With the cost of food rising, it seems harder to stock your pantry with healthy foods these days. We’ve been consistently working on keeping our food budget low every month and are still able to eat healthy. It may seem highly unlikely, but for our family of 7, our grocery budget is $800 a month.
Fortunately most months we are able to come in under budget, and still eat a lot of great food. We are able to do this by keeping some basic staples in the house that can be used in multiple dishes. These staples are fairly inexpensive, but have a lot of great nutritional qualities to them also.
Rice is a great staple to have on hand because it is so versatile. Not only that, but there are so many different types of rice out there. So, if you purchase a few different types to keep on hand, then you won’t get bored of it as easily. Some of our favorite types of rice to keep in our pantry are:
- Basmati rice (brown or white)
- Jasmine rice
- Black rice (Forbidden rice)
- Jade Pearl rice
- Pink rice
- Purple rice (when we can find it)
- Wild rice
Of course there are the traditional white and brown rice varieties you will find in the stores. These don’t usually contain as many of the nutrients that the other, wilder, varieties will have. So, we prefer to stick with a wider variety of rices to increase the level of nutrition we gain from them.
Depending upon where you shop, and the type of rice you purchase, your pricing will vary. This can also be dependent upon how large of a bag you purchase. The more exotic versions don’t usually come in larger sizes though. So we try to keep one large bag of brown Basmati rice on hand and some smaller bags of the wilder versions. That way we have diversification and can mix and match rices when the mood strikes.
I can tell you that we recently purchased a 20 lb bag of brown Basmati rice for $18.76, which was an awesome deal! I don’t know about you, but even for our family of 7, that will stretch for quite some time.
Some of our favorite uses for rice are:
- On its own, as a side
- In a casserole
- With beans to create a complete protein main dish
- In soups
Beans are another one of our favorite staples. Not only do they go really well with rice to create complete proteins, but they are fantastic in a variety of other applications. Some of these include:
- As a base for tacos
- A side dish with spices and herbs
- In a casserole
- In vegetarian chili
- As a base for a soup
- Bean dips
- On nachos
The trick with beans is that they will be exponentially more cost effective if you purchase the dry versions. The canned versions are not only much more expensive for the quantity you get, but also usually contain unwanted additives.
We just replenished our black bean stock with a 10 lb bag for $9.99, which is awesome! When we purchase the cans instead, they usually run about $.99 per can, which is only 15 oz. But that is 15 oz of cooked black beans with liquid, so it is nowhere near the same deal price wise.
Every now and then we keep a can or two on hand when we don’t have time to make the beans, though. Beans can be harder to digest for a lot of us, because of the hard bran and the lectins. So when preparing the dry versions, we have found the best way to make them more digestible and gain all of the sought after nutrients is to:
- Rinse the beans thoroughly until the water comes out of the strainer clearly
- Submerge the strainer full of beans in a bowl of room temperature-warm water
- Add 1-2 Tbsp of baking soda to the water (I usually put it on top of the beans and then run the warm water over the beans into the bowl)
- Let them soak for at least 1 hour (or more, if you have the time)
- After they have soaked, rinse thoroughly
- Put them into a pressure cooker with vegetable broth and spices
- Cook for approximately 28-30 minutes in the pressure cooker
That may sound like a lot of steps, but it really doesn’t take that much time to create. But, when I make beans, I usually make a pretty large batch so that we can use them all week in a variety of different meals.
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We love to keep canned fire roasted tomatoes on hand in our pantry. We have found that these are great in a myriad of different applications. Plus, tomatoes have a lot of great nutritional benefits to help keep you healthy.
Some of our favorite things to use canned tomatoes in are:
- Vegetarian chili
- Mexican casserole
- Spanish rice
- Spicy beans
While canned isn’t usually my preference, ripe tomatoes can be hard to come by when they aren’t in season. And since tomatoes are a fairly cheap commodity to begin with, sometimes the canned versions are just more cost effective. However, we stick with the organic versions when we purchase them. Even then, a can of organic fire roasted tomatoes only costs us $.89.
Regularly having a few of these in our pantry has really helped stretch our grocery budget and increased our food variation. Which means that we are able to get the kids to eat more because it’s not the same old dish all the time!
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4. Vegetable Broth
Vegetable broth is another staple we have started including in the past few years. Vegetable broth isn’t something that I know a lot of people use regularly, but it can really help enhance the flavor of dishes. Some of the most common things we use it for are:
- Liquid to cook rice
- Chili base
- Soup base
- Make beans with
- Add it to stir fry’s when cooking
Since we use it in so many dishes, we usually keep 2-3 boxes on hand all the time. I prefer to purchase the organic low sodium version, because the regular versions simply have way too much sodium. Each 32 oz box costs us $2.49, which isn’t horrible at all in my book. Especially when I am using it as a base for soup, chili, rice or beans. In actuality, it can be the most expensive ingredient I use. But, because it has so many fantastic vegetables and nutrients in it, I am perfectly okay with that.You can really stretch your grocery budget with these 6 food staples. Click To Tweet
Potatoes are another food we use on a weekly basis that really helps us stretch our grocery budget. Most of our kids love potatoes, but would prefer them in their fried french fry form. We don’t fry any foods in our house, so they are out of luck on that one. But, we like to switch up the varieties here too, so that we can make many different types of potatoes.
Some of our favorite uses for potatoes are:
- Baked potato night (using organic Russet potatoes)
- Roasted potato medley (using organic Baby or Fingerling potatoes)
- Mashed potatoes (using organic Yellow or Red potatoes)
- Add them to a soup for more texture (using organic Baby or Red potatoes)
While there are plenty of other things we could do with them, these are our families favorite choices. And depending upon the type of potato, the cost will vary. I did just purchase a large bag of organic Russet potatoes for baked potato night this week and it only cost me $2.99.
We get semi-fancy with our baked potato night and add things like:
- Sour Cream
- Fire Roasted Tomatoes
But, even with all of that, to feed our family of 7, we are coming in at under $10 for the whole meal. And everyone is full and happy, so I call that a win!
6. Frozen Fruits & Veggies
Keeping frozen fruits and veggies on hand can really help stretch your grocery budget even further. Frozen fruit can be used in three of our favorite things:
Adding a smoothie to your morning meal can really help increase your fruit and vegetable intake. And this makes a great start to the day!
And when you add frozen fruit to muffins or pancakes, you completely change the flavor. In fact, I just added frozen raspberries and dark chocolate chips to our weekend pancakes and they were a huge hit.
When it comes to frozen vegetables, keeping a variety on hand can help make dinner time easier. Plus, frozen vegetables are usually picked at their peak ripeness, so you will get more nutritional benefits from them than the fresh versions. Most of the time, at least. If you can hit up your local farmer’s market and get vegetables that are in season and have just been picked, then use those first, obviously.
But the perk of frozen fruits and vegetables it that they have much longer staying power, so you can incorporate them at different times.
Stretch Your Grocery Budget
Overall, there are so many ways to stretch your grocery budget. But, by keeping a few major staples on hand, you can stretch it even further. The 6 best staples to keep on hand are:
- Rice (different varieties)
- Beans (different varieties)
- Tomatoes (canned)
- Vegetable Broth (preferably the organic low sodium version)
- Potatoes (different varieties)
- Frozen Fruits and v=Veggies
By doing this you can incorporate more nutrient dense foods into your diet at the same time to help increase your overall health and wellness. When you do this, less time out of work being sick and less doctor visits. This is what I call a win-win!
What are some of the best staples you have found to keep on hand to stretch your food budget further and still eat healthy?