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!

 

66 Comments

  1. As I was reading one of your recipes, I thought to myself “Beth needs a kitchen stock list.” Then I went up top and saw that you were ahead of the game.

    I personally would take off the food storage containers because I reuse containers that food comes in like large yogurt, sliced meat, cream cheese, that kind of thing. It’s better for the environment and your pocketbook!

    I can live without the oil spray and two types of rice, but I cannot live without butter, potatoes, onions, garlic, and bell pepper. That’s all I can think of for now. Cheers!

  2. A good chef’s knife should be at the top of the list. Everyone needs a knife if they want to cut those potatoes, peppers, onions, and meat. “Block” knife sets dull quickly and become dangerous. So, invest in just one good chef’s knife. If you go to an actual knife shop (not department stores), you can find a good starter chef’s knife for as low as $20. The better ones, of course, go well over a hundred, but a good starter knife will do in this case. Just stay away from the blocks.

  3. good call! yes, a good knife is SO important. speaking of, i desperately need to invest in one.

  4. Anonymous says:

    What about pots and pans or a wok with it’s multifunctionality? If this is for a starter, isn’t the necessary heating utensils necessary? For a family who eat rice constantly a rice steamer is a necessity. But for a single new to cooking, it also allows you to focus on other food items without having to check on the rice. Which is better; a toaster or a toaster oven? A toaster if you have access to an oven and a toaster oven if you don’t? I know some people are living off of an electrical hot plate–the wok would be best for them.

  5. that just made the idea bulb turn on in my head… if you are REALLY in a pinch for money and have no pots and pans, make your first stop a thrift store. I’ve seen TONS of cookware at thrift stores over the years and never taken advantage of it (now I might). plus, if you buy thrift, that’s less for the landfills. If you don’t want to buy used, discount stores like TJ Maxx, Marshalls, Ross, etc. always have really great prices on cookware and some of it is very good quality.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Dollar store. I’m a college kid so most of my “stuff” comes from $Tree. I use a god awful knife, measuring cups, tupperware, saranwrap, strainers (I got 2 cup-sized strainers for a dollar that were $10 for one at department store), plates napkins, all sorts of things from the dollar store. Yeah your knife is gonna be a piece of crap but as a college student I have access to the art department’s machine shop and I can sharpen that baby in a jiff :D

    • Colette says:

      You can get good knives at an Asian market. I see them all the time. They are decent quality. Look for something that you will be able to sharpen, don’t buy a serrated blade.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Skip the basil (it is pretty much flavorless in dried form) and get some other spice that works better when dried. (perhaps thyme, or ginger)

  8. Anonymous says:

    I don’t know if you have Trader Joe’s around you, but they sell frozen, sliced 3-color raw bell peppers… don’t remember the price, but pretty sure it’s under $2. Still, it’s perfect for throwing in a handful into salads, pastas, curries, stir-frys, whatever… the addition of tricolor bell peppers adds a bit of sophistication to almost any mundane dish (and it’s healthy too!) and since it’s frozen, no worries about it going bad. I always keep some on hand.

  9. Anonymous says:

    This time of year I can’t live without my Foley food mill for making applesauce and cranberry sauce from fresh, local fruit. The food mill is easy to find in antique shops for $10..may not be so shiny, but works great to remove skins. There’s nothing like homemade sauces!

  10. Anonymous says:

    Keep doing a great job with the blog! I enjoy reading all the insightful tips and to-do’s!

  11. I’m not sure I’d put shredded cheese under the “fresh” list…Call me crazy, but it stays PERFECT in the freezer–I have cheese the expired over a year ago that tastes fine. I wouldn’t do it if I was going to cook for a food snob, but it’s never bothered me or my boyfriend.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Rather than buy shredded cheese in a bag, pay just a little more, say $4.99 for a block of cheese, usually 2-3lbs, and invest in a grater. I have found that for my family of 5, I get WAY more cheese for my money if I shred/grate it myself. My go-to list consists of frozen chicken tenderloins, minute rice, bisquick, onions, garlic, pasta, jar sauce, eggs, butter, hamburger meat, milk, potatoes,all-purp. flour, vanilla, sugar and cheddar cheese. I can make several different meals out of various combos of these ingredients, plus dessert, when I’m in need of something quick and filling. I would also recommend making a menu for at least two weeks, and then making a shopping list based on that menu. Check what you need against what’s in your pantry, and that way you only buy what you need =) Oh, and coupons! Some people hate them, but I love them because if I can save 20 or 30 bucks at the store, then that’s gas in my car for a week or so, or a date night with my hubby! =)

  13. This is much more reasonable than the “Martha” style kitchen stocking list :)
    Thanks! I realized I have almost everything already so I feel much better about the starting off on a new foot

  14. Anonymous says:

    I am amazed how similar my “must-have” items are to yours!, The only difference is that I MUST have a cup of tea as soon as I wake up.

    Thank you for all your ideas and helping a college kid like me to start cooking!

  15. Things must be really cheap where you live or do you buy a lot of these items in bulk? I try to buy dry goods at the bulk store as they are much cheaper that way. I don’t think I could buy a bag of flour for that cheaply, and it’s not like I live in an isolated place. I think food costs more in Canada though. Still, it’s a good list. At the bulk store I can buy all kinds of pasta, rice, beans, legumes; it’s awesome! It’s good to have a few cans of beans on hand though, or diced tomatoes, since you have to soak beans or chickpeas over night.

  16. Anonymous says:

    I can’t overstate the money and time I’ve saved just by using a food processor. I nabbed my mother’s when she was tossing hers for a replacement. It’s one of the old Cuisinarts from the early 80s, but it still works perfectly. I highly recommend scouring thrift shops, or tag sales for one. It makes it so easy to make coleslaw (Cabbage is so cheap!), dough (comes with a bread blade that does all the kneading), breadcrumbs (from stale, leftover bread), and fresh chop meat from trimmings (I make kofta whenever I trim out a regular leg of lamb, and it’s like a free bonus meal). I also use the shredding and slicing disks to do all of my cheese and veggie shredding and slicing, which lets me buy in bulk and still have the convenience of prepared foods. The sliced and shredded provisions last a couple of weeks in the fridge, making it so easy to put salads, burritos, or casseroles together on the spot. I do my weekly food prep on Sunday afternoon. It takes two hours, and I’m set for the week.

  17. Anonymous says:

    As an addendum to the food processor note; I also use the old Cuisinart to make flavored salts and sugars out of old herbs, citrus fruit peel and ginger root. I dry the citrus fruit, peeled ginger slices, or herb leaves in a warm oven (you can also just leave them in your oven overnight, if it has a pilot light) before I throw them in the food processor with salt or sugar (or both). It’s fun to experiment and know that I’m turning garbage into something a trendy gourmet brand would charge big money for. Sometimes I even give little glass bottles of my minty, lemony rosemary-thyme salt as gifts. It’s delicious, useful, thoughtful, and frugal.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Comment on the $10 bottle of wine…. there is a chain of stores called Trader Joe’s. They are nicely spread across the eastern states. They have a Chardonnay and a red wine (forget which it is) that is amazing for the price (only $2.97/bottle here). The Chardonnay won in an international taste contest in comparison to some many top brand and highly priced wines of the same category. Just a tip! Happy eating!…and drinking!

  19. I would like to thank you for the efforts you’ve made in writing this posting. I’m hoping the same very best function from you inside future too.

  20. Love the scrutiny you put into budgeting. I’m sure since this post you’ve started couponing and take the same systematic approach. Kudos

  21. Anonymous says:

    I love love love your blog, eventhough I do not live in dollars but euros and eat organic, but your recipes are great and easy and look always delicious. I discovered it a while ago (looking for pasta puttanesca recipe)and am considering translating your prices into euros to get an idea of what each meal costs me. I mostly buy organic stuff in bulk and store it in glass containers (I avoid plastic as much as I can) and I have a pasta machine which cost me less than 15 euros a while ago which I use a lot.
    I appreciate your dedication and fun spirit.
    Keep doing it Beth !!

  22. Anonymous says:

    I would add couscous to my list as well! It only takes 5 minutes to make and costs less then $1/lb in the dry bulk goods. Also, peanut butter. We make stir fry at the end of the week to use up the vegetables that aren’t real fresh anymore. As a sauce I mix peanut butter, olive oil, soy sauce and several spices (pepper, cumin, coriander, and garlic powder). Super cheap and delicious!

  23. Anonymous says:

    Just found your blog and love it! Thanks for all the great ideas. A couple of things I would add to my pantry are celery salt/seed…gives great flavor to soups/stock and stews and a necessary ingredient for Chicago style hot dogs;) Poultry seasoning…again, great ingredient in soups/stock and stews. Plus, I add it to my sausage gravy. And finally containers of beef and chicken stock(low or no salt version). I use stock instead of water when making rice and couscous and in place of milk or cream when making mashed potatoes.

  24. Anonymous says:

    If you can, buy spices in bulk. The price will drop to less than $0.50 for most items allowing you to get more variety.

  25. Mshel says:

    Since we’re talking about the essentials and cost…

    We all know that “good” knives are pretty pricey. Thankfully, I came across some knives that are inexpensive and good quality. They may not be Henckels, but I’ve been using this brand since college and have not found any other knives that have lasted as long nor felt as comfortable in my hand.

    http://order.radakitchenstore.com/storefrontB2CWEB/

  26. Anonymous says:

    Great site and beautiful face!

  27. My sister just told me about your blog site and I immediately ran to the store the next day to grab the items for a few of the recipes. I can’t wait to make the sweet and spicy peach cobbler and I’m making Swamp Soup today and using a baguette I had from the store for $1 and making my own garlic bread with butter and garlic powder!

  28. OK I’ll venture to toss a tidbit or two into the soup.

    RE knives ‘Cooks Illustrated’ awarded Victorinox ‘best buy’ and ‘highly recommended’ for their chef’s knife and paring knife. On Amazon the 10″ chef’s knife is $29, set of 3 paring knives $12.60. I own these and imo as good as anything available, excepting perhaps ceramic knives for some uses – but these tend to be pricey and extremely brittle. Whatever you get remember even a fine knife is nogood unless it’s sharp. Fine grit abrasive paper made for wet sanding is better than a carborundum stone imo, and steels coated with diamond dust are good as well.

    Goodwill stores can deliver amazing bargains if you’re careful and persistant – naturally the best items go fast. Particularly a month or so after Christmas; it seems a lot of folks donate rather than try to return a gift they don’t have the receipt for, or hassle getting something for it on Ebay. Case in point – an unused Krups cappuccino rig MSRP ninety-plus for 16 bux. Downside this can lead to high-octane caffeinated beverage addiction.

    Bourdain suggests this approach which I can’t vouch for but makes sense: Go to a restaurant that’s going out-of-business, and restaurants always are. You’re likely to get very attractive discounts because the owner would rather get some money from you and put it in his pocket rather than have it sold at bankruptcy auction in which case he gets nothing. Be mindful however the current a commercial electric requires. It can get downright expensive to have an electrician install a 220V line to your kitchen.
    Some poor fool mentioned that on Usenet, alt.poor.fool or somesuch.

    Anyway, grand bargains are out there for cagey people like you to snag, and heavensake buy kevlar gloves. Only a few dollars, way way less than even four stitches cost at the ER, plus they snigger like you’re some dolt who should not have been trusted with anything sharp to begin with. That was mentioned on alt.poor.fool.ouch.jeezuz.ouch.ouch.

  29. I would add a few items to the pantry:
    Garlic – which can be cheap and help to flavor a number of dishes
    Broth Stock – depending on your preference, I go for veggie bullion cubes. I find that having these on hand for a quick soup is priceless, though you can always make your own veg stock from veggie scraps too.
    Tomato paste – super cheap but helps to thicken any sauce, good for pizzas and I even use in some curries.

  30. Anonymous says:

    I am so excited to have found your blog via pintrest! I fell in love with the first recipe I read, and it only got better with each click…..and then…. to find out that you are a Louisiana girl….Of course you are (We know how to spot each other out of a crowd) Thanks for all the great recipes and tips…..
    from another Louisiana girl!

  31. Anonymous says:

    Definitely cumin, chili powder, fresh ginger, garlic, onions, lemons and limes. I buy dried beans and cook from scratch and definitely could not live without my food processor!

  32. Bernie says:

    I travel around the country for my job, on contracts lasting from 3 to 12 months at a time, and when it’s time to move to the next contract, I have to pack up my things and head out. The company takes care of the household items (furniture, kitchen appliances including the dull knive set, pots and pans, etc) so I only have to worry about personal items. I once found myself at a site without any dishes. So I headed to the nearest thrift store and left with a full place setting for four, including the silverware, etc. for $2.70!!! I gave them to the next guy taking my place when I left.
    I also travel with a few necessities which I cannot live without and use in the kitchen, the first being my over $100 knife, which I purchased back in 2008 when I started traveling. I also have my wok, my microplane, tongs, and wooden spoon I cannot live without! Did I mention that I drive from location to location, in a 2 door hatchback? So space is very limited…..

  33. A salad shooter, crock pot and bread machine are MY top choices for kitchen tools. I use them all on a regular basis and I love them all to pieces!! We bake our own breads, make tons of crock pot meals – roast, beans, chili, soups, etc – and that salad shooter is awesome for shredding cheese, carrots, potatoes, cucumbers, etc. It has a few different attachments that are pretty awesome. I’ve used it to slice carrots and it gives them a nice wavy cut vs the boring sliced look. ;-)

  34. Anonymous says:

    Hi,
    another way to save, I keep a freezer bag for all my veggie scraps (ALL- skin, leaves, carrot ends…) and then when I cook a chicken, take the bag out, add the chx bones and handfuls of the scraps and make a gallon of home meade stock. for basicly free. (as i was previously tossing the bones and veggie scraps, then buying stock.) win-win!

  35. As far as utensils go, I recommend a good-sized mixing bowl (my parents had one that looks like it came from the dollar store; it got regular use all through my childhood and now graces my own kitchen) and a couple of wooden spoons – inexpensive and versatile.

    Ingredients-wise, I find a bottle of hot sauce is an important addition to a lot of different types of food, and a little goes a long way. It never goes bad, though after a year or so in the fridge a lot of the flavor is gone.

    Frozen veggies are also a requirement. Even with the relatively high cost of living where I am right now, if you watch long enough occasionally the staples go on sale for $1/lb. I stock up on broccoli, corn, pepper strips, pea pods, and even diced onions, and a bag will last at least a year if unopened without getting too freezer-burned.

    Also, quart and gallon size freezer bags and a roll of regular plastic wrap, for packaging smaller portions of chicken and beef that I buy in bulk (or completed recipes that I’ve doubled or tripled in order to have a quick meal for later).

  36. Anonymous says:

    Me encantó tu sitio y tus recetas paso a paso, todo genial, fácil y económico. TE FELICITO !!!!
    Desde Chile.
    Un abrazo grande,
    Y sigue así !!!

    Pepe Moreno

  37. Anonymous says:

    My must-haves: onions, red cabbage,carrots, celeri, frozen vegetables, fresh tomatoes & apples. These are the cheapest fruits & vegetables around and the combinations are endless! I am always amazed by cabbage: a very small one costs pratically nothing and yields so much! These days I’m really into shredded red cabby+carrot salad, with a lil’ olive oil, wine vinegar and salted herbs–easy, colorful, healthy and CHEAP.
    Your blog had become one of my mainstay:I visit almost everyday :)

  38. Anner says:

    Canned tomatoes, onions and garlic in a jar

  39. Organic Skim milk
    Organic eggs
    Cheese-American & Feta
    Olive oil
    Vegetable oil
    Canola oil
    Butter
    Salt
    Pepper
    Garlic powder
    Crushed red pepper flakes
    Granulated Sugar
    Bakin’ Miracle
    All-purpose Flour
    Coffee
    Tomato paste
    BBQ sauce

  40. Julie says:

    Late to the party here as I just discovered the blog tonight (love it by the way!), but I learned very quickly what my “essentials” are. I moved in with my boyfriend (who is still using his 10 year old “Kitchen in a box” set from college, with my very well stocked kitchen still boxed up in storage in another state. I brought my chef’s knife, microplane, and wooden cutting board with me. Here’s my list:

    -Good Chef’s knife. I have a Global 10″ that I paid over $100 for but I pretty much don’t use any other knife. I was given a Global paring knife for Christmas 2010 and I still haven’t even taken it out of the box.

    -Good set of tongs. I have an Oxo set that I bought at Crate and Barrel.

    -Measuring Cups and spoons. You can buy these at the dollar store. I have a glass pyrex measuring cup as well that I use very often.

    -Large non-stick skillet, I have one from Ikea that cost $25. Also a smaller saucepan with lid, and a large pot with lid for cooking pasta. Also cast-iron skillet and a baking sheet.

    -Wood cutting board, plastic cutting board. The wood really is better for chopping anything but meat.

    -Wooden or bamboo spoon

    -Set of glass mixing bowls in a few different sizes

    -Whisk

    For food, I always have EVOO, shallots, lemons, dijon mustard, red-skinned potatoes, butter, salt, pepper (from a grinder preferably) and fresh rosemary on hand. I know with these items I can make a good meal with pretty much any kind of protein and fresh veggie.

  41. First of all, love your blog! It’s amazing how much effort you put in every recipe, with stories, calculations and step-by-step instructions. Please keep it going!

    My staples for spices and pantry are similar to yours, except that I always have 2 kinds of rice and multitude of pasta/noodles in all shapes and forms. There are also certain things that must be available to me at all times (otherwise the world simply does not make sense anymore): plain yogurt (to use for parfaits, in baking and dips, as substitute for sour cream), salad greens, old-fashioned oats and loads of fresh fruit.
    Marina

  42. I’d love to see a post of recipes from this pantry list. Last night I found myself with a pantry full of stuff and thinking “There’s nothing to eat here!”…totally blanked out! SO…what are your go to recipes from those pantry essentials?

  43. Anonymous says:

    Other really good thrift items or estate sale items (sometimes at estate sales they’re even FREE) are measuring items. Liquid, dry, cups, spoons. I don’t think I’ve every paid full price for a set. So easy and cheap to obtain.

  44. Shanna says:

    I am so excited to find this site! I recently quit my job to be able to stay home, hurray! As a result, I am trying to be more responsible with my husband and I’s income. I know there are so many small things that we can be intentional about that we haven’t been before. I plan cooking from this site weekly, so thanks for making it easy!

  45. Anonymous says:

    I have a 50 dollar food budget for family of 5. Crazy..but doable..My “Pantry” is soy, oil, salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder, ital spice, matzoh meal, bouillion stock, rice, pasta, beans, tofu, tunafish, tomato sauce/paste, can corn, cheapest can fruit or jam/jelly I can find, flour, sugar, coffee/tea/ brown sugar/ baking powder/soda. Veg are garlic,onion, organic carrots (yeah my one splurge but my family will actually EAT them-they pick out the regular carrots. ) celery, potato, small piece of ginger, zuchhini, fresh kale,spinach, cabbage. I buy One whole raw chicken a week..that gives me 5 meals. 1. Make Matzah ball soup then remove chicken..serve with matzoh ball and noodles.. Pick chicken and you’ll get 4 cups of meat. Will give you 2 meals of chicken fried rice and 2 chicken Lo Mein meals..THEN any soup you have left over..add a bit of water, can of tomatoe paste and corn, chop up any zuchhini you have and toss it-.ADD Cumin and Chili Powder..bring to boil and simmer until veg are soft. If you’re really rich.you can add a couple of chunks of Avocado on top…if it need more heft…Serve it with a scoop of rice within. Love this site! GREAT WORK!

  46. Anonymous says:

    Thank you so much, this has been so helpful. As things seemed to be getting more difficult, I stumbled upon your blog and it has made life a lot easier. :)

  47. Thanks so much for your blog! I just pinned you on Pinterest becuase I wanted to share with my friends and others how helpful your information is. Thanks again and keep up the great work you do!!!!

  48. Anonymous says:

    I have found the best way to store Basil is to freeze it. Leave the leaves whole, put in good storage container made for the freezer, then when you need some just take out a bit and crumble it up. It has much fresher taste than the dried. You can grow it pretty easily in most of the country.

  49. Anonymous says:

    Cooking your own beans from scratch is even cheaper than canned beans. Make a big batch and keep some in the freezer and you’ll still have something when you’re in a pinch for time.

  50. I am very thankful to have found your blog. As a broke college student and someone with zero culinary skills, your blog will be useful to me. So i’ll spend less eating out and save more by buying and cooking at home.

  51. 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.

  52. 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 :(

  53. 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!

  54. 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

  55. 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.

  56. 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.

  57. 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!

  58. 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.

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

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

  61. 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!

  62. 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!

  63. 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.

  64. 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!

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