Pantry Stocking for Frugal Living, Part Four

Here's the fourth letter in the series:

This is going to be a long one (probably the longest). I'll try to remember to break it up into categories. The main reason this section is so important is because it will fill your baking needs, and also will help you to avoid appetite fatigue.

Appetite fatigue is where a person is so tired of eating the same thing all the time they would rather not eat at all. It not uncommon in serious, long-lasting emergency situations for people to choose to die rather than to eat Beans. One. More. Day. (or whatever it is they're eating constantly) While I know you are not living in that kind of extreme poverty, it's still something you want to keep in mind when you're figuring out how to stock your kitchen. If you're not feeling appetite fatigue eating at home, you'll keep eating at home instead of eating out and spending tons of money that way. Keeping you out of restaurants is the only reason I mention appetite fatigue. :)

Anyway, just get this stuff as you can. Don't try to rush through it. You'll be able to tell what's the most important.


Spices really are great. You can take the exact same food and make myriad different creations simply by varying the types of spices you use. Some basic spices (all of these are dried, many of them can be gotten for 50 cents per bottle in dollar and ethnic stores) that should be in every pantry are as follows. A lot of the time, for spices that are spices and not dried herbs, I go to Central Market or Whole Foods because I'd rather spend 23 cents on an appropriate amount than 8 dollars on a bottle. I'm making the assumption you don't own a mortar and pestle, so I'm not going to tell you to buy whole spices and grind them yourself, although it's cheaper to do it that way a lot of the time.

Tarragon (this is always a little pricier, but worth it)
Celery Salt
Seasoned Salt (Lowry's, McCormicks, Tony Cacheret's - whatever you like)
Lemon Pepper
Salt (buy a box of kosher salt, and a tub of regular salt)
Pepper, white and/or black
Dried mustard powder
Fennel seeds (whole, not ground)
Curry Powder
Parsley flakes
Chili Powder
Onion Powder or salt (I prefer powder)
Garlic powder or salt (again, I prefer powder)
Dried chile flakes (red pepper flakes)
Dill weed
Lavender (buy these in the bulk section only or they'll cost a fortune)
Wasabi powder (optional)
Italian Spices
Bay Leaf
Large container dried, chopped onion (1/4 cup of this is equal to a freshly cut onion)
Vanilla Extract
Dried Chives
Beef bouillon (you can get cubes, but I find that the Knorr powder is a better value)
Chicken bouillon
Tomato bouillon
Dried mushroom slices (asian market only)

With these staples herbs and spices, you can make nearly anything. Specialised spices, and more exotic ones can be gotten periodically as you have a little extra cash.

Other Pantry Goods (mostly for baking):

Dried buttermilk powder (store in fridge)
Dried egg whites (expensive, but good to keep on hand for baking. Not a necessity, though)
Baking Powder
Baking Soda
Cocoa powder
Dried whole milk (Nido brand; get it at Fiesta - this is great for baking also)
Assortment of dried fruits (for snacking, cooking and baking)
Powdered sugar
White sugar
Brown sugar
Dried coconut
Unflavoured gelatin

Canned foods: (cheapest possible)

Canned tomato sauce (lots, and lots, and lots - buy 2 dollars worth of the cheapest 8 ounce cans, and 2 dollars worth of the 15 ounce cans. This *should* give you 8-10 small cans and 4 large ones)
Canned whole peeled tomatoes - buy 2 15 ounce cans and 1 28 ounce can
Tomato paste - 1 6-ounce can and 1 tube of paste (you rarely need a whole 6 ounce can)
Dice, crushed, stewed tomatoes - 2 of each
Canned potatoes - 2 cans each: diced, sliced, whole
Canned corn - 2-6 cans, depending on how much you like corn
Canned black olives - you can put these in your magic food blender to add a subtle component to sauces and such
Canned mushrooms - couple of them
Coconut milk - 2 small cans and 1 large
Artichoke hearts - 1-2 cans
Artichoke crowns (if you see it, get it. If not, don't sweat it. I have a good appetiser recipe w/ the canned salmon that uses these. Don't buy these until you have a bit of extra cash, though) - 1 can
2 cans generic chicken stock (for when you're out of homemade)
2 cans generic beef stock
2 cans cream of celery or mushroom, for casseroles
1 can soup you like, as a treat
2-4 cans of canned fruit you like
1-2 cans of beans for times you can't emotionally handle cooking beans from dry

Bottled Goods:

1 large jar white vinegar
1 small container cider vinegar
red and white wine vinegar (optional)
peanut butter - always keep this in the house
an assortment of jams, jellies and preserves (these are good for toast, sandwiches, sauces, ice cream toppings, to make jelly cookies and all sorts of other things)
corn syrup (at least light; dark if you want it)
1 jar active dry yeast (1 package is 2 1/4 teaspoons; it's cheaper to have a jar)
soy sauce
hot sauce
lemon juice
assorted mustard
ketchup if you like it
anchovy paste
vegetable oil (most important)
sesame oil
olive oil
maple syrup (this is a splurge item for me; I always buy real syrup)

Other fridge Fridge Staples:

Medium eggs (use these for hard boiled eggs)
Large eggs (for baking and cooking)
Club soda (to make your own soft drinks)
Parmesan cheese (get the cheap stuff)

Ok, so you obviously are not going to get all this stuff at one time. This is a fairly comprehensive list of stuff you should always have on hand to be able to make a large variety of foods. This really does seem like a lot, but you'd be surprised by not only how little space it takes up, but by how diverse and long lasting it is.

Next message will be on produce, and then there'll be one on some tips and secrets for having "processed foods" that you made yourself. Also, if there's something on these lists that all you can think is "Oh, that's disgusting" (except the anchovy paste; get that anyway. It's in a lot of stuff you wouldn't expect), don't buy it. The goal is to get you eating at home. Not to drive you away from your kitchen and into the restaurants.




  1. I'm still all ears/eyes. This is really helpful.

  2. Mary,

    I'm really glad. I never know what is old news to people, and what is helpful. Thanks!


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Bergamot Marmalade

Bergamot Curd

Yogurt and Labneh