Frugal Pantry Staples for Easy Meals

Learn how to stock your pantry with basic ingredients for simple meals your whole family will love. Check out these frugal pantry staples for easy meals.

Pantry Staples to Keep on Hand

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Have you ever had one of those crazy busy days that seem to pass by in a blur and before you know it, it’s dinnertime and you have no idea what you are going to make?  You don’t want to grab takeout because you’re trying to save money, so you open your pantry hoping to put together something quick and easy. But, it’s filled with random items and you can’t possibly figure out what to have so despite your good intentions, you end up ordering takeout after all.

This scenario can happen to the best of us. Life is busy and despite not wanting to eat out so often, we have a hard time breaking bad habits because we don’t have a plan. We can avoid nights like these to save money and be more prepared by simply using a meal plan and keeping frugal pantry staples on hand.

Not only will it help save time, but it can also help you save money on your groceries– not to mention your sanity. Although it takes a little time and effort to plan ahead, it’s worth it when you begin to see your grocery bill decrease each week.

Looking for more ways to save on groceries:

Besides meal planning, stocking your pantry is one of the best ways to save money on your groceries. By keeping your most-used ingredients on hand you are always prepared when dinner time rolls around. Think of it as a backup plan for those busy nights when you haven’t made it to the grocery store or forgot to take out something for dinner.

Benefits of keeping a well-stocked pantry

  • It saves you time by eliminating the need to make unnecessary trips to the grocery store reducing impulse shopping.
  • Encourages cooking at home, not only saving you money but allowing you to control your ingredients to eat healthier.
  • It helps you keep the basic ingredients on hand to make simple meals in a pinch.
  • Pantry staples make meal planning quick and easy.

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Since everyone’s family is different, your list of pantry staples may not look the same as mine. But, hopefully, my list will inspire you to make a list of your own so you are prepared the next time you come rushing home and need a quick and easy meal on the table. Here is my list of frugal pantry staples for easy meals.

Frugal Pantry Staples for Easy Meals

Dry Goods

  • Rice- White or brown rice is the perfect frugal pantry staple to have on hand. You can use it as a side dish or add veggies and meat for a simple and filling dinner idea.
  • Pasta- Pasta is a favorite in our household. My boys can’t get enough. The best part is it’s very frugal and easy to make on busy weeknights. Some of our favorites are penne, rotini, macaroni, and spaghetti.
  • Rolled oats- Oats are a must in our household for a healthy breakfast option.  But, can also be used in baked goods.
  • Bread-  Bread is used for sandwiches, french toast, and when it begins to get stale can be toasted and used for homemade croutons.
  • Cereal- My son loves cereal so it’s definitely become a pantry staple in our home. Plus, over the years we’ve gotten pretty creative finding baking recipes to use up the leftover cereal for quick snacks.
  • Tortilla shells- Tortilla shells can be used for tacos, quesadillas, breakfast burritos, and wraps.
  • Coffee- My morning doesn’t begin until I’ve had my coffee so it’s obviously a must in our home.
  • Peanut butter- Great for peanut butter sandwiches or in baking recipes.

Baking supplies

  • Flour- An essential pantry staple for all your baking needs.
  • Sugar (white and/or brown sugar)-  I keep sugar on hand for our favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe and my morning coffee.
  • Baking powder and/or Baking soda- These are a must to keep on hand if you do a lot of baking. Plus baking soda is a great odor neutralizer. I use it as a carpet cleaner, and just sprinkle a little around, let it sit, and then vacuum it up.

spoon with spices


  • Salt and pepper- These are essential in our home to flavor just about any recipe.
  • Italian seasoning- I keep this on hand to season pasta dishes and pizza.
  • Garlic powder- Garlic powder is one of my favorite seasonings and is perfect if you don’t have fresh garlic on hand. We use it to season meat, vegetables, and sauces.
  • Cinnamon- We use cinnamon to flavor oatmeal, to put in baked goods, and to sprinkle on applesauce.
  • Vanilla extract- It’s used in our favorite baking recipes.


  • Ketchup- Ketchup is definitely a must-have condiment in our home. We use it on burgers, fries, hash browns, and various recipes.
  • Mustard- Although, my kids are not huge fans of this condiment I still keep it on hand to use in deviled eggs and salads.
  • Mayonnaise- We keep mayonnaise on hand for sandwiches and salads.
  • Salsa- Tacos, and quesadillas are a favorite in our home so salsa is a must to keep on hand.
  • Oils & Vinegar- Vinegar is a great option to keep stocked up on, not only for cooking and homemade dressing but for cleaning your home, and as a softener for your laundry.

eggs juice milk vegetables in fridge

Refrigerated foods

  • Milk- Besides drinking, we keep milk on hand for cereal and various recipes.
  • Cheese– My family loves cheese but it can get expensive so I try to stock up when it’s on sale. A bonus is that it can be frozen to use later stretching our budget.
  • Eggs- We always keep eggs on hand, whether it’s for baking or putting together our favorite frugal breakfast crunchwrap. It’s one of the first things I add to my grocery list each week.
  • Butter- Butter is useful for just about any recipe.
  • Sour cream- Sour cream is perfect on potatoes, tacos, and casserole dishes.


  • Lettuce- We keep lettuce on hand for tacos, salads, sandwiches, and wraps.
  • Onions- Onions are an inexpensive pantry staple that adds lots of extra flavor to many meals.
  • Green pepper- Along with onions, we also purchase green bell peppers. Both options freeze really well.
  • Apples- Apples are the perfect nutritious snack on their own. However, they are also tasty in baked goods like my caramel apple crisp muffins. We also love having homemade applesauce as a quick after-dinner dessert.
  • Bananas- They are great to grab for a quick breakfast. I also like to keep them on hand for my blueberry banana bread with crumb topping recipe.
  • Potatoes- Potatoes are the perfect comfort food. They can be served up so many different ways, in salads, baked, fried, mashed, and cut up like fries.

Canned goods

  • Diced tomatoes- Diced tomatoes can be used in so many dishes. We add them to stews, chili, and goulash.
  • Condensed soups- These are great for making quick and easy casserole dishes.
  • Chicken stock- I try to keep chicken stock on hand for soups and to flavor pasta and chicken (when using my instant pot).
  • Pasta sauce- Since pasta is a huge hit in my home, we go through a lot of pasta sauce as well. It’s not only useful for pasta dishes but we have used it for a pizza topping and for a dipping sauce for breadsticks.


  • Chicken- We always have chicken in our freezer because it’s so versatile and flavorful. One of the ways we love to use chicken is to purchase frozen chicken breasts or tenderloins and cook them in the instant pot or bake in the oven, then shred them to use in many different recipes. We also purchase rotisserie chicken to shred for quick meals. Check out these 28 easy shortcut rotisserie chicken dinner ideas to get dinner on the table fast.
  • Pork- We try to keep pork loin, bacon, and ham in the freezer for simple pork dinners. Stock up on ham around the holidays and you can use it for many meals. Here are some easy ways to use up leftover ham.
  • Ground beef- This is a great option for busy weeknights when you have no idea what to cook. Check out these 35 Quick and Easy Ground Beef Dinner Ideas to add to your meal plan rotation.
  • Frozen Vegetables- Although I prefer the homegrown vegetables from my garden, frozen vegetables are a great alternative during the winter months plus they are less expensive than fresh produce. We like to keep carrots, green beans, and broccoli in our freezer.

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Hopefully, this list has inspired you to sit down and make your own list of pantry staples to have on hand. You can take the stress out of mealtime by being prepared with a fully stocked pantry next time you rush home to make dinner.

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