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I try to live a frugal and budget-friendly life, so keeping a well-stocked kitchen with versatile, flavorful, & simple ingredients is a natural habit that I have picked up. I also do not enjoy going grocery shopping all the time, so keeping important, useful food on hand is a MUST! Seriously, we only do actual grocery trips once or twice a month in this household.
This is not an exhaustive list of things I keep in the kitchen, only the ones I try to ALWAYS have in stock because they can be used for so many different flavors, themes, and recipes. Whether I have several meals planned out or need to whip up something quickly, I find I am always using these ingredients.
All of these items are budget-friendly, add great flavor, and can be used with so many types of food! As a bonus I am including what kitchen equipment I think are a MUST, too!
- Rice Cooker
- Medium/Large skillet with tall sides
A rice cooker saves so much time and headaches in the kitchen. All you have to do is pop in the rice and water & let the machine do its thing while you take care of more important matters. I feel the same about a crockpot; I can throw my ingredients into it in the morning or early afternoon then dinner is ready when I get home from work. Lastly, I think a medium or large sized skillet with tall sides is a great multi-purpose tool in the kitchen whether it’s for a one pan meal, frying, or sauteing.
- Pasta (spaghetti, shells, etc)
I always keep some form of these two on hand because they are a cheap item, can make a meal filling, & are very versatile.
- Black beans
- Tomato Paste
- Pasta Sauce
- Chicken Broth
All of the above are budget friendly and can be stored for a relatively long time. Black beans are an easy protein to add to a meal while canned tomatoes & tomato paste can be used when you don’t have fresh tomatoes in the refrigerator or need to make your own sauce. When it comes to pasta sauce, I like to have spaghetti & alfredo in the pantry, just because it offers me two different flavors to throw on some pasta when I need a quick meal. Also, the chicken broth is vital for adding flavor to almost any dish.
These are the two frozen veggies I buy any time I go grocery shopping. I have found broccoli is so easy to add to almost any kind of meal when you need to up your vegetable intake. Seriously, I add it Asian-style dishes, crockpot meals, & pasta! When it comes to cauliflower, I keep it because it is another vegetable that can be added to almost any meal and it is a great alternative ingredient for typically potato or wheat-based items like hash browns or pizza crust.
- Whole Wheat Bread
- Shredded Cheese
- Boneless, Skinless Chicken
- Ground Turkey
When it comes to meats, I try to buy lean proteins when they are on sale, then portion and freeze for future use. Eggs are good for adding to recipes or being a lone protein while onions add amazing flavor to any dish.
- Olive Oil
- Soy Sauce
- Hot Sauce
- Balsamic Vinegar
- Garlic Powder
- Onion Powder
- Sea Salt
- Ground Black Pepper
- Italian Seasoning
- Chili Powder
- Mrs. Dash
- Red Pepper Flakes
- Panko Crumbs
Okay, so we have come to my biggest list – the seasonings! I am obviously a big believer in full flavor. Most seasonings do not add calories (yay!) and can take a BLAH meal to something mouth watering. Although I have (possibly) too many herbs, spices, & mixes in my kitchen, I find these are the core of what I use.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but I think it a great base of what to keep in your kitchen so you’re always prepared for the next meal or inspired recipe! If you have an ingredient that you think is a must in the kitchen that is not listed here, let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear what is vital to your cooking!