For this post, I'm using the term "pantry" loosely -- not just referring to dried goods, but also to some basic staples like eggs. I tried to compile items that could span the course of a day with oats, bananas and eggs for breakfast items and legumes, beans and rice for more substantial meals in the evening hours. And obviously this list is geared towards omnivores; tuna and eggs won't be in a vegan pantry.
Ten Low-Budget Pantry Items Everyone Should Have:
• Lentils: I have lentils on hand at all times for a quick soup or stew or to supplement leftover roasted veggies or grains.
• Black Beans: Quick burritos or open-faced toastadas; chilli; stews; bean, rice & veggie bowls. The list goes on and on.
• Oats: My friend found oats for $.91/pound and has been eating different kinds of oatmeal each morning and loving it. Also use oats to make homemade muesli and granola to avoid breakfast boredom.
• Brown Rice: I eat brown rice in the morning with a little almond milk and golden raisins. It's also wonderful for lunch with leftover vegetables and makes a great base for evening stir-fries.
• Fresh Eggs: Eggs are a relatively low-cost, vegetarian source of protein. You can make everything from Cobb Salads to Hearty Scrambles with eggs around.
• Bananas: Breakfast, quick snacks, oatmeal mix-ins, smoothies. Good to have on the counter for any and all of these situations.
• Spices: I always keep chilli powder, garlic powder, curry powder, and onion powder on hand in addition to a good salt and pepper. Each of these is economical and adds layers of flavor to otherwise potentially simple fare.
• Onions: Onions add flavor to everything, and make the most ho-hum stir-fry seem a little more special. Use them to flavor stocks for soup, add them to eggs or frittatas, or mix them into a big pan of roasted vegetables.
• Cans of Tomatoes: Diced tomatoes make a quick and easy sauce for pasta or to ladle over leftover sausage or meats.
• Cans of Tuna: Sandwiches? Check. But even better are evening open-face tuna melts or creamy spring vegetable pastas with chunky tuna.
Related: 5 Staples When Cooking for Two
(Images: Emma Christensen)