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These are the things you should have on hand at all times so that you can whip up a meal without much thought or problems. If you make sure you have these items, you’ll always be able to create a healthy vegetarian meal in minutes.
1. Rice – A variety of rice is nice but if you can’t afford it, a huge bag of medium grain white rice from your local Asian store will do. This type of rice can be used for all types of recipes and is easy to cook. You can cook it in a rice cooker or you can boil it for ten minutes, drain, and rest ten minutes for perfect rice every single time.
2. Oats – This is one of your best breakfasts and can also be added to other ingredients to bulk out dishes and give them texture. For example, adding 1/2 cup steel-cut oats to your chili recipe will give it more body and texture and keep your family guessing.
3. Dry Beans – These are very inexpensive and can be used to make beans for any dish, but can also be used to make sprouts if you want added nutrition in all your meals. Dried beans aren’t really that hard to cook and store, so don’t be afraid to use them.
4. Potatoes – You can keep all variety of potatoes in a cool, dark place such as a potato keeper or a brown paper bag for a long time. Just make sure to pick through and get the bad ones out. You can use potatoes in all sorts of dishes and even make quick snacks with them.
5. Carrots – Root veggies like carrots also last a long time when stored properly. You can get a huge bag of organic carrots at Costco for next to nothing and add some carrot to every meal you make. Try adding shredded carrot on top of those black bean tacos for some added texture and flavor.
6. Frozen Fruit – This lasts longer and it was likely frozen within minutes of picking it, so it’s fresher than what you can buy at the store sometimes. You can make a variety of recipes using frozen fruit. Save fresh fruit for fruit salad and eating as-is or as a topping for recipes made with the frozen varieties.
7. Frozen Veggies – It’s the same story with frozen veggies. Of course, when you just want some green beans, fresh tastes a lot better, but there really isn’t much difference in most of the other types of veggies and they can easily be used in casseroles, soups, stir-fries and more and no one will be the wiser.
8. Seasonings – One thing that can add up is spices, herbs, and other seasonings. For sure you need salt. But consider buying dried seasoning that has combined flavors. For example, 21 Seasoning Salute Blend from Trader Joe’s can replace a variety of dried seasonings and save you money.
9. Citrus – It’s okay to buy lemon juice from concentrate to use in your cooking to save money, since it can be stored longer. But, if you’re going to eat oranges for snacks you might as well use the oranges as flavor enhancers too.
10. Eggs – You can get eggs very inexpensively when you consider what’s in them. Try Aldi for inexpensive eggs or your local backyard chicken farmer for the best eggs that will last for a while.
11. Cheese – Choose versatile cheese that can be used for different types of recipes in blocks, not pre-shredded. It can last a long time if you wrap it up tightly to keep the air from it. A tiny sprinkle of extra-sharp cheddar on your eggs can make all the difference.
12. Nuts – When you have nuts around, you can easily whip up nut milk. Nuts can be expensive but if you know where to shop or pick your own, you can get them less expensively. Buy in bulk and store in your freezer to make them last longer.
13. Flour – A great ingredient to have to make bread, biscuits, rolls, and more. Plus, it can be used as a thickening agent for soups or as a crust for some fried eggplant. Stored in a cool, dry place it will last for months and months, and it’s cheap to start with.
14. Yeast – Having this around is going to help you make a variety of bread, desserts, and more. Keep it in the freezer if you don’t use it much, and you don’t need to worry about it going bad.
15. Canned Tomatoes – This can make the difference between a delicious fast cooked meal and a boring one. Canned tomatoes can help you make chili, spaghetti, casseroles, soups, goulash, and more.
16. Pasta – Having a variety of pasta to choose from makes dinner a snap if you also have some frozen veggies, canned tomatoes, spices and a bit of cheese. Plus, pasta is great as a leftover, thus saving you time and money.
17. Honey – You want to be healthy, and honey is a good choice. It is pricey but if you save it to use for your most treasured pleasures it will make up for it. Put it in tea, your bread, and even your fruit salad to make it extra delicious and healthy.
18. Maple Syrup – If you don’t like honey, your next best is maple syrup. This used as a sweetener is healthier than white sugar and gives it added flavor. Plus, who wouldn’t want to whip up some French toast with homemade sourdough bread, with some thawed frozen strawberries on top.
In truth, anything that you tend to use often that doesn’t go bad fast should be bought in bulk to save time, money, and packaging. If you can make your own from scratch, it’s going to be even better but by combining scratch with store-bought you can have the best of both worlds and keep your cupboard stocked.