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Frugal Pantry Items You Should Have

Frugal Pantry Items You Should Have

If you cook from home, there are many pantry staples you should have on hand at all times.

Having a fully stocked pantry is a great way to save money on groceries, but filling it with a bunch of junk is not the best way to go about it.

Here are 12 frugal items to make sure you always have stocked in your pantry:

1. Rice

Not only is rice delicious, but it is extremely inexpensive, easy to store, and just a little bit goes a long way. Purchase rice in bulk and it will last months.

2. Pasta

Looking for a super quick meal for lunch or dinner? Pasta is your friend! It takes just minutes to cook, doesn’t cost much at all, and a small amount will serve many people.

3. Flour

A key ingredient in most baked goods, flour should be in everyone’s pantry. It’s also good for thickening sauces (as is cornstarch). There are many different kinds of flour available, but all-purpose white flour is the most common and can be used in a ton of different dishes.

4. Dried Beans

Healthy, frugal, and cheap as can be. Beans are great as a side dish, to make dips like homemade hummus, in soups & chilis, and even to stretch your ground beef. You can purchase them canned, but dried is best.

5. Dried Spices

Think garlic powder, basil, oregano, cayenne pepper, cumin, dill, onion powder and parsley flakes, to name a few. Spices are what take your meals to the next level, so make sure you always have some on hand.

6. Vinegar

You can do so many different things with this frugal pantry item, including cook with it (of course). Use white vinegar as an ingredient in homemade barbecue sauce, and balsamic vinegar to make a delicious balsamic vinaigrette for your salad.

7. Oats

Are you searching for healthy, and inexpensive breakfast ideas? Oats to the rescue! Use them to make homemade instant oatmeal packets or homemade granola. You can also use them in cookies, and just like beans, as a way to stretch your ground beef.

8. Canned Tomatoes

Whether you want to make your own homemade pasta sauce, need some diced tomatoes for chili or want to add crushed tomatoes to your chicken dish, canned tomatoes are the way to go (if you can’t find fresh tomatoes on sale).

9. Broth

Perfect for homemade soups, to make sauces, and even to cook delicious grains like couscous or quinoa in, chicken or beef broth are a frugal grocery staple that should be in every pantry.

10. Sugar

Sugar is a key ingredient in many different recipes. Desserts, sweet sauces (like in this baked sesame chicken), and maybe even in your tea or coffee. Buy it in bulk when it’s priced the cheapest (with so much Thanksgiving and Christmas cooking going on, stores often have discounts on baking items like sugar in October-December).

11. Fresh Garlic

There is nothing more delicious than fresh garlic in [almost] any savoury meal that you make. Pasta sauce, chicken dishes, burgers, and even salad dressings. Garlic adds so much flavour for very little cash. That’s why you should always have this frugal pantry item on hand.

12. Fresh Onions

When combined with garlic, onions can make just about anything taste amazing. Not only are they extremely inexpensive (especially towards the end of the year), but if stored correctly, they can last quite awhile.

Look in your cupboards. Do you have these pantry staples on hand? If your answer is no, add them to your shopping list and pick them up the next time you are out buying groceries.

Then, when you’re preparing meals each day, you will have a fully stocked pantry that can assist you in making many delicious meals, very inexpensively.

What frugal pantry items would you add to this list?


  1. Jodi

    What is the best way to store onions? Mine don’t last long.. lol I’d love to know the best way to make them last longer!

    Thanks! =)

  2. Vi

    I have potatoes as a standby always. Mashed for side dishes or put them in soups and stews. Yummy

  3. Pat

    The other thing I keep in my pantry is canned milk! It is great for baking, making sauces and for your coffee when you run out of milk. Mix it 50/50 with water for cereal etc..

  4. Lynn

    I have a fat of some kind as a staple. Lard, butter, oil… It’s not the best (health, cholesterol etc…) but you can cook with it, add it to a recipe (pie crust) or make “sandwiches” with it when running low.. butter and bread CAN fill you up when the tummy is empty!

  5. Betty

    as well as all of the above mentioned items, I also keep a box of dehydrated mashed potatoes , a tetra box of milk that doesn’t have to be refrigerated until opened, canned meat (tuna, salmon, etc.), canned soup, etc.

  6. Lisa

    If you are going to be baking you should always have baking soda, powder, salt, and yeast. Those four items together cost less than ten bucks and last a while so I always keep them on hand so I can bake almost anything. I also always have olive oil and a vegetable oil on hand.

  7. Kris

    Rice and pasta don’t last long at our house, as my 4 kids think that plain rice or plain pasta with parmesan cheese is the perfect meal. So we buy ours in as big a quantity as we can find…there are huge bags of jasmine rice at Costco and they can last us a couple of months. For pasta, we buy white in larger bags when it’s on for $0.99 and we buy whole wheat/Catelli Smart/etc. when it’s on special and I have coupons. Often, we will mix white and wheat pasta together so the kids get fibre and don’t complain about the texture.
    Luckily, my dad works for Kraft so he buys us parmesan in the employee store and never asks to be reimbursed. Otherwise, we’d surely go broke!!

  8. Terri

    Potatoes and carrots. Along with onions, there are just so many things that you can make with them.
    One of my favourite things to do with these 3 veggies is to roast them. It’s dead easy and the only other ingredient you really need is olive oil. There is nothing more yummy than roasted veggies.

  9. Tara

    As a vegetarian who doesn’t cook much, I would add Quinoa. It’s a high fibre, gluten-free grain that is a source of complete protein. =)

    • Cassie Howard

      Love quinoa, just wish it wasn’t so expensive.

  10. geni

    I would choose dehydrated onions instead of fresh and add some dried green peppers.
    Chocolate would be nice. . .

  11. Rexi

    Peanut butter. Cans of beans you wouldn’t want a whole pot of but are good in soups and other recipes with several ingredients (kidney beans and black-eyed peas are my staples here.) Shredded cheese – the store brand on sale runs about $3 a pound. Nutmeg (good with meat or beans) and other spices from the markdown basket/table or the dollar store.

  12. Michelle

    Frozen chopped onions are a fantastic staple. A trick from Americas Test Kitchen that has served me well.

  13. Melodie

    Garlic can be found in late summer and early fall at it’s freshest – please buy Ontario grown. Roast it up and freeze in ice cube trays for later use or grate it up fresh freeze in ice cube trays and throw in the freezer to use until the season comes around again. herbs can be frozen in ice cube trays too along with olive oil – no waste just yum.

  14. krystalee

    I bought fresh from the farm garlic last summer it was the best garlic I have ever had and it lasted a really long time 🙂

  15. claudia howard

    I go to the discounted fruit and veggies to find mushrooms and bananas in particular. I freeze the bananas and dehydrate mushrooms. The mushrooms I use in soups, sauces, gravy, pizzas, and one friend loves to crumble them over perogies. I make my own minced dried garlic and onions. Lately they have had lots of jalepeno peppers, so I will try dehydrating them to use in spicy dishes like chili. Sale item oranges or lemons I make into grated peel, candied peel and juice the pulp to make marmalades. My dehydrator has helped my pantry to a great extent…I even make my own gluten free, fresh dehydrated pastas

  16. amy

    I do my own gluten free baking and make my own bbq sauces etc. so here is our list:

    tapicoa, cocoa powder, chocolate chips, brown sugar, honey, molasses, ketchup, mustard, almond milk, dry my own spices, rice and pasta

    pizza crusts
    lots of homemade chili and homemade soups
    home done frozen vegetable and fruit (multiple trips to local farms)
    chicken, ground meats (chicken, turkey, and beef), stewing beef, steaks and pork chops, pepperoni and cheese

    The fur children’s list:
    cat food and tuna

  17. Gracie

    Canned milk. It is inexpensive with coupons and when you reconstitute it with one can of milk and one can of water it can get you out of a bind when your cooking things like… instant mashed potatoes or instant cheesecake. To both it adds a little extra rich flavor and they taste better then with fresh milk… odd but true.

    Shortening. It is easy to use in a fast pie or sugar cookies and when purchased on sale with coupons it is often less expensive then margarine.

    Cake mixes and icing sugar, These guys can get you out of a bind for birthdays and occasions. You don’t need a fancy piping bag to decorate, there are youtube vids that show you how to pipe icing with a ziploc bag.

    Canned fruits and veggies, Buy them on sale with coupons and save them for the expensive times of the year.

    Spaghetti sauce, This is the same deal… buy it on sale with coupons whenever possible. It is cheap and it makes a pound of ground beef go a long way.

    Tuna, Buy it at the lowest price with coupons… sometimes it is free or close to free.

    Knorr sidekicks. They are not expensive and they can speed up your dinners.

    Popcorn kernels! The original cheap snack food.

    Corn syrup. You can make many candies if you have it on hand.

    Dry Grated Coconut. It can be used in anything from granola to cookies.

    Corn Meal, You can dip onions rings into a batter then dip them in corn meal… they taste better then store bought and they are so much cheaper.

    Baking Soda. In the fridge… in the freezer… in the baking. Almost everybody uses it.

    Salad dressings that work in main courses too. Chicken ranch pizza, Chicken cesar pizza, pasta salad with french dressing.

    That is all I can think of at the moment. You should be able to get these things all for under $2 and some for free.

    • Cassie Howard

      Awesome ideas, Gracie! I have a huge stock of baking soda, I use that for everything!

  18. Brenda

    I liked your list but it misses the proteins peanut butter, canned meat (tuna), beans dry and canned. I personally like to keep seeds that I can sprout , they grow in 2 days and last for years dry.

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