Simple And Fresh: My Pantry Staples
Open my pantry, and you will always find these ten ingredients in my kitchen. They are practical, healthy, easy to work with, and delicious.
Use this list the next time you go to the grocery store. Keep these ingredients in your kitchen. You can always use them to create versatile, quick, and nutritious snacks or meals!
I went to three different local stores to cost compare this list. My advice: skip the savings store and go straight to the traditional grocer. The traditional grocer in Scottsdale had much better options for a comparable price. The organic options were cheaper there, too.
Estimated Savings Store Cost: $58.00
Estimated Traditional Grocer Cost: $65.00
Estimated Specialty Store Cost: $100.00
1) When available, choose organic. If the store does not provide organic choices, go with the next best alternative. Organic is affordable. The nutritional value found in the food keeps you satiated longer. You will buy and consume less food throughout the week. There is not much of a price difference between organic and regular. The exception is when you are purchasing meat. And the long-term health benefits are undeniable.
2) Quality matters. When you have a choice, go for the better brands. It changes the level of flavor and quality in your dishes. Additionally, the better your ingredients, the less salt you need to use.
And with that, here are my ten kitchen staples!
- Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts
- Bagged Spinach or Mixed Greens
- Canned San Marzano or Stewed Tomatoes
- Ezekiel Bread
- Red Quinoa or Brown Rice
- Dijon Mustard
Item 1: Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts
Chicken Breast is the most versatile protein to work with. Whether you’re an amateur cook or a professional chef, you can use chicken as a base. It can be made into scrumptiously simple or creatively complex meals. It’s tasty dressed up or down and palatable hot or cold.
Savings Store: $5.35/lb
Traditional Grocer: $5.49/lb
Where to find it: Meat department in the poultry section, usually next to the pork.
Tips and Tricks: You are paying extra for the convenience of a Boneless Chicken Breast, and that’s okay. Your time is worth more than the savings you get from de-boning the chicken yourself. If you’re looking for extra savings, check out big box stores. You can buy in bulk vacuum sealed bags and freeze for later.
Item 2: Onions
Onion enhances any and every dish by adding a mild flavor and subtle bite. Choose a red or sweet onion. They taste great raw in salads, grilled on skewers, or caramelized. Or, use it as an aromatic to give your dish some extra flavor.
Savings Store: $0.98/lb.
Traditional Grocer: $1.49/lb.
Where to find it: Produce Section in the back middle by the potatoes.
Tips and Tricks: Look for firm onions that are free of cuts and blemishes. Onion harvest happens locally in one season and internationally during another. You can always find a good deal.
Item 3: Avocado
Avocado is an on-trend superfood. Its texture is creamy, buttery, and smooth, making it the perfect base for dips and spreads. Use it to top your salads or open-faced sandwiches. As one of the fattiest plant foods in existence, you will reap the heart-healthy benefits. It also helps to stay satiated longer, and get your needed fiber and potassium.
Savings Store: $1.95/Each
Traditional Grocer: $1.67/Each
Where to find it: Produce Section by the tomatoes usually in the front center or displayed at the front of the store.
Tips and Tricks: Gently squeeze the avocado in your hand. If it gives to gentle pressure, then it is ready to eat that night. If it does not give to pressure, it will be ripe in a couple days. Select both ready to eat avocados and avocados that will be ripe in a couple days. Pass on the avocados that feel mushy, because they are over-ripe, and will not last. If you want to ripen an avocado, place it in a paper bag with a banana. Avocado harvest is January – October, so you will get the best deal on them during this season.
Item 4: Bagged Spinach or Mixed Greens
Greens are an important part of your diet, necessary for fiber intake and nutrients. Great for maintaining radiant skin and luscious hair. Pick up pre-bagged spinach which tastes great raw in a salad or cooked on the side. A bag of spinach or mixed greens works well as a bed for any protein or to top any sandwich.
Savings Store: $4.48/10 oz.
Traditional Grocer: $5.99/10 oz.
Specialty: $6.99/10 oz.
Where to find it: Produce Section near the end and off to the side.
Tips and Tricks: As soon as you cut into a head of greens, it will start to go bad. Keep your produce longer by opting for pre-bagged & cut lettuce over raw heads. Keep the bag in a produce drawer to maintain freshness longer.
Item 5: Lemons
The acidic compounds in lemons provide optimal flavor for sweet and savory dishes. The fruit is citrusy, mild and sweet. Squeeze it for a juice, use the rind for zest, or chop and skewer it on the grill. It works as a base for dressings or marinades. The shelf life makes it perfect for the pantry.
Savings Store: $0.50/each
Specialty: $5.99/32 Count
Where to find it: Produce Section back center near the onions
Tips and Tricks: You want to take home a lemon with bright yellow and smooth skin. Lemon harvest is between February and September. The best-tasting lemons are harvested between May and October. You will find the best quality and deals when you buy in summer and fall.
Item 6: Garlic
Like onions, garlic enhances any and every dish! Don’t have a spice rack? Use garlic as a substitute. You’ll save on space without losing any of that great flavor.
Savings Store: $0.60/each
Specialty Store: $2.08/Each
Where to find it: Produce Section in the back center by the onions, shallots, and potatoes.
Tips and Tricks: Select garlic heads that feel heavy for their size and have dry layers. Pass on garlic with soft spots or sprouting. Sprouting is a sign of garlic gone bad and can be poisonous. When stored properly, the garlic will keep up to a month at home. If you must choose between garlic or onions, exchange both for shallots.
Item 7: Canned San Marzano or Stewed Tomatoes
Although fresh tomatoes are ideal, always make sure to have a can of San Marzano in the pantry. The flavor grows over time and will stay better longer. Store it for the days you forget the fresh tomatoes on your list. Use it in pasta, over chicken or in any kind of stew.
Savings Store: $3.48/Can
Where to find it: San Marzano Tomatoes will be in the Italian isle of the store, typically on the bottom shelf. You can also find stewed tomatoes in the canned vegetable aisle or by the spaghetti sauce.
Tips and Tricks: Brand matters when it comes to canned tomatoes. Opt for most recognizable brands or Italian imports. Many stores run promotions on branded products, which helps with the cost.
Item 8: Ezekiel Bread
This rich and complex bread has a sturdy consistency that ups the flavor and texture of any simple dish. It is bread high in protein without the enriched flour. You will stay fuller longer as your body digests the sprouted grains. Perfect for those with diabetes or monitoring insulin.
Savings Store: Not Available
Traditional Grocer: $4.99/Loaf
Specialty Store: $4.79/Loaf
Where to find it: Freezer section in the health food aisle.
Tips and Tricks: We recommend buying the brand Food for Life. In our research, it’s the only brand of sprouted grain bread that follows the recipe found in Ezekiel 4:9.
Item 9: Red Quinoa or Brown Rice
Red quinoa and brown rice are nutrient dense grains. They are slow to digest and the optimal complex carbohydrate for your pantry. The quinoa is high in iron and a great source of vegan protein. Both have a long shelf life, and wok in salads, as a side starch or to create vegetarian patties. The heavier density will keep you full longer.
Savings Store: $3.92/Quinoa
Traditional Grocer: $4.49/Quinoa or $3.99/Brown Rice
Specialty: $6.99/Quinoa or $3.99/Brown Rice
Where to find it: Quinoa is near the specialty rice, legumes or other grains. Some stores keep it in the gluten-free section of your grocery store. Brown Rice is in the grain or bulk aisle, which is usually by produce.
Tips and Tricks: Re-bag the quinoa or brown rice at home in a sealed plastic bag or airtight container.
Item 10: Dijon Mustard
Dijon Mustard is the perfect all-in-one condiment. It works as an emulsifier, condiment or for a marinade. Choose a Dijon mustard which has a stronger and sharper taste than other yellow mustard.
Savings Store: $1.76/8 oz
Traditional Grocer: $1.59/12 oz
Specialty: $1.99/8 oz
Where to find it: Look in the condiment section by the other mustard and mayonnaise. Sometimes, it’s by the jars with jalapeños, pickles or relishes. Some brands may be in the Deli section of the store.
Tips and Tricks: Store in your pantry until opening it. Once opened, preserve it in the refrigerator.
Every kitchen needs Kosher Salt, Fresh Ground Black Pepper, and Extra Virgin Olive Oil! Be sure to stock up on these extras if you don’t already have them at home!
Item 11: Kosher Salt & Fresh Ground Black Pepper
Salt and pepper are essential to the flavor in any dish. The salt releases moisture, enhances the flavor, and is crucial for health. Go with the kosher salt, because it has no chemicals. And don’t forget the pepper! Fresh Ground Pepper is the most versatile spice. Although there is no distinct flavor, it gives every dish a good depth.
Savings Store: $6.42
Traditional Grocer: $5.88
Where to Find It: They are both in the spice aisle next to each other.
Tips and Tricks: Don’t let salt scare you. Sodium is essential to your health. Salt all your food to taste. Chances are, you ingest more sodium eating out then when you cook at home. If you are concerned about your salt intake, consider purchasing higher quality ingredients. The better quality your food, the less salt you need.
Item 12: Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Extra Virgin Olive Oil has a distinct flavor and taste that refines your dishes. The health benefits are incredible, too. Its high burn temperature gives you more versatility in the kitchen.
Savings Store: $9.44
Traditional Grocer: $9.79
Where to Find It: Located in the spice aisle near the vinegar, spices, Crisco, or pre-made salad dressings
Tips and Tricks: There are differences between northern and southern Italian olive oil. Choose a southern Italian olive oil for that superior taste.
Now that you have these items in your cart, it’s time to get creative! Mix and match these ingredients for quick dinners at home. Check out my easy pantry staple recipes.