20 Staple Pantry Items for Making Cheap Meals

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Today it’s all about staple pantry items we all need to stock up on. We are certainly living in challenging times, where many families are struggling just to stay ahead. Eating out at restaurants or fast food joints may be convenient for families always on the go, but they’ve gotten ridiculously expensive over the past few years.

Afterward, you’re left feeling not only swindled but to make matters worse, you may have that one child who’s complaining that they’re “still hungry.” Grrrrr! Check out these staple pantry items for making cheap meals. 

If you’re on a tight budget and looking for cheaper meal solutions, I’m here to provide you with some words of encouragement. Here are 20 staple pantry items that everyone should have for making cheaper meals. In case you missed this post, Canned Foods I Highly Recommend You Store 

20 Staple Pantry Items for Making Cheap Meals

20 Staple Pantry Items

1. Dry or Canned Beans

Dried or canned beans are first up on my list of staple pantry items that you need. Whichever way you prefer them, they’re super cheap and have plenty of protein. Beans are the magical fruit that you’ll be needing in your pot of chili, burritos, or for refried beans. 

2. Pasta

Pasta is another filling pantry item that will cost you around $1 or less for that meal, and you can enjoy it in all different shapes and sizes. It can be stored in your pantry for a long period of time, and you also have the option of pouring different types of sauces over them to mix up your dishes a bit.   

3. Rice

Buying rice in bulk is a great way to turn any meal into something more filling, while costing you very little to do it. Rice goes great in soup, skillets, or simply added as a side dish. 

4. Chicken 

Chicken is super cheap as far as meat goes, but even more so if you’re patient and wait until the family packs go on sale. It goes great with almost any meal and whatever leftovers that you don’t use can be placed in the freezer for use later.   

5. Canned Tuna

A can of tuna can be enjoyed straight out of the container, or added to other ingredients in order to make tuna salad. It too comes with an abundance of protein and other key nutrients.  

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6. Ground Beef

Ground beef is another staple pantry item that can be used to make several cheap meals. Although not as cheap as chicken, it’s still cost-effective compared to most other meats, and it too can be purchased in bulk at a great sale price and then stored in your freezer. You’ll need it to make sloppy joes, tacos, chili, soups, and all different kinds of hearty casseroles. 

7. Pasta Sauce 

Having a jar of pasta sauce that can be poured over your spaghetti noodles can create an entire meal for your family for under $3. It doesn’t get any cheaper than that.   

8. Eggs

Oh, how I love eggs! They’re full of protein while costing you very little. In fact, they are one of the cheapest staple foods on this list. Whether you prefer them scrambled or sunny side up, or maybe you’re in the mood for some french toast for breakfast, eggs will do your body good. You’ll also be needing eggs for making homemade baked goods as well.   

9. Cheese 

Cheese can be expensive when you decide to pay full price for it, so don’t, and wait until it goes on sale. If you enjoy cooking from scratch, it will be hard to survive without it. (At least I think so.) You’ll need it for salads, sandwiches, homemade pizza, and yummy cheesy quesadillas. Believe it or not, it too can be frozen, if desired. 

10. Flour

Flour will be absolutely necessary for those who whip up everything from scratch. It’s also used to thicken sauces and soups, but most importantly when making mouth-watering baked goods like my favorite homemade bread.  

11. Oil 

You may be scratching your head on this one because oil certainly isn’t cheap, but it will provide you with more cooking options, besides use in simply baking or frying and you’ll notice the taste difference too. Olive oil is the healthiest way to go while providing a number of health benefits for you and your family.  

12. Oatmeal

Oatmeal brings you both a filling and frugal breakfast option. You can also use it to make oatmeal cookies or homemade granola.   

13. Peanut Butter

Peanut butter is certainly one of those food items that most families can’t live without, especially if you have children who love eating peanut butter and jelly just about every day of the week. Or maybe you’re the guilty culprit that eats it by the spoonful for a snack in the middle of the night? Whatever the case may be, peanut butter is a great source of protein at a rather low price.   

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14. Bread

Bread is another must-have item to make cheap meals, such as sandwiches, toast, or broken up into a casserole. 

15. Frozen Vegetables 

Oftentimes you’ll find that frozen vegetables come cheaper than the fresh ones, and they last much longer too! Frozen vegetables work great as a side dish, but they can also be used to make vegetable beef soup or a delicious pot pie. Don’t forget you can dehydrate frozen vegetables, no washing, peeling, or chopping. How to Dehydrate Frozen Vegetables

16. Onions

Onions are not only inexpensive, but they can also responsible for adding plenty of flavor to all sorts of different dishes. They taste great in soups, salads, skillets, or on top of burgers and sandwiches. I typically pick up ten bags of frozen chopped onions if they are on sale. I can use part or all of the bag I open. Onions: Everything You Need To Know

17. Potatoes 

A small bag of potatoes will cost you well under $3.00, but you can get several meals out of it. Potatoes are another versatile item that can be enjoyed as a side dish, in a soup or casserole, and also as well-seasoned breakfast potatoes. 

18. Spices and Herbs

You’ll be needing these to add flavor to all your favorite meals and recipes. They’ll run you a bit more in cost, but if you shop for the right brand of spices and herbs you can generally get them for a low price. Ones that you’ll find yourself using most often include chili powder, garlic and onion powder, basil, oregano, Italian seasoning, red pepper, cumin, nutmeg, and cinnamon.  

19. Kosher or Sea Salt

Much healthier than table salt, kosher or sea salt will add powerful flavor, while you won’t have to worry about those undesired additives. My favorite salt is made by Redmond Salt

20. Peppercorn

Lastly, don’t forget to get yourself a grinder of peppercorn. Pepper that’s already been ground up for you tends to not hold on to its flavor or aroma as well as a peppercorn. Plus, pepper goes on just about everything. 

Final Word

There’s no reason to feel guilty about finding ways of saving your family money while feeding them healthy meals. Making meals that cost very little is one great way of doing just that. These 20 staple pantry items are just a few among many others that you’ll want to consider in order to make cheaper meals. What are other staple foods that your family could not live without that didn’t make my list? May God Bless this world, Linda. 

Copyright Images: Glass Jars With Food Storage AdobeStock_304691216 by New Africa

24 thoughts on “20 Staple Pantry Items for Making Cheap Meals

  • October 29, 2020 at 7:47 am

    One of the things I liked best about this article was the links you included to other articles I’d missed. Your information is always spot on and while I may be a seasoned Prepper I always learn something valuable from you. (I’ve always used fresh onions or dehydrated onion and never even considered the frozen variety until now).

    One addition to pantry preps should be sprout seeds. I grow alfalfa, broccoli, and clover sprouts year round for use on sandwiches and salads. I actually grow all three at the same time and mix them together (the more clover you add to the mix the spicier it gets). Mung bean sprouts and pea sprouts are great in stir frys. There is almost no limit to the types of seeds that can be sprouted. Sprouts are cheap and easy and a great source of vitamins if TSHTF and you can’t get fresh greens at the store.

    • October 29, 2020 at 8:02 am

      Hi Ray, thank you, my friend, for your kind words. Now, please teach me, I bought a sprout deal years ago. I’ve since donated it. What kind do you have and where do you get your seeds. This may take some work to talk Mark into eating those! LOL! Linda

      • October 29, 2020 at 8:28 am

        Obvious Ray is much more into sprouting than I am, since I only do it from time to time, but here’s what I bought:

        3-pack of sprouting lids from Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Sprout-Ease-Econo-Sprouter-Toppers-Set-Piece/dp/B005P0SM8W/ref=sr_1_12?dchild=1&keywords=sprouting+lids&qid=1603981319&sr=8-12

        And I get mung beans in 1 to 5 pound packages depending on pricing. They are super easy to sprout and add a nice crunch to a salad or sandwich without much space, but decent nutrition. Will definitely have to try adding them to our next fried rice batch, thanks for the tip Ray!

        • October 29, 2020 at 8:47 am

          Hi DMWalsh, I’m going to check these out. I’m trying to grow lettuce and spinach year-round (covered in the winter). I would love to try sprouting seeds. Thank you for the link. Linda

      • October 29, 2020 at 12:23 pm


        Sprouts are the easiest thing to grow, usually only taking 3-7 days. They need no soil and no sunshine—only a jar, some cheesecloth and water. Best of all you can grow them in a closet or under your sink. If you aren’t eating sprouts on your sandwiches and salads, you are seriously missing out on a taste treat that is full of nutrition. I grow them year round. Here are some links.

        sproutpeople.org/ You can learn everything you need to know from them.





        I bought my first sprouting kit at a Preppers trade show in Las Vegas many years ago from a Utah firm called Lifesprouts but I can’t find them on the internet anymore. The kit I bought is now available from:


        I originally bought four of the sprouter trays and am still using them for sprouting small seeds like alfalfa, broccoli, radish and clover. (The Alfalfa Plus Mix and Pro Vita Mix are both outstanding, but I make my own mixes now).

        For larger seeds like peas, chickpeas, lentils or mung beans I just use a quart mason jar, cheesecloth and the ring or band for such jars.

        Virtually any vegetable sprouts are safe to eat and most are delicious. The exceptions are tomato and potato sprouts which are said to be poisonous if eaten in quantity.

        The most important thing about growing sprouts is to soak the seeds overnight, then rinse them off before putting them in the sprouter tray or jar. Then rinse them twice a day–I do morning and evening. The sprouter trays I have stack on top of one another and I keep them on my kitchen counter. The jars I keep under the kitchen sink. For alfalfa, clover and broccoli sprouts I expose them to a few hours of sunlight after they grow enough to harvest to “green” them up.

        Also, here’s a correction to my original post. It’s radish seeds (not clover) that make a mix of alfalfa, clover, and broccoli spicy–so I don’t put many radish sprouts into my personal mix.

        Since I grow my own heirloom vegetables, I get most of my sprout seeds from my garden, but I still buy alfalfa and some other sprouting seeds from either local health food stores or from a variety of online suppliers (Burpees, Park Seed, etc) or from:


        I hope this helps. And if you hubby likes lettuce, he’ll like most sprouts.

        • October 29, 2020 at 1:49 pm

          Hi Ray, I will have to get on board doing this! Thanks for all the links! Linda

  • October 29, 2020 at 8:21 am

    If you’re eating on a budget, using iodized salt might be a better bet for health than sea salt or kosher salt, since it’s hard to get enough iodine without a lot of fish or dairy products in your diet. The National Institutes of Health has an article about it online: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Iodine-Consumer/

    And while I have iodized salt in my LTS, I mostly store plain salt or kosher salt, since iodized salt has a 5 year shelf-life. I fill our salt shakers for eating with iodized salt, but keep regular salt in the kitchen for cooking.

    • October 29, 2020 at 8:45 am

      Hi DMWalsh, thanks for the tip on Iodized salt. I want to read that article, thank you!!! Linda

    • October 29, 2020 at 1:56 pm

      I have iodized salt in 5 gallon buckets since 2008. It is still fine as I get it from different buckets when I do refill my container in kitchen. Nothing is added to each bucket.
      Like sugar..I store lots of salt.

      • October 29, 2020 at 4:30 pm

        Hi JayJay, I store more sugar than salt, that might be an indication I love to bake sweet things! Stay safe, Linda

      • October 30, 2020 at 5:29 am

        Good to know. I was taking the online warnings on various sites as gospel, but I guess as long as we keep moisture away from it then it will last a lot longer than advertised. Thanks!

  • October 29, 2020 at 8:56 am

    I have all of these items. Yay for me? We have frozen onions, bell pepper and seasoning blend. Hubby makes omelets for breakfast some days. I use it in soups, stews and other casseroles. I need to grow some and make my own. In vacuum bags. Love my vacuum sealer! It’s used quite a bit.

    Today, I’m planning on making SF mounds for dear husband. He’s diabetic, so everything has to be sugar free. I use Stevia for my sweetener of choice.

    • October 29, 2020 at 9:14 am

      Hi Deborah, I have bought that blend as well. It’s so convenient and no waste. Plus, it’s washed and chopped. Love it! What are SF mounds? Linda

      • October 29, 2020 at 9:18 am

        Sugar Free. Everything in it is Sugar Free.

        • October 29, 2020 at 7:34 pm

          Deborah ~
          How about a recipe for your SF Mounds??? I love Mounds bars!

          • October 30, 2020 at 8:16 am

            Linda, here’s the recipe. Enjoy!

            Sugar Free Mounds

            1/3 cup coconut oil
            1/3 cup coconut milk
            1/2 cup Confectioners style Swerve or other erythritol based sweetener
            1 cup unsweet finely shredded coconut
            8 Oz dark chocolate

            Combine coconut oil, coconut milk, and sweetener.
            Heat over low heat, constantly mixing until coconut oil is me,Ted.
            Add the shredded coconut and mix until well mixed.
            Pout into a 9 X 5 inch silicone loaf pan. Press mixture tightly and evenly into the bottom of the pan.
            Refrigerate for 3 hours or until mixture is solid.
            Turn the pan upside down, gently press the bottom of the pan so the solid mixture pops out.
            Cut into bars.
            Chop the coconut into small pieces.
            Melt 3 Oz of the chocolate in water bath or double boiler. Do t let chocolate get too hot. Heat it gently just until melted, stirring every now and then.
            Remove melted chocolate from the heat. Add 1 Oz chopped chocolate to the melted chocolate and mix every once in awhile to get a smooth mixture.
            Dip bars in melted chocolate, put on parchment (or waxed paper) and let the chocolate set.
            When the chocolate is completely set, melt 3 Oz of chocolate in water bath or double boiler. Heat gently and stir until melted stirring every now and then.
            Remove chocolate from heat and add the rest of the chocolate 1oz) to melted chocolate and mix to get smooth mixture.
            Dip bars a second time in the melted chocolate, put on parchment of waxed paper and let chocolate set


          • October 30, 2020 at 9:17 am

            Hi Deborah, I need to try this recipe! It sounds like my mom’s mounds bars with sugar, though. Linda

          • October 30, 2020 at 10:37 am

            I’m gonna try to make some today. BTW, did you know you can get Sugar Free Hershey’s candies? Hubby bought some from Walmart. Online.

            But I’m gonna make some with cocoa powder, coconut oil and some Gulf wax for dipping.

  • October 29, 2020 at 10:58 am

    Growing sprouts or microgreens is an easy way to get fresh greens to supplement winter meals. I have used a small company in Colorado (Botanical Interest) to purchase my vegetable seeds and sprouting seeds for years. They have a nice sprout box, which I have 2, that work very well. Web site is: botanicalinterest.com.
    God bless you.

  • October 29, 2020 at 7:47 pm

    Linda ~
    So far, I have everything on the pantry list but sometimes still struggle to make a meal for one!! Forget to take meat out of the freezer, don’t want to drag out the IP!! All excuses I know and I do know I can cook frozen meat in the IP – but I don’t!

    I have been sprouting for nearly 50 years now. Stopped for a while because of the scare of some dread disease people were getting from sprouts (salmonella and E. Coli). Started again but now I am into growing microgreens from sprout seeds. I get my seeds from a local garden store in their seed dept! They only sell organic/non-gmo seeds as well. They aren’t as cheap as I could get elsewhere but I like knowing they are organic/non-gmo. My favorite to date is a mix of alfalfa, daikon radish and red clover! So good. The brand is Botanical Interests – they have a website and you can purchase from them directly. Also, cleanliness is next to Godliness when it comes to sprouts – clean water, clean sprouter, clean storage container and in the fridge.

    • October 30, 2020 at 6:42 am

      Hi Leanne, I’m so glad you mention salmonella and E.coli I still remember recalls on beans sprouts at grocery stores. I used to love them on sandwiches then I got nervous buying them. I haven’t bought them for years. I really want to start doing this again, thanks for the tip on the company. Cleanliness is truly next to Godliness! Linda

  • October 30, 2020 at 4:25 am

    Hey y’all. Sprouts are easy peasy with no need for fancy anything. Get whatever seeds you want. I prefer heirloom and I buy bulk. Place 3 handfuls of seeds in a mason jar, add water, place cheesecloth on and wrap with a rubberband. I put a lid on it daily and swish it around then remove. Sprouts in 7-10 days and yummy. I will try the smorgasbord of seeds next time. Thanks for the info over the years.

    • October 30, 2020 at 6:43 am

      Hi Bob, thanks for the tip on the mason jar, you make it sound so easy. That’s my way of doing things! Linda


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