Entertainment, Health and Lifestyle

Stock the Pantry to Save Money

Just in case you haven’t been paying close attention to what’s going on with the cost of food, the average cost of ground beef in the U.S. has hit once again hit an all-time high — $4.78 a pound. I believe it, and not only beef. It is shocking how grocery prices are going up, which understandably is behind the soaring cost of restaurant food.

The way to fight back is two-fold: 1). Buy groceries when they’re on sale and 2) Eat at home. Sounds so easy, doesn’t it? Well, it can be if you make sure your kitchen pantry is well-stocked. It’s annoying and expensive to not have basic items on hand. You don’t have what you need and don’t have time to go get it, which means of course you’ll just have to go out for dinner. Again.

Taking the time and effort to make sure you have the following handy items in your pantry will save a lot of money, provided you pick these items up as they go on sale. Think of this as a project.

Evaporated milk. I basically detest the stuff because I had to drink it as a kid. But used in cooking and baking, evaporated milk is fabulous! Keeping a few cans in your pantry ensures you’ll always have milk on hand when the recipe calls for it.

Dry buttermilk. This is amazing. You can find it the baking aisle as “Cultured Buttermilk Blend.” I can’t tell you how many times buttermilk as an ingredient in something has thrown me to the wolves. Who keeps buttermilk on hand? And when you need only a small amount, then what to do with the rest of it? This dry option is the answer. I keep it in the freezer and it lasts indefinitely. And I find myself reaching for it quite often.

Canned tuna. Always have a few cans of white albacore on hand. A good tuna sandwich is hard to beat, which makes it a great fallback. Mix with onions, garlic, beaten egg and breadcrumbs to make tuna “meatballs.”

Tomato sauce. Turn it into pizza sauce, spaghetti sauce. Add it to soup. Many quick and easy casseroles call for tomato sauce. If you have a few small cans as well as regular size, you won’t waste a bunch when a recipe calls for just a small amount of tomato sauce

Frozen peas. Possibly my favorite thing to keep on hand, frozen peas kinda’ fix anything. Add peas to any pasta dish, stew or salad and you’re adding nutrition as well as visual appeal.

Shredded cheese. You’ll save money if you bulk cheese and shred it yourself. But if you are not prone to do that ahead, buy it that way. You’ll recoup the cost the first time you opt to fix a quick meal of chips and cheese (one minute in the microwave should do it). And you’ll be good to go for a quick macaroni and cheese, too. And for pizza topping or to garnish chili.

Frozen chopped onions. Yes you can chop it yourself, if you happen to have an onion on hand. And you don’t have to buy them chopped. You can do this ahead and just keep a bag in the freezer. However you do it, having this on hand is such a great idea. You’ll see.

Bouillon. I think you need chicken, vegetable and beef. It comes granulated, cubed or as a very thick, concentrated base you keep in the refrigerator labeled “Better Than Bouillon.” I prefer the latter, but any bouillon will get you out of a jam when you don’t have chicken stock or beef broth on hand. Or a recipe calls for bouillon. Or you just want a nice hot cup of chicken broth. It’s easy to use, simple to store.

Chicken broth. Keeping a few cans on hand is a smart idea. Again, you can make it yourself, but will you? Canned broth or stock is an ingredient you will appreciate having on hand for bases, sauces, gravies and soups.

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Mary Hunt

Mary invites you to visit her at EverydayCheapskate.com, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at https://www.everydaycheapskate.com/contact/, "Ask Mary." Tips can be submitted at tips.everydaycheapskate.com/ . This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of EverydayCheapskate.com, a frugal living blog, and the author of the book "Debt-Proof Living."

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