Welcome I would usually do this type of post for Frugal Friday, but I guess we’ll call today Thrifty Thursday. Any day is a good day to stretch the grocery budget, right? And did you know there was such a thing as #pantrystapleswednesday? I didn’t until I made a skillet meal with pantry staples and put on Instagram last night. That Chicken Fajita Skillet was simple, thrifty, and delicious. Thanks for stopping by. Note–I may receive a small compensation from affiliate links seen on this blog post. For further information, please see my Terms and Disclosure page.
Food For Thought Don’t you just love when you come home from the grocery store, you have everything put away and you look in your pantry or cabinets and find them full! As someone who loves to cook and plan out our family’s meals and be prepared for spontaneous treats…I really can appreciate that moment when I see my shelves fully stocked. What a blessing that our family can afford to keep our shelves full of good food, both nutritious and delicious, because not all families know that feeling of having plenty. That’s why we try to donate to food pantries throughout the year to share with those who have less. But this post is not about donations or charity. I just want to share some tips about keeping your home’s pantries stocked and sticking to a monthly food budget.
I’ve shared in the past how ridiculously high our family’s grocery and food bill was when we had two incomes. Nine months ago we easily spent $1400 a month on food and drink, between the grocery store, eating out, and convenience store stops…for a family of three! Yes, it’s sad and embarrassing. We’ve carved it down and last month we came in under $800, and that included big bags of Halloween candy for trick-or-treaters, a couple of take-out lunches to surprise my daughter at school, and going out to dinner and brunch for my husband’s birthday. I’m doing more Aldi shopping and buying store brands more often. We also eat less meat and ice cream, which is beneficial to our health as well.
The key to always being prepared for home cooked, and often quick dinners, is to have a well-stocked pantry of staples. Staples are the items you can keep on hand and use to whip up a quick meal using whatever is left in the refrigerator or what meats or produces are on sale this week. So here is my list of 8 pantry staples to keep on hand to make delicious and nutritious meals for your family. The best way to handle this is to stock up when these items are on sale and then your pantry will always be prepared.
1 Canned Goods…beans, vegetables, fruits, tuna, etc. I especially like to stock up on canned beans. They require little planning or prep and can be added to meat dishes to stretch the portions. Beans can also be combined with a variety of other vegetables, pastas, or rice and serve as a stand-alone protein source. A good sale can yield beans for as low as 59 cents a can and vegetables can go as low as 39 cents a can during a great sale. Buy the limit when they’re at rock bottom prices and you’ll be glad you did later.
2 Baking Supplies…baking chips, nuts, flours, sugar, baking mixes, oils, yeast. Especially during the holidays, supermarkets will have incredible sales on baking staples. You can stock up and be prepared for a variety of treat preparation, but other dishes as well. I use nuts in some of my side dishes and we often have a frugal dinner made up of pancakes, waffles, or muffins with some eggs and bacon. Baking chips and nuts do freeze well, too.
3 Cereal, granola bars, and oatmeal. You have to eat breakfast, too! I love when boxes of cereal or bars go on sale at 3 for $5. By stocking up, our breakfast needs are taken care of for awhile. These food items also make nutritious snacks. Oatmeal is not just for breakfast, either. It can be used to stretch ground meat in meatballs and meatloaf and also boosts nutrition of muffins or waffles.
4 Pastas and Rices If you have some bags or boxes of dried pasta and rice in your pantry, you have dinner. Any meats and veggies can be tossed in for a casserole or stir-fry. It can be doctored up with sauces, herbs and spices, or cheese. Absolutely the easiest dinners to throw together come from a package of pasta or rice. Rice mixes are not quite as healthy or economical, but take the guess work out of seasoning and typically cook quicker than standard rice.
Keep pastas, rice and more handy with these pantry organizers.
5 Condiments Soy sauces, ketchups, salsas, mustards, flavored vinegars, and dressings add quick flavor to many of the above staples. These items are usually not cheap, unless they are on sale, but they add a lot of healthy flavors to a variety of foods and a container will last a long time, becoming an economical choice over the long run.
6 Peanut Butter, jellies, jams, and honey Talk about frugal lunches! A peanut butter and jelly sandwich is satisfying any time, and peanut butter is pretty cheap. Keeping these items on hand will guarantee that you will always have something available for lunch or snacks.
7 Cartons of chicken or vegetables stock This is the basis of many soups, whether made of chicken or not, and sauces. Cooking rice and pasta with chicken stock also boosts the flavor. Buying 2 or 3 cartons every time they are on sale will guarantee you can always have a hot soup for dinner.
8 Dried herbs and spices and peppercorns Fresh herbs are delicious, no doubt, but they are not very economical and have a short shelf life. So, keeping a pantry full of dried herbs and spices will allow you to add flavor to your dishes while stretching your food dollars.
Bonus Tip Grab those grocery store sale ads each week and take a peek before you toss them in the trash or recycle bins. What does the store have on sale this week? If you see some of the above staple items on sale, stock up. These are shelf-stable foods that won’t go bad before you get a chance to use them. These are the items you can pull together for quick dinners and lunches on any given week night, without much planning. But look at the other sale items too. Buy the meats and produce that are on sale and use them to combine with your staple items. My recipe today was exactly the result of going to a well-stocked pantry and pulling out some items for a quick and delicious dinner.
Today’s Scripture Let us be thankful to God for all of his provision and reflect on the following verses.
Joel 2:23-24 “Be glad, O people of Zion, rejoice in the Lord your God, for he has given you the autumn rains in righteousness. He sends you abundant showers, both autumn and spring rains, as before. The threshing floors will be filled with grain; the vats will overflow with new wine and oil.”
Today’s Recipe I love the Kirkwood Roasted Red Pepper and Lime Marinated chicken breasts at Aldi. I can get a 2 1/2 lb. bag of these pre-seasoned chicken breasts for $6.99, sometimes even $5.99, and stretch the chicken for 3-4 meals. Last night I was able to throw together a pantry staples dinner using a couple of these thawed chicken breasts. I just grabbed a can of pinto beans, a box of instant brown rice, and a package of taco seasoning from the pantry and in less than 30 minutes we had a chicken fajita skillet meal. Cheap, easy, and palette pleasing to my family!
Chicken Fajita Skillet
- 2-3 marinated chicken breasts
- 1 large onion, sliced
- 2 bell peppers, diced
- 1 pkg taco seasoning
- 1 can pinto beans
- 1 cup instant brown rice
- Add-ons, such as shredded cheese, salsa, hot sauce, or sour cream
Spray a large nonstick skillet (that has a lid) with cooking spray and turn to medium heat. Cut chicken breasts into bite-size pieces and add to hot pan. Cook 3-4 minutes and turn chicken pieces; cook another 2-3 minutes. Add onions, peppers, and taco seasoning to pan, cooking until vegetables are just beginning to soften. Stir and add beans and rice. I had enough liquid from the chicken marinade that I did not need to add any, but if your skillet looks dry, add 1/2 – 1cup chicken broth or water to the skillet. Place lid on skillet and cook 8-10 minutes, or until rice is tender. This meal is hearty as is, but you can add on cheese or salsa or any other “fajita fixin’s.”
Suggested Products I am always ready to prepare a quick and easy dinner for my family when I keep these products in my kitchen (11/30/17; 1:40 p.m. CST):