Make sure your pantry has these items!

Your household food budget’s greatest threat? Getting taken by surprise and not having a meal planned. This means paying too much for takeout or hitting the drive thru.

While planning your meals for a week at a time is a good idea, it’s not always feasible. However, if you make sure that your pantry is stocked with these staples, you can ditch the drive thru and produce a healthy, cheap meal on the fly.


Everyone loves a hearty bowl of pasta. Even if you don’t have a fancy spaghetti sauce in the freezer, you can whip up a sauce in no time, even with a little broth, oil, milk or even salad dressing. It’s a great way to use up leftovers as well.

Canned fish

After some protein in a hurry? Canned tuna or salmon is a low-budget, low-cal toss in to any dish to up the protein factor. Tuna casseroles and salmon loaf or cakes are yummy and cheap (and quick to make). Serve with a little lemon aioli (mayo, garlic and lemon juice).

Dried herbs and spices

While fresh herbs and spices do pack an undeniable punch, you can do very well with their dried substitutes, which are less expensive and last for much longer.

As a rule of thumb, dried spices last up to about 4 years, ground spices for about 2 to 3 years and dried herbs for 1 to 3 years.

Peanut butter

You know about PB & J sandwiches, but did you know that peanut butter can provide a protein injection elsewhere? If you’ve got some rice and some frozen veggies on hand, combine equal parts peanut butter and equal parts Catalina or California style dressing and sauté the veggies. Serve over rice and you’ve got a protein packed veggie stir-fry.

Canned tomatoes

Canned tomatoes are not only super versatile, they are super healthy. Pour a can of tomatoes over chicken breasts, add dried garlic and basil and top with cheese. Bake at 350 for about 30 mins, or until cooked through. Chicken bruschetta!