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In this episode, one woman shows us how to stock up your pantry with essentials so you don't have to spend as much on weekly grocery trips.

Video narration by Laura Vandiver

Video by Grace Lee

Based on an article by Ally Sabatina:

The Financial Diet site:

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Growing up, my mother didn't keep snacks in the house. Rather, our snacks were leftovers from dinner and whatever we could quickly put together with the raw ingredients we had on hand.

Usually, this meant apple slices with cinnamon sugar, quick French toast with whatever stale bread was around, or a quick pasta dish. Whether my mother realized this or not, she trained me to be a home cook from age 3 onward. The first thing I ever learned to make was eggs, and the second I was able to do so, anytime I said I was hungry, my mother pointed in the direction of the stove, suggesting I make myself some eggs.

But since then, I have partnered with a lifelong snacker. We keep much more in our house by way of quick treats. But when it comes to our nightly dinners, daily lunches, and baked goods, we make everything from scratch.

Because of this, our pantry is always stocked with an arsenal of multi-functional raw ingredients that we can make anything from. Should there ever be snow up to our roof, we'd be able to make our meals without frantically trying to dig our way to the grocery store. Before I put together this list of pantry essentials, I asked my friends and family members what they keep in their house too, barring anything premade.

In those conversations, I learned that nearly everything on this list is regularly stocked in many homes, no matter how often the person actually cooks or bakes. This is not meant to be a grocery list. Rather, it's meant to highlight what you may already have and how you can use it.

Here's my list of pantry essentials you can use to make practically anything. Baking essentials, flour, sugar, cornstarch, baking powder, vanilla extract, milk, milk substitute, or heavy cream, butter or a vegan substitute, maple syrup, honey, or agave syrup. Spice essentials, salt, whole peppercorns, oregano, parsley, thyme, rosemary, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, cayenne, cinnamon, and red pepper flakes.

Bouillon, or soup base, in chicken, vegetable, and beef. Eggs, oils-- vegetable and olive. Vinegar, white wine, balsamic, apple cider.

White or brown rice. Wine. Pro tip, don't buy cooking wines.

If you can afford to, stick with something you like to drink. Mirepoix, or onions, carrots, and celery, to make this yourself. Shallots and garlic, lemons, canned tomatoes.

Honorable mentions-- you don't need these to have a well-stocked pantry, but I always find they come in handy. Chocolate chips, yeast, coffee, dried fruit, orange juice, nuts, Dijon mustard. I imagine this list will vary quite a bit for people of different cultural backgrounds.

But in my home, our meals are heavily influenced by my Italian upbringing with alternating stir fry served over rice, as well as soups and stews. You may notice that I didn't include dry pasta on this list. Did you know that all you need to make pasta is flour, eggs, and water?

I tend to make a big batch of dough. It's freezer-friendly, and roll it out and portion it as needed for our meals. I also didn't include meat.

For one, I wanted this list to be as vegan and vegetarian-friendly as possible. I've done stints as a vegan and vegetarian for environmental reasons, as well as autoimmune issues. With that said, we entertain frequently and many of our guests have different dietary needs than our own.

Similarly, your favorite meats are not likely to be the same as mine. So it's worth it to have your favorite meats and veggies on hand too. So what can you make with the above ingredients?

A hearty soup or stew is my go-to savory option. When I'm not making matzo ball soup with my leftover chicken carcasses, I'm frequently simmering a large pot of pasta sauce. Other nights, I'll put together flour, salt, and a whole stick of butter to make a perfect pie crust for a pot pie.

When I have guests for breakfast, I whip up some quick scones in just 4 minutes of hands-on labor. I frequently keep heavy cream on hand for adding decadence to any and all sauces, my favorites being tomato cream sauces for pasta, and a quick pan sauce for steak. Heavy cream is also just 2 minutes away from being whipped cream at any given moment, which I'll make and pair with whatever fresh fruit I have on hand.

It's hard to get into the habit of cooking for yourself. With so little time between work and the rest of life, it's easy to get into the habit of picking up whatever's hot on the way home from work or staying firm in your habit of eating instant ramen. It's not an overnight shift, but should you ever end up sick, snowed-in, or unwilling to make that additional trip to the grocery store for any other reason, check your pantry.

You probably already have these items. And if you don't, now you know what to get. Stocking your pantry with essentials is a great way to spend less in the future.

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