Budget-Friendly Foods: 4 Must-Haves for the Pantry

by in Healthy Recipes, March 2, 2010


The grocery bill probably seems like it goes up every week. Before you hit the store again, plan to make the most of the healthy ingredients you’ve got on hand. These four pantry staples are easy to use and super affordable (especially when you buy them in bulk).

Dried Beans
Dried beans are more affordable than canned ones, and they’ll keep in the pantry for years. Cooking dried beans does require a little extra planning — so check the package directions and set aside some time. Use them to add protein and iron to salads, salads, tacos or rice and beans. Here’s more on why we think beans are a legume to love.
RECIPE: Black Bean Salad

There’s no better way to feed a crowd than pasta. Versatile and easy to prepare, this Rachael Ray recipe has a nutrient-packed, bonus pantry ingredient — canned pumpkin! Whole-grain pasta is a little more expensive, but since the extra fiber fills you up, you’ll eat less. Before you shop, check out our recent whole-grain pasta taste test results.
RECIPE: Penne-Wise Pumpkin Pasta

Corn Flakes
They’re not just for breakfast! Whole-grain corn flakes (yes, corn is actually a whole grain) can make a crunchy coating for chicken, fish and veggies — a better solution to all the fat of frying. Keep them on hand to jazz up your favorite dishes.
RECIPE: Crispy Chicken Fingers

Canned tuna is one of the most affordable ways to get omega-3 fats from seafood. Whip up a lighter tuna salad sandwich or add some tuna to pasta for a five-ingredient fix or the retro classic, tuna casserole.
Homestyle Tuna Casserole

TELL US: What are your budget-friendly pantry staples?

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Comments (19)

  1. I get organic oats from the bulk bins which never go bad and are super cheap, especially on sale. That and peanut butter makes for a satisfying breakfast.
    Beans are very hard work to cook with from their dry state, but the one time I did they were sooooo worth it

  2. I forgot to mention how I cooked the beans. I let them sit in water overnight. Then the next day I simmered them with salt, pepper, 2 bay leaves, and a yellow onion quartered for 2 hours.

  3. julo says:

    My pantry is never without beans (canned and dried, at least cannellini and black beans), quinoa, oats and lentils. Also, nuts! I always have at least almonds and pecans, but I try to keep around pistachios, walnuts, and peanuts as well.

    For pasta I have one package of whole wheat, one package of brown rice, and one package of soba noodles. Whatever I'm making, usually one of those fits the bill.

    I always have a can or two of tuna, but what I really make sure to keep stocked is sardines. They are so great on a piece of toast with some mashed avocado (yes, I got it from Alton Brown, the man is a genius!), but I also like just mashing them with some avocado and salsa or hot sauce and eating them with blue corn tortilla chips. Delicious! It's like my tuna replacement.

  4. Vivi says:

    how are corn flakes a "healthy ingredient"? It doesn't have much nutritional value… just look at the nutrition facts on the box.

  5. sally says:

    They put corn flakes as a healthy ingredient because you can use them as a replacement for frying. It gives the same texture as frying but… without frying. I think that was the point. But corn flakes aren't really UNHEALTHY as opposed to some cheap food items. They aren't the best thing to eat, but you could do a lot worse. It's just a blog, okay. It's not the Bible.

  6. Jakob says:

    Nice Post..The raw food craze has taken off, as raw restaurants spring up and celebrities, models, and other fans tout the effects of eating raw. However, many people who are intrigued by raw food simply don’t know how to make the transition from what they’re eating now, or how to achieve the benefits of eating raw without giving up their lifestyle or the foods they love.

  7. yvette says:

    I completely agree with the other comments on purchasing from bulk bins. Its SO much more economical AND you can get a lot of organic foods as well.

    I keep a a stock of all types of Eden canned beans in my pantry (BPA-free), Quinoa, tons of raw nuts, lentils are great to add to soups, stews, barley, rice or to make a quick Dal. Lately I've been loving some of Trader Joe's prepared vacuum-packed wild rice combinations.

    As for the corn flakes, you can get 'healther' version of them. I crush them and bake chicken fingers with them instead of frying for a crunch. They're also great mixed with a little coconut.

  8. Janet says:

    Corn Flakes! They feed corn to pigs to make them fat, it's very high on the glycemic index, skip it whenever possible.

  9. Denise says:

    Yams are $. 49/lb and so is green cabbage. Both last a long time and are versatile for quick and fresh meals.

  10. smaragda says:

    If you add salt to the beans at the begining, they will get hard. Add the salt when they are almost cooked and they will cook faster.

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