Whether you have recently discovered a love for cooking or have resolved to cook at home more to try and save some money, having the following items readily available in your fridge and pantry will set you up for success. Many of these items are versatile and can be used in various dishes. When looking for recipe inspiration or the best way to utilize any leftovers, the internet has an abundance of recipes you can find — Pinterest is one of my favorites.
1. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
You can use this healthy fat to saute veggies with or drizzle over some chicken or fish before popping it into the oven. You can also mix it with some red wine vinegar and a few other basic ingredients to make an easy salad dressing.
2. Various Spices
You can snag a variety of different spices to keep in your pantry for a relatively low price. Using these can transform the taste of many food items, and mixing some together can create a wonderful new flavor. I always have the following readily available: garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper, oregano, Italian seasoning, and parsley. A personal favorite of my wife’s, this chophouse butter seasoning, is something we put on almost everything, from veggies and meat to eggs and pasta. Your palette will thank you; trust us!
3. Chicken Broth
Chicken broth can make any dish go from boring to popping! If you cook rice, chicken, or veggies in broth, your food is bound to be more flavorful and moist. Chicken broth also makes a good base for a lot of sauces and gravies, and has a long shelf life when unopened.
4. Cream Cheese
If you’re making a creamy pasta dish, want a quick appetizer of some air fryer pepper poppers, or want to make the creamiest scrambled eggs, cream cheese is your trick of the trades. Usually, you can catch it on a good sale at the grocery store!
5. Brown Rice
Brown rice is a lower-carb way to amp up any meal. It’s also good to have it on hand to add to a stir fry or soup and even pair it with some protein for a quick, easy meal. Rice is also always good to have on hand if you or your dog have a tummy ach,e as it can help alleviate the discomfort. Plus, it comes at a relatively low price point, making it budget-friendly.
Cornstarch is a great way to thicken up any sauce. Fun fact: cornstarch also has healing properties if you have a keloid. It has an extremely long shelf life, and most recipes use minimal amounts, making your supply last longer.
7. Tomato Sauce
It’s great to keep a jar or two of tomato sauce on hand (grocery stores usually have BOGO sales) for a quick, easy dinner. You can also use it if you feel like having pizza, chicken parm, or even just some plain pasta. It’s also nice to have it ready to throw over some quick frozen meatballs. If you’re feeling creative, try getting a basic marinara and adding spices specific to the dish you’re making..
8. Bread Crumbs
Another item with a long shelf life that can transform any boring dish into something more exciting is bread crumbs. For example, coat some chicken and fry it in some EVOO for a nice main dish. Alternatively, use breadcrumbs as a topping to some mac and cheese or a binder in homemade meatloaf or meatballs. I like the Italian style, but plain is fine as well. Some people also like panko bread crumbs as they’re more crunchy and have fewer carbs.
If you need to cook a quick lunch or a way to incorporate some protein into a meal, canned tuna can is your best friend. It has a long shelf life and can be very versatile. For instance, it’s great for salads, casseroles, or as part of tuna melts. I prefer solid white tuna in water, but there are chunky varieties in oil which some people find more flavorful.
10. Vanilla Extract
When you want to add some sweetness to a meal without using sugar, this is your trick. Try adding some to your oatmeal, pancakes, or any baked good, and you won’t regret it. Opting for pure vanilla extract keeps ingredients more wholesome, giving your food a more genuine vanilla flavor.
Many people have varying opinions on pantry and refrigerator staples needed to cook more. Of course, we didn’t mention the obvious, such as milk, eggs, butter, etc. Find what works best for you and start your stockpile. Was there a pantry or refrigerator staple you always remembered seeing as you grew up? Let us know in the comments below. Happy cooking!
Featured image via Alexy Almond on Pexels