Eating Well On a Budget: Part 8 – Staples & Spices
Posted on Monday, December 24th, 2012 at 8:00 am
Keeping your pantry well stocked with items you constantly use is a great way to ensure you cook fantastic, healthy meals at home instead of spending extra money on calorie loaded take-out. Purchasing perishable items like seasonal fruits and vegetables is necessary to keep you and your family healthy. However, you can also purchase a few less expensive staple items to keep your family fed, your pantry stocked, and your pocketbook happy. The Environmental Working Group has compiled a list of staples and spices that take your dishes to a whole new level without breaking the bank. For every $25 spent on your overall grocery bill, the EWG suggest you spend about $1 to $2 on staples and spices.
Staple items include anything you know you will be using frequently to bake or add flavor to your dishes. Since they last a long time, you can buy staple items in bulk when they are on sale. This will save you tons in the long run! Staples included on the Environmental Working Group’s list include honey or brown sugar, peanut butter, low-sodium soy sauce, vinegar, Dijon mustard, stock for soups, and whole wheat flour. Just about all of these items can be found in big warehouse stores like Costco, so consider stocking up! Be sure to read the label or do some research on how to properly store all of these items.
Herbs and spices offer an inexpensive way to take your dishes to the next level. Whether you’re using them to add a touch of flavor, or you’re planning on building your dish around a certain flavor, it’s no doubt that every kitchen needs to keep essential spices handy! Spices can go stale, so it’s best to buy them in small quantities or whole when you can find them. Once you bring your herbs and spices home, consider writing the date on the outside of the container with a permanent marker ensure you aren’t using stale ingredients. Grinding your spices with a mortar and pestle is a great way to keep your spices longer, and you’ll get a fresh taste! Ethnic markets often sell spices at great prices. You can also find herbs or spices that you might not find in traditional markets. However, the best way to save money is to grow your own. Herb gardens are easy to maintain and can be added to your home garden. You can also grow an herb garden in your kitchen window.
Herbs and spices that are used often include salt, pepper, onions, garlic, lemon juice, cinnamon, and cayenne pepper. Ingredients that are called for often in recipes and are handy to have around the kitchen include bay leaves, cumin, rosemary, thyme, vanilla extract, chili powder, dill, fennel, ginger, lime juice, dried oregano, paprika, and parsley.
The world of staples and spices truly makes cooking fun as you can experiment with new flavors to create an entirely new dish!