One thing I have gotten really good at through the years is finding ways to make meals when we are at the end of our budget. A lot of people in the debt-free community choose to focus on the “beans and rice” meals but the truth is, while beans and rice may be affordable, it’s nutrient lacking and a highly carb loaded meal. No, I’m not going to go into the giant carb debate but for myself personally, I have found that I function a lot better with a mixture of carbs, greens, proteins, and fats. However, there are 5 pantry must-haves to make healthy, frugal meals for your family. Let’s dive into what those 5 affordable pantry must-haves are and I’ll give you some ideas on how they can help you stretch your budget.
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Oats are one of my favorite ways to bulk up meals for cheap! If you are not gluten-free, you can buy 2 40oz bags of Quaker Oats from Walmart for around $7! If you are gluten-free, (like many members of our family) you can buy a 52oz bag of gluten-free oats for right around $7 as well!
I am a big fan of using oats to meal-prep breakfasts for the entire month in one sitting! My personal favorite recipe to use is gluten-free oat waffles from COOKIE + Kate.
Try to come up with toppings or additions to your breakfast oat creations. Things like a few heated up frozen berries, some peanut butter, or both!
Rice goes an extremely long way when it comes to planning out frugal meals that last. Not only is it a staple food of some of the healthiest nations, like Japan. Rice is also great for digestion, keeps you full, and has a kind of superpower when it comes to making meals last way longer.
The best part about rice is you don’t need much of it to help bulk-up a meal which means it will last in your pantry a lot longer!
To save yourself even more time, you can buy a 20oz bag of Minute rice from Walmart for $4! Honestly, I used to be one of those moms who made everything from scratch and spent hours in the kitchen. Now that life has gotten busier, I have learned to be okay with faster cooking foods like Minute rice. It takes less time to cook and let’s face it, it’s a better option than Mac n Cheese.
Fiber is one of the best healthy pantry must-haves because it’s good for your digestion and helps fill you up in the process. Plus, at $5 for 8 cans, you can’t beat the price either!
You can definitely save money by buying beans or lentils dried, but the cooking process is much longer and honestly, I don’t feel like I’ve ever “nailed it.” Although I will admit, lentils are much easier than beans.
When you are working to create a healthy pantry, it is crucial that you stock up on quality seasonings and get the hang of using them. The more you can avoid pre-packaged seasonings with preservatives, the better.
Start with basic seasonings like lemon pepper or chicken rub and eventually work your way to understand how to create your own combinations.
Some great seasoning combos:
Nothing helps in a pinch like all the work rolled into one jar. It’s always a good idea to stock up on pasta sauces that you see whenever they are on sale. The best part is (that most people don’t think about) is that you can really use pasta sauce on more than just…well…pasta.
When it comes to making your food last throughout the month, I have a few bonus tips besides these 5 pantry must-haves.
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When you struggle to walk up and down the isles without over-doing it on your budget, then maybe it would be a more budget-friendly idea to avoid the store altogether.