10 frugal grocery and pantry items to always have on hand

10 Frugal Grocery Items You Should Always Have on Hand

October 2, 2015 in Sensible Living

One of the hardest things about feeding a family is actually being able to afford to shop. Some families are able to shop frequently, as needed, but for many other families grocery shopping is a once in a while event. If your family is like that, or, if you need to budget your grocery bill, you can help yourself by keeping a few simple staples on hand.

It is really easy to stretch your food supplies when things get tight.  The 10 frugal grocery items you should always have on hand, are cheap, filling and will help you build nutritious meals to feed your entire family.  Some of these items can be bought in bulk which will further any savings but, sometimes you can’t afford to and that’s okay.  These grocery staples will get you through.

Rice – Rice is very affordable and the amount of recipes that you can make with it is endless. You can use it for everything from a side to part of a main dish, so making sure you always have at least one pound on hand (preferably more) If stored properly, rice will last a long time. I like to cook a pot of rice and use it as a side dish one day. The next day I’ll take any left over meat or a can of tuna and what ever vegetables I have on hand and do a fried rice main dish. If there are any left overs, we take the fried rice for lunch the next day. Or, sometimes we have to save it for dinner the next night.  In a bind, you can get 3 days out of one pot of rice and will help you make sure you can feed your family on a budget.

Pasta – Pasta is another frugal way to feed your family when money is tight. You can use pasta the same ways you would use rice in a plethora of dishes. At around $1.00 per pound without coupons, you can easily stock up as pasta can be stored for a long time.  Pasta is mainly used in lunch and dinner dishes.  Add a pound of ground beef and some pasta sauce and you’ve got a filling, hearty meal for your family.  Adding some finely chopped seasonal or inexpensive vegetables and seasoning like carrots, celery, mushrooms, onion and garlic and you’ve got dinner for the family for under $7. Double batching can allow for left overs to be used for lunch or dinner the next day.

Flour – Flour can be used to make crusts, thicken soups, stews, or sauces, make bread and more. Since it’s so cheap to pick up a 5 lb bag, make sure you always have it on hand.  In my families favorite home made stew (if I don’t have many, or any potatoes on hand) I can add some dumpling balls that not only help thicken up the stew, but help make it a more hearty stew and fill everyone’s belly!  Making your own bread isn’t as hard as it seems. There are many beginner tutorials out there that will have you making fresh bread for the family with minimal time and effort. Much less cheaper than the grocery stores!

Sugar – While sugar isn’t a main recipe ingredient, and you really don’t even need it, it is used in an awful lot of foods and drinks. Whether you use a sugar substitute or just plain old white sugar, it’s cheap enough to have on hand at all times.  It also gives flavour and caloric energy when things are tight.  It can even make cheap foods more palatable.

Pasta Sauce – Pasta sauce, especially canned pasta sauce can usually be found for under $1.00. Make sure you keep plenty of it on hand! Buy it on sale and use coupons if you can, because with the right seasonings, you can make it taste just like homemade! Pasta sauce can be used not only in pasta dishes, but it also makes a frugal tomato soup in a pinch.  You can make chili, and vegetarian dishes, stretch other stews, soups and sauces.

Eggs – While eggs can go up and down in price, they generally tend to be pretty frugal and the meal possibilities are infinite. Eggs are a main staple in thousands of recipes and are perfect for breakfast and lunch.  In fact, eggs are used in so many ways that if you need to make them a main meal, it’s a snap to do! We do it often! Eggs are our top protein of choice. We usually buy 2 cartons. One carton is boiled right away. Having boiled eggs on the ready is a frugal way to always make sure there is a filling nutritious snack choice on hand for the family. They can also glam up a boring salad or make a sandwich adding essential protein to your diet.

Tuna – Tuna is so frugal and can be made into many different meals. From sandwiches to classic Tuna noodle casserole, make sure that you keep a few cans on hand! You can find all sorts of canned meats on sale and when you do, you should stock up! Tuna is by far one of the cheaper canned meats on the market. Add a can of tuna to some eggs in the morning, make a few sandwiches for lunch, or add it to some rice, pasta or beans and make it a meal.

Tortillas – Tortillas aren’t just for tacos! Keep a package or two on hand and use them to make wraps, salads and more! They are cheap and freeze well if needed.

Beans – When money is tight, it can be hard to feed your family the amount of meat they need to get the protein their body needs. Beans are incredibly cheap and can help fill that protein need! Stock a few pounds in case you need to use them! Dried beans give you more bang for the buck.  All it takes is letting them soak over night to be ready for boiling. Adding beans to rice and pasta dishes gives an added boost Protein, Fiber and Carbohydrates. A half cup of cooked dry beans contains approximately 115 calories and provides 8 grams of cheap protein pound for pound. Beans are also full of macro-nutrients, vitamins and minerals which are essential in maintaining nutrition when things are tight.

Yeast – While yeast isn’t a “regular food”, it does have an incredibly long shelf life when stored right and in the event you needed to stop buying bread, you would be able to make your own. Store it in the fridge if possible for long term use.

Lastly, when you are buying any foods in bulk or stocking up, always remember the “FIFO” rule. First in, First out. That will ensure minimal food waste.  Make sure your items that expire the soonest are always at the front and that you follow the proper recommendations for long or medium-term food storage.

Buying vegetables and fruits on last day of sale at the grocery store is a good way to add inexpensive fresh nutrition to the meals you serve your family. It’s important to try and have fresh, frozen or canned vegetables with at least two meals a day.


Do you have any Frugal Grocery Item must haves not listed above?

I’d love to know!

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  • Reply aliyadaya January 11, 2016 at 9:31 pm

    Great list. Pretty much anything on the list can be converted into a meal.

  • Reply NPC October 5, 2015 at 10:50 am

    This is a perfect list. It’s so true, I ran out of flower and I needed it to thicken a sauce. It’s a must in our home.

    • Reply admin October 6, 2015 at 2:55 pm

      You’ll have to make sure you always have some on hand 😉

  • Reply Sabrina @ Dinner, then Dessert October 4, 2015 at 6:02 am

    We always have a variety of fresh fruit on hand! It’s so delicious and healthy that my kids gobble it all down!

    • Reply admin October 4, 2015 at 2:47 pm

      In season fruit is the best! We like to preserve it so we can enjoy it throughout the year 🙂

  • Reply Ann Bacciaglia October 3, 2015 at 12:31 pm

    These are all great items to have in your kitchen. I always have rice and eggs in my house.

    • Reply admin October 3, 2015 at 3:15 pm

      We do too! I wish I could have a chicken coop just to off set our egg consumption lol

  • Reply gingermommyrants October 3, 2015 at 12:29 pm

    Rice is something i always have on hand. There are so many great recipes i can whip up with it. These are all great staples to have on hand.

    • Reply admin October 3, 2015 at 3:14 pm

      Rice is our main staple to have on hand. I buy a large bag when it goes on sale. It keeps so well and can be used in so many different recipes 🙂

  • Reply Scarlet of Family Focus Blog October 3, 2015 at 12:28 pm

    Yeast was an unexpected one for me. But you are right it is a great way to save money by making your own bread.

    • Reply admin October 3, 2015 at 3:13 pm

      Many people forget about yeast, but in a bind.. you can have breads and rolls to help get you through to your next shop 🙂

  • Reply Ourfamilyworld October 3, 2015 at 12:03 pm

    Yup, these are the stuff that I always make sure we have at home. Cheese is also important.

    • Reply admin October 3, 2015 at 3:06 pm

      We love cheese! I wish I knew how to make my own we go through so much

  • Reply Jeanine October 3, 2015 at 9:35 am

    This is great! I usually have all these on hand, but I think it would be a good idea to have some extras of each.. Just in case!

    • Reply admin October 3, 2015 at 3:05 pm

      For sure! Always have extras of these items.. just.. in.. case 🙂

  • Reply Mama to 5 BLessings October 3, 2015 at 8:49 am

    I totally agree! We are a family of 7 and we go through bread fast! Definitely keeping yeast on hand is a must for when you run out of bread!

    • Reply admin October 3, 2015 at 3:05 pm

      WOW! That’s a large family! Not sure if it’s worth the time for you to bake so much, but good to have on hand if you need to!

  • Reply dawn October 3, 2015 at 6:57 am

    i have always been such an egg girl. i think i loved them prepared in always…so i def keep those and cheese in the house at all times.

    • Reply admin October 3, 2015 at 3:04 pm

      We love our eggs too, and cheese.. mmmm cheese!

  • Reply jenniferjuro October 2, 2015 at 11:34 pm

    Love this list!! These are all my frugal must haves plus shortening, I always keep a couple cans on hand.

    • Reply admin October 3, 2015 at 3:03 pm

      Shortening can certainly come in handy too 🙂

  • Reply Krystal's Kitsch October 2, 2015 at 11:34 pm

    We always have pasta for sure in our pantry, but I forget to get sauce! Thanks for the tips!

    • Reply admin October 3, 2015 at 3:03 pm

      Can’t forget the sauce!

  • Reply Nolie October 2, 2015 at 11:12 pm

    We always have rice and pasta on hand. Not only are they budget friendly but great go to staples for a quick meal.

    • Reply admin October 3, 2015 at 3:02 pm

      Exactly Nolie! Very budget friendly and make filling, quick meals!

  • Reply Liz Mays October 2, 2015 at 11:07 pm

    These are definitely some good ones. I like to keep a steady supply of ingredients but I totally forgot about yeast!

    • Reply admin October 3, 2015 at 3:02 pm

      Yeast is good to have on hand if you need to make your own bread 🙂

  • Reply Jeanette October 2, 2015 at 11:03 pm

    I agree I have most of these things in my pantry! I use flour for a lot of things including pizza crust.

    • Reply admin October 3, 2015 at 3:01 pm

      Homemade pizza saves so much money! You can make a bunch and freeze them 🙂

  • Reply Kelly Hutchinson October 2, 2015 at 9:39 pm

    We have everything o your list in our fridge or panty. We just made a casserole with leftover canned goods!

    • Reply admin October 3, 2015 at 3:00 pm

      Good for you!! I love a good casserole!

  • Reply Amber Edwards October 2, 2015 at 9:34 pm

    That is an awesome list! We try to have almost all of that on hand at all times. Although I’d also say to add in salt. 🙂

    • Reply admin October 3, 2015 at 3:00 pm

      For sure! Salt is good to have on hand at all times!

  • Reply kraushousemom October 2, 2015 at 9:27 pm

    I always keep chicken breasts in the freezer as well, I can make so much with them. The only thing I don’t have in my pantry is the yeast (bad experience with it once).

    • Reply admin October 2, 2015 at 9:34 pm

      Chicken breasts are so versatile! Very expensive where I live, when they go on sale, I stock up just for that reason! I made a family friendly Caribbean curry chicken with them yesterday, the recipe will be up on Monday. I’d love for you to check it out 🙂

  • Reply Stacie October 2, 2015 at 9:21 pm

    I always have olive oil in the house. You never know when you will need to use it.

    • Reply admin October 2, 2015 at 9:26 pm

      It’s good for so many things! We use it daily 🙂

  • Reply Marcie W. October 2, 2015 at 9:20 pm

    These are all great suggestions! We do a lot of cooking from scratch so most of the items you mentioned are absolutely essential.

    • Reply admin October 2, 2015 at 9:27 pm

      That’s the best way to save money Marcie! When you have the staples on hand it makes it so much easier 🙂

  • Reply Sandy, October 2, 2015 at 9:12 pm

    Wait a sec…correction…the eggs are in my fridge, lol

    • Reply admin October 2, 2015 at 9:21 pm

      lol…yes, eggs definitely do better in the fridge! lol

  • Reply Sandy, October 2, 2015 at 9:11 pm

    Happy to report I have all of these items in my pantry…except the beans. They were eaten last week, lol. Great post and love your new site!

    • Reply admin October 2, 2015 at 9:20 pm

      You are on top of the game for sure Sandy! We eat so many beans, I buy dried, in bulk! Thank you for your comment about the new site 🙂 I’m so glad you like it!

  • Reply admin October 2, 2015 at 8:30 pm

    just testing to see

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