Tips for Stocking Your Pantry to Help Cut Food Costs

Like most Americans, your dining out and grocery bills are probably really adding up lately – as inflation and higher economic costs continue to sky rocket. The USDA reports that food inflation is at a 14 year high, with grocery store shopping and eating out costing consumers about 6% more this year than last.

However, you can work smarter instead of harder to help curb some of your food expenses. Here are some suggestions on how to keep your home pantry stocked with staple items that will last you awhile, save money by cooking and eating meals at home, and add some variety to your diet as well.

Here are some essential non-perishable ingredients to always have on hand at home:

  • Whole grains – Oats, quinoa, rice, muffin mix, tortillas, cereal. Bread and bagels will also have a longer shelf life if refrigerated or frozen and used one by one as needed.
  • Pasta
  • Beans/legumes – Chickpeas, lentils, all types of beans (black, kidney, lima, etc.)
  • Baking ingredients – Flour, sugars, baking powder and soda, vanilla or other flavored extracts.
  • Nuts – Almonds, peanuts, cashews, pecans, pistachios, pumpkin and sunflower seeds.
  • Oil and vinegar
  • Condiments – Mayo, mustard, ketchup, soy sauce, hot sauce, honey, BBQ sauce, jarred olives and pickles.
  • Jarred sauces
  • Dried herbs and spices – Pepper, salt, cumin, Italian seasoning, cinnamon, crushed red pepper, garlic and onion powder.

There are also some pantry staples that would be a good idea to have on hand in addition to what’s listed above, to whip up a quick and inexpensive meal. These items will also last you a decent amount of time unopened in your pantry as well:

  • Canned tomatoes
  • Peanut/almond butters
  • Coconut milk
  • Broths/stocks
  • Canned corn
  • Canned tuna and chicken
  • Jarred salsa
  • Capers
  • Raisins and dried cranberries
  • Maple syrup

You may be asking – what can you make with some of these pantry ingredients? To name a few ideas to start, think quesadillas, homemade hummus, pasta with sauce, granola bars, teriyaki sauce to go over rice or chicken, and pancakes. All of these are simple to make, and will use ingredients you already have at home.

Here are also some food ideas to store in your freezer to have on hand:

  • Frozen vegetables like spinach, peas, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and cauliflower
  • Frozen berries to make smoothies or smoothie bowls
  • Chicken tenders
  • Ground beef
  • Burgers, hotdogs or veggie patties

Here are some food staples to keep in your refrigerator that will last a little longer than other more perishable foods:

  • Butter
  • Eggs
  • Nut milks (Almond milk will last much longer than regular milk).
  • Cheeses (Cream cheese, parmesan cheese, cheddar, shredded mozzarella).
  • Yogurt

Another idea that always goes over well (especially if you have kids) is breakfast for dinner, using many of the ingredients listed in this blog post. This is an easy, inexpensive, and fun way to make an at home meal a special treat!

If you follow the above tips and keep your pantry stocked, you’ll definitely see some savings on your grocery bill over time and not have to go to the store as often. Not to mention, it’s typically healthier to eat at home too. You can even make it a fun household activity and spend quality time together, by giving each person a job in the kitchen to help put together a great family meal.

In the end – you’ll be saving on food costs, spending time together, and eating a delicious meal. You really can’t put a price tag on that!

Article Source: The Penny Hoarder

Tips for Saving on Transportation Costs

As gas prices continue to rise, drivers are rethinking their typical routines and spending habits. It’s not just gas that gets expensive, it’s the maintenance costs and insurance too. Simply put, having a car adds up. And according to AAA, the average cost of car ownership is about $10,000 per year.

While owning a car is essential for many, there are always ways to save on transportation costs. Here are some tips to help cut costs.

Walk or bike when you can

The most eco-friendly way to save money on gas is by not driving when possible. Sure, this may not be ideal for everyone – especially if you live in a rural area. But if you’re able to walk or bike to a destination, you can cut back on gas while also choosing a healthier form of transportation. Talk about a win-win!

Use public transportation

Public transportation is a great way to save money on gas, parking, and maintenance costs. Plus, it’s an accessible option for those who may not be able to easily walk or bike around. Monmouth County has plenty of transportation options for community residents including busses, ferries, and trains. There are also plenty of bus routes for those who reside in Ocean County.


Live near a co-worker? Why not commute to work together? Carpooling with friends, colleagues, or family members is another great way to save on gas plus add a little bit of extra socialization to your day.

Compare insurance costs

It’s time to re-evaluate your auto insurance plan. Insurance rates can vary depending on your credit score, driving history, and mileage. So, if anything changed or it’s been a while since you’ve secured a new plan, it’s best to compare rates. Don’t know where to begin? Talk to your local broker to see what your options are.

Keep up on maintenance

Having routine maintenance done on your vehicle can help prevent future issues and save on repairs. Under-inflated tires, for example, will wear them down even faster and hurt your gas mileage. Even getting your car washed regularly will prevent rust and residue that can damage the finish of your vehicle. (Pro tip: Try washing your car by hand to spare an extra $15-$20!)

Avoid speeding

Sure, watching your speed will prevent you from getting a pricey speeding ticket, but did you know it will also help your gas mileage? Speeding decreases the fuel economy of your car, meaning you’ll get fewer miles to the gallon than if you slowed down a little bit. All the more reason to go the speed limit!

Looking for a new or pre-owned vehicle? Our auto loans have great low rates, so you can get a new ride AND lower your monthly payments too! Visit a First Financial branch or contact the Loan Department to speak with a representative today.

*APR = Annual Percentage Rate. Not all applicants will qualify, subject to credit approval. Additional terms and conditions may apply. Actual rate may vary based on credit worthiness and term. First Financial FCU maintains the right to not extend credit, after you respond, if we determine you do not meet our guidelines for creditworthiness. Current loans financed with First Financial FCU are not eligible for review or refinance. A First Financial membership is required to obtain an Auto Loan and is available to anyone who lives, works, worships, volunteers or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties. See credit union for details. A $5 deposit in a Base Savings Account is required to establish membership prior to opening any other account/loan.


Budget-Friendly Date Ideas for Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is approaching fast! Have you planned a date with your significant other yet? If you’re like many Americans still recovering their finances after the holiday season, you’re likely looking for inexpensive date ideas that still show your special someone how much they mean to you. The good news is there are so many low-budget ideas out there that only need a bit of creativity and time to pull off.

Keep reading for four budget-friendly Valentine’s date ideas to try this year.

Cook their favorite meal

Does your partner have a favorite meal they like to eat? Instead of going out for dinner on Valentine’s Day, recreate that meal at home. Not only will you save money by skipping high-priced dinner and drinks, but you’ll also be able to make enough for leftovers. Not to mention you’ll get to avoid crowded restaurants! Try cooking the meal in advance and surprise your significant other with a romantic, candlelight dinner. Make the dish together if you’re looking for an activity to do alongside one another, and if you both enjoy cooking.

Have a movie marathon

Skip the movie theater and buttery popcorn, and opt for an at-home movie marathon instead. Is your special someone a big Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, or Twilight fan? All the more reason to surprise them with hours of their favorite movies at the comfort of their own home! Plus, you can have endless snacks, soda, and candy that are way more affordable at your local grocery store.

Get crafty together

You don’t have to be a professional artist to enjoy making arts and crafts with your partner! Enjoy the artistic process together by bringing paint-and-sip to your home or creating a memory book of your relationship. No matter what you make together, you’re guaranteed to remember it and have a fun keepsake of your crafty evening together.

Play games

Embark in some friendly competition this Valentine’s Day with a couples game night. Create a scavenger hunt, play your favorite two-person board and video games, or even create your own game. This could be a great way to learn more about your partner and experience something new together – all while on a budget.

No matter what you decide to do on Valentine’s Day, your financial wellness should always be top-of-mind. That’s where we can come in and help! At First Financial, we put our members’ financial needs first by offering useful products and services that are customized to their lives. To get started, call us at 732.312.1500, email, or stop by any of our local branches.



5 Ways to See Your Favorite Sports Team on a Budget

Seeing your team win in person can be great, but it can also be very expensive. If you’ve ever been to a game, you know very well that even cheap seats don’t really come cheap. Plus, if you want to take your entire family with you – it will cost even more. You’ll be paying for game tickets, snacks, parking, and most likely a souvenir or two. What some may not realize, is that you certainly can attend a sporting event on a budget.

Here are five ways to not to miss out even when you’re on a budget:

Keep an Eye Out for Discounts

If you’ve never heard of “discount nights,” read on. Some sports teams offer all-in-one deals that cover everything from parking, tickets, and food. You just have to take your time to compare prices, stay tuned for updates, and save the dates on your calendar. This will give you more than enough time to plan and save up.

Consider Buying from Resellers

Buying tickets directly from your sports team is still the most popular option, but there’s a less expensive world you may not have explored: ticket reselling. You can typically find deals on platforms like StubHub, eBay, and Facebook Marketplace. Just make sure you’re buying from legitimate sellers. One way to do this is to check their reviews and ratings.

Say No to Buy Now, Pay Later

As they say, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” You might be asking yourself, why shell out $500 when you can pay for the total in five easy installments? These types of online payment plans are only good if you can pay consistently, but what if you suddenly can’t? You can easily rack up interest, and you’ll usually end up paying more than what you’ve bargained for.

Try the Cheap Seats in the Back

We’ve already mentioned that cheap seats aren’t exactly cheap, but they’re still exactly that — the cheapest. You and your family may not be able to see your favorite players up close, but at least you’re ready to cheer them on even if you’re all seated on the upper level.

Rely on Word of Mouth

Have you ever been to a game and noticed empty seats? We have two words for you: Ask around! Sometimes, tickets don’t get purchased. Other times, there’s that colleague of yours with an important family event to go to, who needs to sell their tickets — fast. Try to negotiate, especially when the date is close. You’ll likely end up with a good deal.

To Wrap It Up

Attending sporting events can be a fun experience for you and your family, but going to a live game can empty out your wallet. If you want to have fun at sporting events without breaking the bank, keep these tips in mind to stay within your budget.

Go team go!

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How to Save on PSLs this Fall

If you’re a pumpkin spice latte lover – this is probably one of your favorite times of the year. However, this tasty Fall coffee drink can get expensive. How can you save some money during PSL season? Follow these money saving tips!

1. Join a rewards program. If you’re a frequenter of Starbucks, Dunkin, or Panera Bread for your PSLs – make sure you subscribe to their rewards program and use their mobile apps for extra savings. You’ll be able to rack up points with each purchase for future discounted or free menu items.

2. Make your own PSL at home. It’s much easier than it may sound! Follow this recipe, which will get you two 10 ounce pumpkin spice lattes.


  • 2 cups of milk
  • 4 Tbsp of canned pumpkin puree
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • ½ cup of brewed coffee or espresso
  • Whipped cream (optional)


  • Stir the milk, pumpkin puree, sugar, vanilla, and pumpkin pie spice together in a stovetop pan over medium high heat. Bring it almost to a boil, but don’t actually let it boil. Stir constantly and after about one minute, the mixture will begin to froth.
  • Pour the mixture into two mugs, then slowly add your brewed coffee or espresso by pouring it at the edge of the cup so your milk stays frothy. If you’d like, top with whipped cream and another pinch of pumpkin pie spice topping or a dash of cinnamon on top. Enjoy!

3. You can also DIY your own pumpkin spice coffee creamer. If you’d rather brew your own regular coffee at home, but make your own pumpkin spice creamer – check out this easy recipe!


  • 1 & ½ cups of heavy cream or half & half
  • 2 Tbsp of canned pumpkin puree
  • 2 Tbsp of maple syrup
  • ½ tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 or 2 cinnamon sticks


  • Whisk together the cream or half & half, pumpkin puree, maple syrup, and pumpkin pie spice in a small stovetop pan over medium heat. Add a cinnamon stick and turn the heat up until the mixture is boiling, whisking occasionally.
  • After one minute, take the mixture off the heat and let it cool for five minutes before adding it to your home brewed coffee.
  • You can keep the leftover creamer in your fridge for generally about one week afterward – just be sure to shake it before using. Enjoy!

And there you have it – three simple ways to save on the most popular coffee drink of the season. Happy Autumn!


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