Stock Up on These Cheap Pantry Staples


Bronze Wordsmith
May 17, 2018
Food is the fuel that keeps a household running smoothly. To keep every member of our family happy, my wife and I usually prepare a weekly menu and meal plan ahead of schedule. But with two kids to raise and multiple bills to pay, putting enough food on the table can be a bit challenging. Food is a non-negotiable, of course. We can do without many things, except food. (Although my kids would make a good argument for their PlayStation!)

We learned how to scrimp and save on food without sacrificing quality. Ironically, scrimping actually resulted in better food for my family! Because we scrimped, we became more mindful of the quality of food we were buying. A 50 cent can of tomato juice is pretty suspicious, so I always end up reading the nutritional info and ingredients first.

In this article, I’ll be giving you my list of cheap pantry must-haves. But before that, I need to give you some tips on how to save money for food.


How to Save Money on Food

Before I show you my pantry staples on a budget, I’ll show you some basic food-savings methods. Some of these might be a little difficult to do, but the end results will more than make up for the challenges!


Cook from Scratch

Cooking from scratch is one of the best money-saving techniques I can think of — so much so that I could end the article right here. But that wouldn’t be very fun, now would it? ?

Premade food usually comes at a premium. You may think you’re saving on time, but I don’t think the time savings make-up for the money savings. Personally, I prefer putting in the time if it means I save money in the bank.

Plus, pre-made and processed food usually comes packed with preservatives and additives, and are high in fat and sodium and sugar. I know childhood obesity is a problem, so consider the time you put into cooking meals from scratch an investment in your family’s long-term health. It’ll be worth it.

The truth is, cooking from scratch on a budget isn’t very difficult. I know it’s tough to cook everything from scratch, especially if you have tons of other chores and responsibilities to attend to. It’ll take some getting used to, but when you get the hang of it, it’s like second nature.

When Possible, Buy in Bulk

Food is cheaper when bought in larger packs. So instead of buying a candy bar for the kids, I would get a large pack. Same goes for size — instead of getting a small bag of coffee, I would get a larger jar. This is a great money-saving method, even if you have a small family. Some of the common products you find at groceries have pretty long shelf lives. So try to buy in bulk when possible.

How to Stock a Pantry on a Budget

Okay, now it’s time to give you my list of cheap pantry staples (which I also refer to as “frugal pantry staples”). These items are essential components of a frugal pantry.

If you notice many of these cheap staple foods can be mixed and matched – they’re almost modular! This is by design. Since I have so little time to cook, I try to go for ingredients that can be mixed and matched easily.


And here’s my list:


Eggs are a staple food in our home. They can be prepared in many different ways, can be mixed with other foods like soup, and go well with meats like hamburgers and bacon. If you want to get fancy, you can make huevos rancheros or shakshuka, which are really easy to do.


My kids love spinach! I know you weren’t expecting to hear that, but my kids love it – and so can yours. We “trained” them to like spinach by making fried spinach chips. It’s easy – simply dip whole spinach leaves in the batter (or even just beaten eggs) and fry. Once they begin to have a taste for it, you can start mixing spinach in omelets and soups.


Mushrooms are so versatile. They go well with stews, in omelettes, in burgers, in soups… there’s so much you can do with mushrooms. Plus, they’re really filling!


Broccoli gets a bad rap on TV and movies for being the veggie kids love to hate. But Broccoli is also easy to integrate into the menu. Once kids get over the "eeew veggies" attitude, broccoli is actually quite good. It has a nice crunch to it, and it goes well with other heart recipes, like stews and roast meats.


Okay, this was a little hard to get my kids to eat. But I remembered something my grandma used to do: she would chop up celery and put it in spaghetti. That’s how I learned to appreciate celery. I did the same for my kids, and now they’re bonkers over celery!

Peanut Butter

Peanut butter makes for a great sandwich spread, but it’s also a great dip. If your kids are averse towards celery, they can try dipping it in peanut butter (trust me, it tastes wonderful). Peanut butter also gives a great boost of energy.

Cream Cheese

Cream cheese is another versatile ingredient. We get so much use out of this – it’s great for making scrambled eggs even creamier, it’s great in sandwiches, it’s great on pancakes, and it’s a necessary ingredient for cheesecake. And cream cheese tastes good, of course – I once caught my son scooping cream cheese straight into his mouth. At least he wasn’t dipping his spoon back into the tub!


It’s easy to miss the bouillons in the grocery – they usually come in the form of tiny cubes, are always beneath the spices. But bouillon packs a big punch in the kitchen. They are great for making soups. They usually come in beef, pork, and shrimp varieties, so you can add ingredients easily – just toss in the appropriate meat, some veggies, a bit of cornstarch to thicken it if you want, and boom – a quick soup that your family will surely love.

Pork Rinds

If you can find these (try looking for Chicharrónes in Mexican groceries), pork rinds are awesome snacks. They’re delicious and extremely filling. Plus, they’re low-carb, so your kids won’t get a sugar rush after eating it.


Bacon is the most revered food in my household! I actually forego grocery brands and get the artisanal variety. The cost is higher, but it has less fat, meaning less shrinkage when you fry it. Plus, my local bacon guy puts less sugar and no preservatives in his bacon, making it healthier.

Frozen burgers

Yes, frozen burgers are premade. I’ll be including a few premade foods in this list. I know I suggested against them, but there are a few exceptions – burgers being one of them. I did the math, and frozen burgers are actually cheaper than ones made from scratch.


In a list of versatile foods, pasta is the most versatile of all. It’s so easy to make all sorts of dishes with pasta, not just spaghetti. You can add cream for a pseudo-carbonara (make sure to add lots of bacon!), or use it for a chicken noodle soup (just add some of the bouillions you bought).
Last edited: