this.


2. Canned tomato sauce

8-ounce can, Great Value (Wal*Mart) brand: 25 cents

I usually get the “no salt added” variety, so I can control the saltiness.

I also use this for pizza sauce, when I make home-made pizza. I try to avoid heating up the kitchen too much in the summer, but in the wintertime, I’m Pizza Chef at least once a week. Fresh dough from scratch and everything. šŸ™‚


3. Whole grain brown rice

2-pound bag, Carolina brand: $2.50

I was raised on Minute Rice, and can’t believe my bowels still work after all those years of eating that pasty junk!


4. Dried black beans

1-pound bag, Goya brand: 99 cents

Protein and fiber, yay! Great in salads, soups, casseroles, recipes, etc.

5. Dried red lentils

1 pound in bulk: $ 1.65

More protein and fiber! Great in soups, curries, veggie burgers, casseroles, etc. in.


6. TVP (Textured Vegetable Protein), granular

1 pound bag (dry, bulk): $2.65 and up (price varies wildly)

TVP, made from soy, with roughly the same texture as ground beef. It’s approximately the same stuff as Morningstar Farms Recipe Crumbles (12-ounce bag for $4.69), but you need to re-hydrate it with water or broth. One pound of dry TVP is equivalent to about 3.5 pounds of ground beef. It goes far!

It’s a great super-lowfat, no-cholesterol vegetarian source of protein, and the basis of many of my favorite meals: stuffed peppers, mock chikkin (sic) salad, veggie burgers, veggie meetballs (sic), veggie meetloaf (sic), stews, casseroles… really anything you might otherwise make with ground beef.



6. TVP (Textured Vegetable Protein), chunk-style

12-ounce bag , NOW brand: $2.19

Same stuff as #5 above, but in bigger bite-site chunks. I throw them into my tomato sauce for a hearty chikkin cacciatore-style sauce over pasta. Adds a protein kick to your pasta meal.


8. Pasta

1-pound box, Great Value (Wal*Mart) brand: 97 cents

Linguini, spaghetti, fettuccini, ziti, penne, etc. Don’t forget good old macaroni– Elbows are great for mac & cheese and other casseroles. Rotini is perfect for cold pasta salads.


9. Cheap basic spices

3.12-ounce bottle, 5th Season brand: 50 cents

Garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, crushed red pepper, cinnamon, etc.

Spices are criminally over-priced anyway– this isn’t the 13th century and Marco Polo is not personally fetching spices from the Far East on our behalf– and these are perfectly fine!


10. Balsamic vinegar

12-ounce bottle, Progresso brand: $2.69

Why buy expensive bottled vinaigrette? Olive oil, balsamic vinegar, some spices, and a touch of grated parmesan cheese makes for a fantastic salad dressing!





Note: Prices may not be accurate, as I’m doing this from memory.


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Filed under budget, cooking, food, frugal, groceries, saving, shopping, vegan, vegetarian

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