Living on a budget and eating healthy is tough, especially with a family. Check out these 5 healthy pantry must-haves to help you stretch your budget.

5 Healthy Pantry Must-Haves to Help You Stretch Your Food Budget

Over the years, I’ve become adept at whipping up meals even when our budget is tight. While many in the debt-free community advocate for “beans and rice” meals, I’ve discovered that while affordable, such meals lack nutrients and tend to be carb-heavy. Personally, I’ve found that incorporating a mix of carbs, greens, proteins, and fats works best for me. However, there are five pantry staples essential for crafting healthy yet frugal meals for your family. Let’s explore these affordable pantry must-haves and how they can help you make the most of your budget.

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Pre-plan your meals

Before delving into my favorite pantry staples, I want to introduce you to The $5 Meal Plan if you haven’t already heard of it! For just $5 a month, you’ll receive budget-friendly recipes and grocery lists delivered straight to your inbox!

This service can be invaluable, especially if meal prepping isn’t your forte! If the idea of having everything planned out for you within a reasonable budget appeals to you, start your 14-day free trial here!

Healthy Pantry Must-Haves

Oats

Oats are a fantastic way to bulk up meals affordably! If you’re not gluten-free, Walmart offers 2 40oz bags of Quaker Oats for around $7. For those requiring gluten-free options, a 52oz bag of gluten-free oats is available for roughly the same price.

I love using oats to prepare breakfasts for the entire month in one go! One of my favorite recipes is gluten-free oat waffles from COOKIE + Kate.

Extra Tips for Oats: Experiment with toppings or additions for your breakfast oat creations, such as heated frozen berries or peanut butter.

Here is a step by step guide to making easy oatmeal in 2 minutes. This is a healthy, one bowl, microwavable oatmeal recipe you'll love!

Rice

Rice is incredibly versatile and stretches meals significantly. It’s a staple food in some of the healthiest nations like Japan, known for aiding digestion and keeping you full.

The beauty of rice lies in its ability to bulk up meals with minimal quantities, ensuring it lasts longer in your pantry!

To save time, consider purchasing a 20oz bag of Minute rice from Walmart for $4! While I used to spend hours in the kitchen making everything from scratch, the convenience of Minute rice has become a lifesaver amidst a busy schedule. It cooks quickly and is a healthier alternative to Mac n Cheese.

Easy Rice Meal Ideas:

  • Taco night: Skip the shells and create taco bowls instead!
  • Teriyaki chicken: Combine chicken breasts with frozen broccoli and teriyaki sauce.
  • Soup filler: Add cooked rice to leftover chicken or vegetable soup to make it more filling.
  • Leftover patties: Mix chicken scraps, carrots, egg, Panko, and rice to create “leftover patties.”

More Recipe Ideas:

Canned Beans and Lentils

Beans and lentils are rich in fiber, aiding digestion and satiety. At $5 for 8 cans, they’re incredibly budget-friendly!

While dried beans or lentils may save money, their longer cooking process can be cumbersome. Personally, I find lentils easier to work with than beans.

Ways to Use Beans:

  • Substitute for meat in recipes.
  • Add to soups, stews, and chilis.
  • Combine with taco meat for added volume.
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Seasonings

Stocking up on quality seasonings is crucial for creating a healthy pantry. Avoiding pre-packaged seasonings with preservatives is ideal.

Start with basic seasonings like lemon pepper or chicken rub and experiment with creating your own combinations over time.

Bonus Tips to Stretch Your Budget:

  • Utilize discounts and coupons through apps like Ibotta to save on planned purchases.
  • Shop in bulk, especially for families, as it often offers better value for money.
  • Opt for frozen fruits and vegetables, which are both longer-lasting and often more affordable than fresh produce.
  • Stretch meats by using smaller portions in meals like stir-fries.
  • Embrace healthy fats like avocado, coconut cream, and healthy oils to increase satiety.

Get a Customized Meal Plan

For those who struggle with meal planning, consider trying out the $5 Meal Plan. They offer customized healthy meal plans for your family on a budget!

So if meal planning and grocery lists aren’t your forte, click here to get 2 weeks of free meal plans!

Avoid the Store

If resisting temptation while shopping in-store is challenging, consider alternatives like:

  • Instacart: Get groceries delivered from Walmart and Aldi.
  • Shipt: Have your favorite Target foods packaged and ready for pickup.
  • Gobble: Receive healthy, pre-prepped meals delivered to your door, requiring minimal cooking.

By incorporating these pantry must-haves and budget-stretching tips, you can enjoy nutritious meals without breaking the bank.

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