Let’s step back in time for just a moment. I don’t care if you’re 20 years old or 70, chances are, the kitchen of your youth looked much different than most American kitchens today. We’ve gotten so caught up in the constant running around, that we’ve come to rely far too heavily on pre-packaged, processed foods. This is something our family is starting to work hard to reverse and I’m learning that I don’t have to spend hours in the kitchen each day to make a good, healthy meal for my family!
The items that we have on hand are what determine how far our food will go. Filling your cabinets or pantry with a few useful staples can be the difference between a trip to the grocery store each and every week versus once or twice a month. Stocking just a few choice items is all you need to create wonderful meals. By making sure these items are always on-hand, not only can you extend the time between shopping trips, you’ll make your dollars go further as well!
Flour is a starter item for many recipes. You can add it to some water and make gravy in the pan for many meat dishes. Flour is used to make bread (biscuits, rolls, loaves) and to coat chicken. It can also be used to coat a round or square cake pan to prevent the cake from sticking. Of course, one of the favorite uses for flour is in cookie recipes that make scrumptious desserts.
Rice is a side dish, but it doesn’t have to be plain. It can be jazzed up with veggies to accompany dinner. When you get done with dinner and you have leftover rice, it’s the perfect time to make sweet rice, a popular dessert! Just add evaporated milk and some sugar to a bowl of rice and warm it in the microwave. It is a tasty treat for after dinner. Another popular dessert is rice pudding. Rice can also be mixed with leftover meat and a cream soup to form a casserole. Rice has many uses and your sure to find a few that your family will love.
When we’re in between paychecks and money is tight, rice is our go-to starch. We mix one pound of hamburger, one packet of brown gravy (but I’m working on making gravy from scratch and freezing it so we always have healthy gravy) and rice. Add some fresh or canned veggies and you have a great meal! I also love to make New Orleans Beef and Rice and Apricot Chicken.
There are many different pasta choices and all have great uses. Manicotti can be stuffed with tomato sauce and cheeses. Macaroni can be used to make a creamy salad and also is great combined with cheese or spaghetti sauce. Spiral pasta is used in many different pasta salads. Spaghetti can be used in a casserole topped with cheese or in the traditional way with tomato sauce and meat.
There are other ways to season food besides salt and pepper. In fact, many spices taste better than salt. Even diehard salt-a-holics won’t miss the salt in foods if other seasonings are used. Cayenne pepper, chili powder, nutmeg, cinnamon, oregano, and garlic powder are all useful tools in your flavor arsenal to give foods a fresh new taste.
There go those beans again. Beans can top your salad (edamame), make an awesome dip (black beans), and go well with grilled foods (baked beans). They provide a good source of protein with very little fat. Beans are good in soups, stews, and over rice for a simple yet filling meal.
Do you have these staples in your kitchen? You can probably think of several more that will enhance your pantry and save money. Start with these and grow your own list of basic kitchen staples that are versatile and economical.