10 Pantry Staples to Always Keep on Hand

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A well-stocked pantry can be a lifesaver, allowing you to whip up budget-friendly meals on the fly, no pre-planning required! If you've ever wondered what you need to stock up on, you will not want to miss this helpful list of 10 pantry staples to always keep on hand!

This is a guest post from Cherie Lowe of the Queen of Free

“There’s nothing to eat in this entire house!” Raise your hand if you’ve ever uttered these emphatic (and probably untrue) words. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when you’re hungry. In fact, I get more questions about remaining on budget in the category of food (grocery shopping, dining out, and meal planning) than any other area. It seems like feeding our faces and saving money run counterproductive to one another. But I have good news and hope for you, friends.

You don’t have to live like that.

You can prepare meals at home, saving time and money, while even preparing healthier foods. You don’t have to feel overwhelmed at dinnertime. You don’t have to resort to quick fixes or frozen foods, even. And you can definitely avoid the drive-through trap. Your pantry is your first and mightiest weapon of defense when it comes to defeating your panicked hangry state of being and helping you stay on budget. But what should you purchase and how can you keep it stocked? I’m so glad you asked.


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I strongly believe every family should have a “Pantry Top Ten.” While you don’t have to make David Letterman styled witty cracks about each item on your list, you do need to identify the foods you eat most frequently and staples that assist in making quick and easy meals. Depending on their tastes and budget, every family’s top ten will look a little bit different. But the mere practice of defining ingredients you can maximize in your kitchen for multiple meals will help you recognize to save money, time, and your sanity when it comes to feeding your family.

With that being said, I’d love to share our family’s Top Ten. Perhaps some of these items will land on your list, too.

If you're trying to control your grocery bill, there are some pantry staples you should always have on hand

In the Pantry

Peanut Butter

Does it get any more classic than a PBJ? Peanut butter (or another nut butter if your household has an allergy) can be a quick and filling food when you need to get your hunger under control. Even if it just fills the gap as a snack before you prepare a meal, it will satiate quickly. Use it in sandwich form or mix into oatmeal for a breakfast that packs a punch.


Rice is a suitable side and can even function on its own as a main dish. Used in a number of world cuisines, whether you fry it, serve it with a curry, or build a burrito bowl with rice as a base, you’ll be a kitchen hero if you keep plenty on hand. You can even purchase rice in a 25 lb. bag to save per ounce and rarely run out. Depending on your family’s flavor and nutritional choices, you can choose from a wide palate of rice varieties. Our family loves Jasmine rice because of its sweet flavor and ability to cook quickly.


Of course you can’t mention rice without following it with its fellow frugal food friend, beans. Canned or dried, beans are one of the most economical foods certain to fill you up and provide a protein wallop. I try to keep both dried and canned black beans on hand. When I have time, I soak the beans overnight in my crockpot; rinse, drain, refill with water and then cook all day long on low. Then I freeze them in individual bags. However, there are some nights when I use a can in chili or as a side dish.


Gluten free, whole wheat or plain ‘ole pasta, you can choose your favorite shape or even flavor. No matter your preference, you need to keep a box or two of pasta on hand. Its versatility allows you to use it in salads, in soups, as a main dish, or on the side of your main course. Quick and filling, pasta allows you to fill your family at a low price.


It’s always a good idea to have a loaf or two of bread on hand. Whether you’re building your favorite sandwich or whipping up some French toast, bread is affordable. When you find a good deal on your favorite brand, purchase a couple of extra loaves and keep them in your freezer until you’re ready to use them.


It’s not exactly a fancy side dish but especially if you have kids, this fruit source fits the bill. Both incredibly economic and with a long shelf life, applesauce helps keep your costs down and bellies full.


It’s rare that there’s not an extra jar of salsa on our on our shelves. It’s just one of those foods that you don’t realize you need until it’s all gone. Add it to a mashed avocado for a delish dip for chips and veggies. Top that those beans and rice with it. Use it on soups or on top of baked potatoes. Salsa has a low price tag and high flavor.

Keeping the fridge and freezer stocked with a few staples makes grocery shopping easier (and cheaper)

In the Fridge/Freezer


I realize cheese isn’t shelf stable and so technically it’s stored in your fridge or freezer, not the pantry, but everything is better with cheese. Top eggs or sandwiches or pasta. Melt on chips or serve on a salad. Make homemade pizza or a yummy casserole. Cheese flexes its meal (and snack) muscles in a number of directions and almost everyone loves it.


Whether whipping up some famous chocolate chip cookies or making a quick sandwich, eggs are a staple we always keep on hand. Fried rice, French toast, or a simple egg noodle can all be made with few other ingredients and eggs. Once again, you’ll need to store them in the refrigerator, not the pantry. If someone in your family has an allergy to egg, look for an egg replacer that might fill the same role.

Peppers, Onions, & Mushrooms

I grouped these three veggies together for a reason. For our family, these three veggies can work in a number of foods. We use them as pizza toppings and in fajitas. We top salads and sometimes sandwiches with them. They’re easy to whip up in an omelet or add to pasta. When you get home from the grocery store, go ahead and chop them and store in separate airtight containers. Already prepared and at your finger tips, you’ll easily prepare meals without having to spend extra time chopping or thinking about what to fix.

I’d love to know what’s on your top ten list! What items would meet your family’s unique needs and tastes? What sorts of dishes do you regularly prepare that would benefit from a supporting cast of ingredient characters like these staples?  Why not crack out a pencil and paper and begin drafting your Pantry Top Ten today!

Pantry Staples to Keep on Hand | Budgeting 101 | Debt Free Living | In the Kitchen | Meal Planning | Money Saving TipsCherie Lowe is an author, speaker and hope bringer. Her book Slaying the Debt Dragon details her family’s quest to eliminate over $127K in debt in just under four years. As her alter ego the Queen of Free, Cherie provides offbeat money saving tips and debt slaying inspiration on a daily basis.


A well-stocked pantry can be a lifesaver, allowing you to whip up budget-friendly meals on the fly, no pre-planning required! If you've ever wondered what you need to stock up on, you will not want to miss this helpful list of 10 pantry staples to always keep on hand!




A well-stocked pantry can be a lifesaver, allowing you to whip up budget-friendly meals on the fly, no pre-planning required!  If you've ever wondered what you need to stock up on, you will not want to miss this helpful list of 10 pantry staples to always keep on hand!

Pantry Staples to Keep on Hand | Budgeting 101 | Debt Free Living | In the Kitchen | Meal Planning | Money Saving Tips


  1. June 26 at 01:23PM

    Thanks Cherie! I love the idea of having a top ten and making sure they are always on hand. Such a simple idea, but so good! After a bit of brainstorming I cam up with my own top ten (some the same as yours some different):
    1. Brown rice
    2. Ezekial bread
    3. Beans
    4. Oats
    5. Maple Syrup
    6. Carrots
    7. Apples
    8. Yogurt
    9. Eggs
    10. Sour Cream
    Thanks so much for the inspiration!

  2. amy
    June 26 at 06:28PM

    I have a mix of staples for my pantry, fridge and freezer. Also, I freeze scrambled eggs, milk and bread for future use.
    1. Eggs
    2. Bacon
    3. Milk
    4. Lettuce
    5. Frozen corn
    6. Apples
    7. Canned beans
    8. Shredded cheese
    9. Pasta
    10. Frozen peas
    By mixing and matching these ingredients, I can make various salads, pastas and breakfast dishes that satisfy my family and are nutritious.

    • Senior Prepper
      June 28 at 01:12PM

      Amy, please explain how you freeze scrambled eggs? Sounds like a good way to extend the life of fresh eggs, although I pay no attention to the ‘best by’ dates. If fresh eggs float in water, throw them away. If they sink in a cup of cold water, cook them and enjoy them. Thanks,

  3. Ruth
    June 27 at 02:59PM

    My husband has to eat gluten free, so my list is very similar to yours, with a twist:

    1. Gluten free pasta
    2. rice
    3. oats
    4. eggs
    5. cheese
    6. peanut butter
    7. chicken stock/bullion
    8. salsa/canned diced tomatoes
    9. canned black beans
    10. corn tortillas

  4. Anonymous
    June 27 at 03:10PM

    Good start. I’d add flour, oil and canned whole tomatoes. Maybe skip salsa and bread.

    • Margaret
      July 1 at 05:06AM

      I too would skip the bread and add flour and yeast. I would keep the salsa but add tomato sauce and paste.

  5. June 28 at 03:02PM

    Interesting article!
    Here’s my top 10:
    Canned diced tomatoes
    Canned tomato soup
    Granola Bars
    Soda Crackers

    • June 28 at 03:40PM

      And I would add those 5 things for a top 15 😉 :

    • March 2 at 05:10PM

      Milk, yogurt and granola bars are out as far as my pantry list goes. Milk is full of hormones and steroids (unless you buy organic milk) Yogurt is too high in sugar or artificial sweeteners which is very bad for your gut) and granola bars are full of sugar and additives that are also bad for you, not to mention the high calorie content. I make homemade granola bars that use only natural sugars from the fruit/bananas, honey and applesauce I add to make them.
      Here is my pantry staple list: (its a bit longer than the original 10)

      Rice, brown and Basmati or Jasmine, wild rice.
      Natural no sugar peanut butter,
      Steel cut or Old fashioned oats
      Gluten Free pasta
      Dried red, black and pinto beans
      Applesauce, jarred or in single packs
      Honey or real Maple syrup
      Canned tomatoes (organic if possible)
      Raisins or Craisins
      Onions, Peppers, mushrooms
      Red potatoes
      Eggs (free range if possible)
      Low Fat Sour cream
      Plain unsweetened yogurt or Greek plain.
      Almond Milk (plain, unsweetened)
      Chopped Walnuts (keep in freezer)

  6. Rachel Graham
    June 29 at 03:31PM

    Would love to keep mushrooms on hand, but how do you keep them fresh. I find I always have to throw half the package away as they go bad after 2-3 days

    • Margaret
      July 1 at 05:04AM

      I keep canned mushrooms in my pantry. Their are not as good as fresh but will do in a pinch.

    • Lisa Rhinebeck
      October 24 at 08:35AM

      Mushrooms can be cooked then frozen

    • Anonymous
      October 24 at 02:23PM

      I buy mushrooms in a little box (in UK) if you pullbk the cling film and lay a piece of absorbent kitchen paper over top of mushrooms then put cling film back over, they will keep for at least a week.

    • Anonymous
      October 25 at 10:21PM

      Do you keep them in paper bags?
      This allows them to breathe and not sweat and then rot

    • Carla Mitchell
      April 29 at 11:46AM

      We have bought the big Portobello caps and they seem to last longer.

    • Sarah
      April 29 at 01:39PM

      I have trouble using up celery
      , mushrooms and peppers. I have purchased these as dehydrated items and saved on my budget. They don’t work for fresh salads but great for soups and casssroled. Dehydrated carrots are another favorite.

  7. flavia
    July 2 at 12:55PM

    I do believe country customs are diffrent, in Argentina I keep in my pantry: we do not do too much beans nor penut butter 🙂
    -corn flakes
    -canned tomato sauce
    -shamani rice
    -flour and seeds for baking bread
    in fridge:
    -Jam & Cheese
    in freezer:
    -minced meat
    -frozen spinach, corn


  8. July 9 at 09:21AM

    Butter and oil are also staples that we have available all the time in addition to the above named staples.

  9. July 10 at 11:03AM

    I wrote a post about my Top 15 🙂 (in French and in English)
    Reading this post and writing my post really helped me identify my needs. Everybody should write a Top 10 or a Top 15 on a piece of paper and keep it on the fridge. It’s really helpful!

  10. Chriss
    August 4 at 08:13AM

    Thanks for the article. It was very interesting and I will have to make a list for my family. I am sure that it will look a lot like yours. I have a 14 year old son with a sensory deficit disorder. He is very picky with his diet. He will try to taste certain foods. Thanks for your informative guidelines.

  11. March 2 at 05:16PM

    To add to my staple list, I left out two important oils.
    EV Olive oil
    Coconut oil (so good for you!)
    that now makes 22 on my list.

  12. May 1 at 02:05AM

    Love these ideas, honestly I’ve never thought about my top 10. So here we go…
    *calrose rice
    *peanut butter
    *canned/dry beans
    * Olive oil
    *vinegars (I cheated here I always have white, balsamic, and apple cider on hand)
    * honey
    * oats
    (We always have eggs on hand too, but that’s more because I was crazy and thought two people needed 15 laying hens and I have more eggs than I know what to do with!) There’s a lot more than this I always seem to have on hand, but these are our absolute will always haves!

  13. May 1 at 07:21PM

    My top ten
    Potatoes, carrots, onions
    Canned tomatoes
    Pasta,flour,yeast,beans rice
    Oil and oats

  14. Dottie
    March 18 at 09:48AM

    I pressure can my dried beans. I can make multiple meals worth of beans and have them ready to serve in minutes. I use them much more if I store them canned instead of dried. I also can my own stew beef and it is indespensible in my pantry. When I come home from work tired I can pull out a jar, make hash, rice and green beans in minutes.

  15. Carla Mitchell
    April 29 at 11:52AM

    I have a Food Saver and it is indispensable! I make big batches of beans (black or borraccho) and freeze them in 4 cup glad containers. Once they are frozen I pop them out of the glad containers and use the food saver to vacuum seal the block and keep them in the big freezer. This system also works well with soups and sauces.

  16. Karla
    April 29 at 01:55PM

    With the exception of eggs and cheese, our top 10 is completely different;
    Unsweetened almond or coconut milk
    Salad mix – whatever lettuce is on sale, cabbage, spinach
    Apples or oranges depending on the time of year
    Dill pickles
    Diced chicken or pre-cooked bacon

    If we run out of any of these, a trip to the store is immediate. With the exception of oatmeal we don’t eat grains and now that we’re down to one lactose-intolerant daughter, no dairy.

  17. Elizabeth Strahan
    September 22 at 04:52PM

    Tomato sauce
    Chicken broth
    Olive or Coconut oil
    Frozen vegetables
    Wheat bread
    This is a bare minimum. Even with Hurricane Harvey we were well stocked.

  18. April 14 at 05:55PM

    Love this list of the top ten! So interesting to see everyones top ten. Ours would be –
    frozen veggies
    chicken breast
    salad (lettuce)
    We have heaps more than that, but they are the main ones! Great post.
    Rose @ OurHouseofLove

  19. Erin
    April 14 at 06:44PM

    apple sauce
    tomato sauce
    ground beef/turkey
    chicken breasts
    jiffy corn muffin mix
    frozen veggies

  20. Anonymous
    April 19 at 10:11AM

    ….This was interesting to read !
    My top ten are similar, with some being ” refrigerated items” , as well. 🙂

    * Canned Tomatoes and tomato paste. ( Organic or” Dei Fratelli” brand
    * Potatoes ( organic)
    * Canned chicken breast ( white meat )
    *Steel cut oats
    * Black beans/ kidney beans/ pinto beans
    * Applesauce- no sugars
    * Gluten free flour
    * Bread flour ” King Arthur” brand, sometimes you need a good bread flour.
    *Chicken stock
    * Coconut oil.
    Of course, cheeses and yogurt ( not the junk kind, either, on the yogurt) , along with butter, eggs and uncured bacon are ” refrigerator staples”, lol.

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