I think everyone has their own list of ‘staple’ foods to keep in the house. It’s largely based on what you’re into, what you like to eat, and what you can afford. There probably is, somewhere, a staple list that includes “Bread and Milk”, and that’s the long and short of it. But what about those who are lactose intolerant? Gluten intolerant? People who are cutting out HFCS?
My “Pantry Staples” list is constantly evolving, especially since I’ve been trying to eat more healthily. Originally, a loaf of bread was on my list. Since I started looking more closely at food labels, though, I’ve had to cut that off. Bakery bread is too expensive, and the wonderbread you get on the shelf generally contains as much preservatives as wheat. I’ve had to find alternatives, and it’s difficult on a budget, but I won’t compromise my health for my wallet.
It IS possible to eat healthily on a budget. They key is moderation, and know where you can spend your money and where to cut back. My staples diet list right now includes the following items:
Pasta. I know that overindulgence in grains is bad for you, but since this is one of the cheaper bulks you can get, I feel justified in merely watching my intake. I keep an eye on the sales, and when the Barilla Plus or the Ronzoni Smart Taste pastas go on sale, I snag two or three boxes. For years, my “serving” of pasta consisted of 1/3-1/2 of a box thrown in a huge pot of water, then mixed with whatever was on hand. It took a lot of self-control and time to get to the point where one actual serving-size of pasta satisfied me, but I manage it, largely by pairing it with plenty of vegetables.
Speaking of vegetables, the next thing on my list is bags of frozen veggies. As a fairly loyal Meijer shopper, I can only speak to their selection, but they have a decent variety of store-brand frozen vegetable mixes that pair well with my pasta, or with chicken, potatoes, eggplant Parmesan, or whatever else strikes your fancy. I stay away from their broccoli cuts, because experience tells me they aren’t that good, but their “Mexican” and “Parisian” blends are tasty and versatile.
Fresh veggies are also essential. Tomatoes, cucumbers, and, if on sale, bell peppers of all colors. Tomato, I do many things with. I could post entirely about the wonders of my favorite fruit/veggie magician, but suffice to say for now that, with the help of the cucumber and some hummus, tomato sammiches are amazing. Bell peppers chop up and freeze well to go into stir-fry and other amazing dishes.
Cheese is another thing that makes person-specific appearances. I have to have a bag of fancy shredded cheddar, and a block of pepper jack in my fridge almost at all times. I put it on pasta, potatoes, nachoes, crackers, in dips, and so on. I used to douse everything in cheese, but I’ve since learned that the one-ounce serving size works just as well for flavoring and adding some nutrients to my food. I buy full-fat cheese, except for mozzarella, because it’s like a seasoning, and I will be darned if I deprive myself of its whole deliciousness.
There are obviously a lot more things to my pantry than these, but in a pinch, if I can’t afford anything else, I make sure that’s what I have, because those are the things I never tire of eating. I’ve learned that is the key to being able to hold out on a little money. You COULD survive on Ramen, but if you get sick of it,you really are just surviving, instead of living. Instead, find some things that are inexpensive, that you can sustain on for a long time, and you’re good.