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  • The Well-Stocked Pantry

    As previously discussed, cooking at home can save you lots of money. A well-stocked pantry can save you even more money, because you won’t have to run out and get something you forgot (which usually results in “that looks good” purchases). The well-stocked pantry can also save you money because you will be able to throw together a meal even if you weren’t planning to cook.

    I use the word “pantry” pretty loosely in this context. I’ll start with what you should have in the freezer, then the fridge and finally the actual pantry.

    The Freezer

    • ground beef and/or white meat turkey, in one-pound packages
    • 3-pound beef or pork roast
    • one pound of boneless skinless chicken breasts
    • assorted shredded cheeses, such as Mexican blend and mozzarella
    • grated Parmesan cheese
    • package of frozen spinach
    • package of frozen broccoli
    • unsalted butter

    It’s also nice to have:

    • chicken and/or vegetable broth
    • frozen vanilla yogurt
    • chopped onion, celery and carrots in zip-top freezer bags
    • whole wheat tortillas
    • dinner rolls and/or crusty bread

    The Fridge

    • milk (nonfat is best for drinking, but 1% or 2% is better for cooking)
    • low-sodium soy sauce
    • natural unsalted peanut butter
    • nonfat or lowfat plain yogurt
    • eggs

    The Pantry

    • garlic
    • dried herbs: oregano, basil, crushed red pepper flakes, kosher salt, black peppercorns (in a mill so you can freshly grind it), cinnamon
    • olives (kalamata, green, black)
    • tomatoes (diced or crushed)
    • tomato sauce
    • whole wheat pastry flour (instead of all purpose)
    • brown sugar
    • honey
    • extra virgin olive oil
    • vinegar: apple cider, white wine and balsamic
    • onions
    • chicken and/or vegetable broth
    • dried whole wheat pasta (whatever you like: rotini, fettucini, spaghetti, penne, etc.)

    This is by no means an exhaustive list but you could, for instance, make Pasta Puttanesca in less than 30 minutes with ingredients just from your pantry. To give another example, last night, I had planned poorly and was stuck with a pound of browned ground turkey. I had some frozen ravioli, so I made a marinara sauce out of tomato sauce, garlic and dried herbs, combined the sauce and ravioli with handfuls of cheese, and baked the concoction until the cheese on top melted. If you’re planning ahead a bit, you can pop a roast into the slow cooker in the morning with some seasonings and broth, then shred the meat for sandwiches for dinner. (Pop the roast into the microwave on low for about 10 minutes before you put it in the crock for safety reasons.)

    To check out other pantry ideas, click here for Cooking Light’s Ultimate Pantry list.

      Comments

      1. Anonymous says:

        You mentioned putting a roast in the microwave before cooking in the crock pot for safety reasons? Why is this?

      2. Putting a frozen roast in the crock pot can result in the roast remaining at an unsafe temperature for too long a time (i.e., a temperature in which bacteria can flourish). It’s better to make sure it’s at least mostly defrosted before you put it in the crock. And if you have elderly or very young people in your household, be extra careful and make sure it’s completely defrosted first. Thanks for asking!

      3. shredded cheeses in the freezer…that’s genius. How long does that typically last?

      4. I find that they last about two months in my freezer. They do clump, but I just bang them on my counter. If you shred them yourself or want to go an extra step, toss the cheese with a little cornstarch to prevent clumping.

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