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.

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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.

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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. 🙂

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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!

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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.

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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.

TVP<— TVP

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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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