stock your kitchen

The excuse I hear most often as to why my friends do not cook for themselves or why they think it would too expensive to cook for themselves is because they don’t have a properly stocked kitchen. I decided to put together a list of basics that I think every kitchen should have to get them through the most basic recipes. Sure, there will be ingredients in every recipe that you need to buy fresh but these are the items that you can buy once or buy once in a great while and use over and over and over again. Remember, the cost of these items are often one-time costs or once-a-year (or longer) costs.

Spices and Seasonings

With all of the cooking I do, these bottles of herbs and spices often last me over a year. Because the cost is so small and hard to calculate, you will often see me list these ingredients in recipes as costing $0.05 per recipe or $0.10 per recipe for more expensive herbs and spices. NOTE: these prices are for “brand” products. if you can find generic, the cost will be even lower.

salt $0.36 26 oz.
fresh pepper grinder (mini) $2.22 .85 oz.
seasoning salt (like tony chachere’s ) $1.32 8 oz.
dried basil $1.94 .62 oz.
dried oregano $1.62 .75 oz.
red pepper flakes $2.68 2.62 oz.
cumin $2.62 2 oz.
total $14.4 7 items

Pantry Basics

These dry items can be kept for a very long time if sealed air tight to keep out moisture and critters.

sugar $1.12 20 oz.
all-purpose flour $1.50 2 lbs.
olive oil $6.28 25.5 oz.
balsamic vinegar $1.58 8 oz.
non-stick spray $1.74 8 oz.
bread crumbs $0.98 15 oz.
long grain rice $1.46 2 lb.
brown rice $1.56 2 lb.
total $16.50 8 items

Fresh/Refrigerated Items

Although these items are fresh and do not last forever like the other kitchen basics, I keep them at all times because they are so widely used in my every day cooking that I use them up before they go bad.

milk $2.33 .5 gal
eggs $1.88 1 doz (12 ea)
salsa $1.98 26 oz.
shredded cheese $1.78 8 oz.
total $9.09 4 items

Appliances and Utensils

measuring cups $2.74 set of 4
measuring spoons $1.64 set of 5
cutting board $9.98 8×10 inches
plastic food storage containers $10.00 24 pc. set
total $24.36 4 (27, technically) items

A Kitchen Stocked with the Basics – $64.35

If you are on “super tight budget lock down” then don’t worry! You don’t need to buy all of these things at once! This is just a guide for those of you who don’t know where to begin or are overwhelmed with the thought of getting everything you need to start cooking for yourself. Once again, this list is not everything that you will need to cook every recipe but it is a great start!

What else is on my personal “must have” grocery list? Well let’s see…

Bananas: I eat them in my cereal, in yogurt parfaits or as a carry along snack.

Yogurt: a healthier alternative to the usual sweet tooth fix and also makes a great parfait for breakfast.

Coffee: I gotta have my morning cup a joe. So warm and satisfying!

Canned Beans: If I’m really in a pinch for time or money, I just open a can, pour it over some rice, add some salsa and cheese and I’m good to go. This is my emergency meal.

Dry pasta, jar of pasta sauce: another emergency meal, great to keep on hand (they last forever).

A $10 bottle of wine: just in case you have “one of those days” or an unexpected dinner guest!

What are your kitchen basics? What food, ingredient, gadget or appliance can you not live without? Post your answers and share with us all!



  1. Susan says:

    Check out your local food co-op or health food store. Many of them sell herbs and spices and other basics in bulk. You can buy as much or as little as you need. This includes rice, oils, PB, soy sauce, syrup, honey, dry fruit, cereals, beans, etc..

  2. Shanna M says:

    Garlic. I have a garlic keeper next to my stove, and I usually have one to two heads that keep for quite awhile. And I swear I use it in everything!

  3. Kelly says:

    I’ve used the “Better then Bouillion” before, but found it to very expensive. I found and LOVE a recipe for a homemade vegetable bouillion that I basically only have to make twice a year and you store and keep it in the freezer. Highly recommend that one, if anyone interested. You just need a food processor.

  4. Catherine says:

    Ah I wish I lived in USA sometimes, I just bought my basics spices and most of the pantry items you have on here, I got the cheapest products and it still cost me almost $70. I had to go to all the markets to find the Better than bouillon broths and the Sriracha, and only one market here sells those. But now I can try your recipes =D can’t wait to start cooking

  5. Johnna says:

    Like other commenters, I’d add tomato paste and canned diced tomatoes to the list.

    And, Better Than Bouillon Vegetable base for broth!

  6. Karen says:

    Mini tortillas! (fajita size) I’ve found these are awesome as an alternative to sandwiches, and you can do so many things with them, including putting butter, cinnamon and sugar inside and frying them..mmm, mmm good!

  7. I recently bought a multi-function rice cooker and it’s my new bff! I can even slow cook in it!!! Love the blog, great ideas and recipes.

  8. Amanda says:

    I’m not sure where you live, but in general your prices are way cheaper then mine. Mostly the meat! I would love for my meat in canada to cost like yours or have the sales!

  9. Megan says:

    I have more spices than necessary since I like to make my own mixes. But in addition to what you’ve mentioned, garlic is a staple I always have fresh and on hand. I have to ask though, with your mention of Tony Chachere’s would you happen to be from or familiar with the Louisiana area? I’m a New Orleans girl who, regardless of where I’ve lived in the States or Europe, always packed a can of Tony’s with me…

    • Although I’m not originally from Louisiana, I do live in NOLA now :) Spent about 10 years in Baton Rouge, then finally moved here a few years ago! Yay!

  10. We always keep Better than Bouillon on hand. It makes everything broth or water-based taste better!

  11. We always keep Better than Buillon in the fridge. It makes everything broth or water-based taste better.

  12. Anonymous says:

    I always have a bag of frozen shrimp on hand. They defrost quickly, are a good source of protein, and can easily accommodate any serving size since you only defrost as many as you need. If I buy a bag of large frozen shrimp for $13 at Publix it will make three meals for my husband and I — which is about $2 per serving. Pair it with some instant brown rice and a frozen vegetable and it’s a really inexpensive and easy meal that is much healthier than fast food.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Just found your blog and as a newbie cook, really appreciate this list! Heartening to know I already have most of these items, too. Thanks!

  14. Trace says:

    Great list. One thing that I might suggest for people cooking on a budget is to check out local Asian and Latin grocery stores. I find great deals on dried goods and amazing deals on big bags of whole spices. My kitchen stays stocked, and it’s handy to have good quantities of things that won’t go bad.

  15. I would also like to suggest that new cooks learn to make their own seasoning mixes. For example, we like Mexican food at my house. But I make my own taco seasoning mix. Easy, cheap, and you know what is in it. Also, I hate cream of ____ soup in a can but I love the comfort foods which call for them. So, I make cream soup mix, too. Fresh salad dressings are so much better than the bottled kind. Plus, you control the ingredients there as well.

  16. I went to the Ikea store and found a LOAD of inexpensive kitchen utensils as well as a really good 5.00 wok. Don’t let the idea that IKEA is a name brand scare you off, they have GREAT BARGAINS. And the walk through the store will give you lots of great exercise too

  17. Anonymous says:

    One of my favorite herbs is cilantro. It can be expensive and spoil fast from store. I found that growing my own in a patio container is very inexpensive, fresher, tastier and satisfying. I just let 1 of the plants go to seed, collect the seeds, and keep replanting them alongside the other cilantro plants. Cilantro likes to be planted tight together, cool weather and is versatile. There are pintrest sites on growing own herbs. Nice thing about them is the like neglect, no fertilizer, and (if collect seeds) are continuous!

  18. Anonymous says:

    Wow, good luck finding eggs for that cheap in Australia (at least where I am anyway). I pay $5 – $7 for a dozen free range eggs. Same with the rest of the pantry basics and some of the other stuff. The cost of living is so expensive where I am :(

  19. When I was first setting up a kitchen, we bought one spice every time we went to the grocery store. That spread the cost out, because spices can be very expensive.

    Kitchen utensils were all used. In fact, I still have that first garage sale hand mixer 26 years later.

Speak Your Mind