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

Delicious Homecooked Meals: It’s Easier and Cheaper Than You Think

As the old slogan says, “Set it and forget it!” The days are getting shorter, and the nights are getting longer. Whether you’re running around with your kids, running around with your pets, or running because that is your chosen form of exercise – it feels like there are truly never enough hours in the day this time of year. Sure, your favorite local restaurant delivers – but there’s no beating a comforting homecooked meal. The average commercially prepared meal costs $13, while on the other hand – the average homecooked meal costs $4.

Now, it’s true that not everyone enjoys cooking or considers themselves skilled at it. However, you can make delicious, cheap, and easy meals with an Instant Pot or Slow Cooker! We’re all about making your life easier here at First Financial. We wanted to share some of our favorite easy, low cost recipes to help you out during the upcoming busy holiday season. With each recipe we’ll give you a way to dress it up, as well as how to cut some costs.

For the first two recipes, we’ll be using an Instant Pot. This handy kitchen device can do it all – from sautéing, pressure cooking, and everything in between. If you don’t have one, they are regularly on sale (especially now as we start to approach the upcoming holidays) and come in various sizes.

*Note: If this is your first time using an Instant Pot, be sure to read the device set-up instructions carefully and complete the water test first.

Instant Pot White Chicken Chili

Creamy, hearty, and comforting – this recipe is a new take on the classic chili. If you aren’t a huge bean fan, feel free to cut back on the specified amount or omit them completely. Serve this chili with tortilla chips for a delicious and easy Southwestern meal.

Ingredients for White Chicken Chili:

2 large chicken breasts

15 oz can black beans (drained and rinsed)

15 oz can white kidney beans (drained, not rinsed)

1 medium red onion, diced

15 oz can of corn (do not drain)

10 oz can of Rotel diced tomatoes with green chilis (keep the juice)

½ cup chicken broth

1 ½ tsp chili powder (use less if you want to cut down on spice)

2 tsp cumin

Ranch dressing packet

8 oz package of cream cheese cut into six pieces


1. Place all of your ingredients into your Instant Pot bowl in the following order: 2 chicken breasts (uncooked), your drained black and white beans, chopped onion, undrained corn, undrained Rotel tomatoes/green chilis, and ½ cup chicken broth.

2. Add the chili Powder and 1 tsp of cumin, as well as the ranch packet. Stir everything to combine. Be sure to lift the chicken breasts slightly so that some of the juices will get underneath the chicken.

3. Place your cut cream cheese dotted across the top of your chili. Then place the lid onto the Instant Pot and seal.

4. Cook the chili for 20 minutes on manual high pressure. Once the cooking is done, allow the Instant Pot to de-pressurize naturally for 10 more minutes. Then, completely release the pressure on your Instant Pot.

5. Remove the chicken breasts from the mixture and shred them. PRO TIP: You can easily shred cooked chicken by placing it in a bowl and using a hand mixer. Before putting the chicken back into the chili, stir the chili. Once everything is combined, return the chicken to the chili. You’re now ready to serve.

Tip: If you want even more spice, add a diced jalapeno to your chili mixture. For more spice, use more seeds.

Money Saving Tip: If you don’t use much cumin, buy a packet of taco seasoning instead. You’ll be ready for tacos and won’t have to spend money on a spice you rarely use.

Instant Pot Spaghetti

This is the ultimate easy Instant Pot recipe from the noodles to the sauce. Not only that, but this is a supremely versatile dish. You can add as many vegetables as you want, or take out any of the veggies listed in the ingredients too. You’ll want to serve this spaghetti with garlic bread (with cheese for a real crowd pleaser).


1 lb. lean ground beef

½ teaspoon garlic powder

½ teaspoon onion powder

1 tsp Italian seasoning

¼ tsp red pepper flakes (more or less depending on your spice tolerance)

1 lb. box of dry spaghetti noodles

24 oz jar of your favorite pasta sauce

5 mushrooms, diced

36 oz of water

1 can of crushed tomatoes

Salt and pepper to taste


1. Turn on the Instant Pot to the sauté setting and add the ground beef. Sprinkle in the garlic powder, onion powder, and Italian seasoning. Add some salt and pepper to taste. Cook the meat until completely browned, breaking up any large chunks. Turn off your Instant Pot and once the meat is cooked, you may want to drain any excess grease.

2. Break your spaghetti in half and place it on top of your meat. Pour in the sauce, crushed tomatoes, water, red pepper flakes, and mushrooms. Make sure the pasta is completely submerged in the water.

3. Seal the Instant Pot and cook for 8 minutes on manual high pressure. When the time is up, manually release the pressure. Once the pressure is fully released and not steaming anymore, open the Instant Pot and stir everything together.

4. Serve immediately.

Tip: If you aren’t a big beef fan, you can easily substitute Italian sausage for the beef.

Money Saving Tip: Pasta is essentially universal, save yourself a couple of bucks and buy the store brand.

Slow Cooker Chicken and Stuffing

Even when it’s not Thanksgiving, there is something comforting about a home cooked meal that includes stuffing. The good thing is, it pairs just as well with chicken as it does with turkey. And with a recipe this easy, you can have it any time of the year! This recipe takes minimal effort and will make your home smell amazing besides.

*Note: For this recipe, you can use an Instant Pot or a traditional Crock Pot.


14 oz bag dried seasoned stuffing mix

1 sweet onion, diced

2 stalks of celery, diced

2 (10 oz) cans cream of chicken and herb soup

½ cup chicken broth

1 tsp ground sage

2 garlic cloves, diced

1 ½ lbs. boneless skinless chicken breasts

Salt and pepper to taste


1. Spray your Instant Pot or slow cooker with non-stick cooking spray.

2. Add the chicken broth and stuffing mix to the slow cooker and stir to combine.

3. Sprinkle the sage over the top.

4. Lay your chicken on top of your stuffing mix and season with salt, pepper, and garlic.

5. Cover and cook on low for 4 hours and 30 minutes if you’re using a crockpot, or pressure cook manually on high for 25 minutes in your Instant Pot.

6. Remove the chicken and shred, cube, or serve whole.

7. You’re ready to eat!

Tip: Sage is what will give this meal a holiday flavor, but if you aren’t a fan, you can substitute for rosemary instead. Just as tasty! If you are using an Instant Pot, you may need to add more broth – more than likely 1 cup instead of a ½ cup. You’ll want to make sure all the ingredients are submerged before pressure cooking, if not – add more chicken broth.

Money Saving Tip: Buy a large carton of chicken broth instead of smaller cans. It will go a long way and will keep for quite some time, plus you’ll be able to use it in multiple Instant Pot or Slow Cooker recipes.

There you have it! Three meal ideas that won’t break the bank and don’t require a Michelin-Star chef to prepare. When it comes to cooking at home, just get started. Not every meal may turn out perfect, but the money you save will be worth it. And you really can’t go wrong with the ease of use of an Instant Pot or Slow Cooker. Enjoy!