My Favorite Pantry Staples!

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I’ve used the term “Pantry Staples” a lot recently, and some of you may not know what that means.

Pantry staples are food items that most people have in their cupboards all the time. They are commonly known as “ingredients”.

Here are the 25 pantry staples that we always have on hand, and below them, you will find links to recipes containing these staples.

I’ve linked to these items on Amazon, which is where I buy a lot of our pantry staples, especially if there is no local deal. I do surveys and research studies to earn Amazon Gift Cards that I use to purchase items.

My Amazon List of Hewes Family Pantry Staples

  1. All-Purpose Flour
  2. Rolled Oats
  3. Baking Powder
  4. Baking Soda
  5. Kosher Salt
  6. Baking Cocoa Powder
  7. Crisco Shortening
  8. Coconut Oil
  9. Grapeseed Oil
  10. Chocolate Chips
  11. White Sugar
  12. Brown Sugar
  13. Powdered Buttermilk
  14. Jasmine Rice and/or Brown Rice
  15. Canned Tomatoes
  16. Tomato Sauce
  17. Tomato Paste
  18. Canned Black Beans
  19. Canned Chickpeas
  20. Canned Kidney Beans
  21. Broth (a mix of Veggie and Chicken)
  22. Noodles/Pasta/Macaroni (Usually one package of each)
  23. Tuna Pouches
  24. Peanut Butter (Or other seed/nut butter)
  25. Vinegar (Usually a couple different types)

 

Recipes using Pantry Staples:

Recipe: Chocolate Chunk Cookies (Made with Olive Oil)

Tasty Chewy Brown Sugar Oatmeal Cookies!

Family Recipe: Cocoa Brownies

Recipe: Not Your Average Taco Salad

Family Recipe: Chicken Tetrazzini

New Recipe: Shakshuka

Recipe: Colonial Chowder

Tips to Reign In An Out Of Control Family Budget: Let’s Start in the Kitchen!

707538835876fc5c438018d57701bc2f.jpgUntil the end of the year, I’ll be posting some articles with realistic tips and methods to save money and reign in spending. None of these are going to the same old “Clip coupons, grow your own garden, etc.” that’s all over the internet- and honestly, here in Southern California, the old, standby advice isn’t going to help you. Grow a garden to save money? Water is so expensive here!

Clipping coupons and shopping grocery store sales/circulars will save you a fraction of the amount that it used to. In years past, I was saving 60-80% with coupons and store sales. Now, I’m lucky to save 50%.  With all of the restrictions on coupons (example: limit one like coupon per day- LAME), stockpiling to save money isn’t always possible without a lot of work/trips to different stores (and that’s not saving time). We’re moving past that, and delving into other ways to save money and take advantage of opportunities that are out there.

Today we are going to start with my pet project: Saving in the kitchen! If you feel like you’re spending too much money on food and groceries, here are my recommendations for getting the grocery spending under control:

  1. Go through your refrigerator/freezer and pantry. Make a note of the food that you have on hand. I like using the kitchen inventories here. This will also give you an opportunity to clean out food from the kitchen that has expired or that you won’t eat. Unexpired food that you won’t eat, can be donated to a local charity.
  2. Now that you have a handle on what you have in your kitchen, take a look at the list and come up with some recipes or meals that can be created with what you have on hand. You’d be surprised by how many meals you have in your kitchen! Make a list of the meals that you can make with what you have. And plan on having one or two of those per week. This will help keep grocery spending down. Make a list of meals that you can make but require one or two ingredients (like fresh vegetables), and add those ingredients to your next few shopping lists. By relying on what you already have in your home, you will be keeping your out of pocket down.
  3. Before you head to the store, take a look at the sale flyer which is available online, and see what is on sale. Plan meals around food that is in season and on sale. Continue to use coupons, but don’t go out of your way to subscribe to multiple newspapers per week to get a hold of lots of the same coupons.  Don’t forget rebate apps! Use of these apps gets us $10-$20/month cashback, sometimes double that, depending on what bonus offers are available- Fetch Rewards and Ibotta often have Bonus offers.
  4. Track your spending over a few weeks to see how much you are spending, and what you are buying. If you still find that you’re spending a lot of money on food, I would try shopping at a different store. I find that even with club card sales, and rebate apps like Fetch Rewards, some grocery stores (like Vons) are just too expensive to do my weekly shopping. I love starting my shopping at $.99 only. I am able to get a lot of snacks, name-brand treats, and fresh fruits and veggies there, and I am still able to stay on budget. Another fun place where I save money is Grocery Outlet. They have great prices on cheese, fruit juice, coffee, and frozen meat. They also have an interesting selection that changes weekly: snack food, protein bars/cookies, and cereal. If you are in the military, a military family, or a veteran, consider shopping at the commissary. Here is my article about saving money at the commissary. 
  5. Consider cooking more from scratch. It is healthier, and pantry stables are generally pretty cheap (the ingredients for a batch of chocolate chip cookies runs about $3.00 and yields 4-5 dozen cookies, while a package of chocolate chip cookies from the grocery store is about $4.00+ and is usually 3 dozen or so).  I buy fruits and veggies whole and break them down and pack them into serving size bags. You can learn more about that and Batch Cooking here.

If you are still having a hard time keeping your grocery budget in check, or if you are finding that the ends don’t meet, consider the San Diego Food Bank Neighborhood Distribution Program. No documentation is needed to receive food assistance from a
Neighborhood Distribution site where people can receive fresh fruits, vegetables, and bread, based on availability. Families are encouraged to bring reusable bags or
a cart with them to carry the food items.

There are programs out there to help those struggling to feed their families here in San Diego County. Here is my list of San Diego County Food Resources.

I work very hard to keep my family on a budget, I work very hard to make sure that we are saving money and taking advantage of as many deals and opportunities that present themself. I know that this is not something that everyone wants to do or something that everyone can do. There are so many programs and discounts out there available for various groups of individuals.

Tomorrow, we’re tackling saving money on the entertainment budget.

12/2/19 Weekly Meal Plan

stemarie_1650skitchen

We survived Thanksgiving break. Now it’s back to school, and back to work!

I did not go to the grocery store last week, other than to pick up milk. So last night I hit the store to stock up- The pantry was pretty bare. I ran out of flour- and for someone who bakes a lot.. well, I was pretty shocked.

This week we’re relying on a couple meal prepped items from the freezer, they come in so handy, especially on Mondays when we have so much going on. The big kid has a 2-day research study this week- he’s so excited!

For those of you that are new to meal planning, I’ve got an easy 101 style post here with super easy tips and steps. After you get that down, here is info about batch or freezer cooking.

I’ve gotten a pretty good inventory of the pantry, freezer, and fridge done (I update it after every shopping trip), so I’m able to plan meals and use up what we’ve got with little waste. If you are looking for kitchen inventory printable, I like the kitchen inventories here. They are great printables.

You may notice a lot of plant-based meals- We are not vegetarian (well, the big kid is, but the rest of us aren’t), but I am trying to get more veggies into our diet. I do a lot of cooking from scratch- I find it easier to get veggies and fruit into recipes that I can have 100% control over.

I only post our dinner plans for the week, because our other meals are usually the same each day:

Breakfast: Coffee with 1/2 and 1/2  for me, and pancakes or something along those lines for the kids (they love the Kodiak Cakes Mix).  I also keep sandwich Ziploc bags of other frozen fruit on hand to make the kids smoothies when they request them (a few times per week). Berries, peaches, and mangos are pretty popular.

Lunches are leftovers, salads, or soups for me and Bitty. The big kid takes his lunch to school, but once in a while, I can convince him to buy his lunch.

For dinner, when we’ve got busy days (like Mondays), I’ll try and put something in the crockpot in the morning, or pull something I’ve already prepped out that can be quickly cooked. We’ve got a bunch of stuff in the freezer, as I’ve been portioning out 2-3 adult-sized entree portions from several meals a week and freezing them for later meals.

  • Monday: Chicken Fajita bowls with rice, beans, grilled onions and peppers
  • Tuesday: Baked Ziti & Steamed veggies
  • Wednesday:  Butter Chicken, jasmine rice, and green salad
  • Thursday:  Soup (we have a couple kinds in the freezer), Grilled cheese sandwiches, and apple crisp
  • Friday:  Breakfast for dinner: Corned Beef Hash, poached eggs, toast, and fruit
  • Saturday:  Pizza time (also salad will be served)
  • Sunday:  Pulled Pork, baked potatoes, steamed veggies

I had someone ask me how we always have enough of anything for leftovers. I always cook enough of the main dish for 6-8 servings, that way we have leftovers for lunches later in the week or leftover night. And really when you make stuff like soup, it’s hard to make a batch of soup that only feeds 4 people.

Talk Back: What are you planning to cook this week?

Family Recipe: Cocoa Brownies

01389.jpgI love this brownie recipe- it is so versatile, and if you bake at all, you probably have all of the ingredients in your pantry.

This recipe is so frugal, so much less than the $3-$5 for a brownie mix.

You can add chocolate chips, mint and chocolate chips (my kids favorite), and they are so moist and rich, there is no need for frosting!

Cocoa Brownies (makes 1 8×8 or 9×9 pan)

Ingredients

  • 1/2 c. shortening or room temp. butter ( DO NOT USE SPREAD/MARGARINE/OLEO*)
  • 1 c. white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 T. Vanilla
  • 2 T. Milk
  • 2/3 c. AP Flour
  • 1/2 c. Cocoa powder
  • 1/2 t. Baking Powder
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • Optional: 1/2 c. chopped nuts, chocolate chips, mint/chocolate chips, peanut butter chips (your choice)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8×8 or 9×9 inch baking dish and set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, beat the fat (shortening/butter) with an electric mixer until it’s fluffy, approximately 1-2 minutes.
  3. Add sugar and beat until combined.
  4. Add one egg at a time until combined well.
  5. Add remaining ingredients and mix until combined. Stir in any mix-ins (nuts or chips).
  6. Pour into the greased baking dish and bake 20-30 minutes. 20 for 8×8, 30 for 9×9.

Substitutions

  • If you are Gluten Free, you can use 1 for 1 GF flour
  • To make the dish dairy-free, use your favorite dairy-free milk.
  • The reason that spread/margarine/oleo isn’t used is because of its high water content. It will give the brownies a watery/smooshy texture.

11/25/19 Weekly Meal Plan!

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This week is Thanksgiving here in the US, so the kids are off school all week, and I’ve got tons of fun stuff planned! Zoo, making Turkey Cookies with the kids and my niece, playing at the park, and of course, daily visits to the YMCA. Meals will probably be light because we’re super stoked for all the yummy treats on Thursday.  I’m taking this dish on Thursday!

For those of you that are new to meal planning, I’ve got an easy 101 style post here with super easy tips and steps. After you get that down, here is info about batch or freezer cooking.

I’ve gotten a pretty good inventory of the pantry, freezer, and fridge done (I update it after every shopping trip), so I’m able to plan meals and use up what we’ve got with little waste. If you are looking for kitchen inventory printable, I like the kitchen inventories here. They are great printables.

You may notice a lot of plant-based meals- We are not vegetarian (well, the big kid is, but the rest of us aren’t), but I am trying to get more veggies into our diet. I do a lot of cooking from scratch- I find it easier to get veggies and fruit into recipes that I can have 100% control over.

I only post our dinner plans for the week, because our other meals are usually the same each day:

Breakfast: Coffee with 1/2 and 1/2  for me, and pancakes or something along those lines for the kids (they love the Kodiak Cakes Mix).  I also keep sandwich Ziploc bags of other frozen fruit on hand to make the kids smoothies when they request them (a few times per week). Berries, peaches, and mangos are pretty popular.

Lunches are leftovers, salads, or soups for me and Bitty. The big kid takes his lunch to school, but once in a while, I can convince him to buy his lunch.

For dinner, when we’ve got busy days (like Mondays), I’ll try and put something in the crockpot in the morning, or pull something I’ve already prepped out that can be quickly cooked. Last week I did a lot of veggie prep and I’ve got a bunch of bags of veggies in the freezer for meals this week.

  • Monday: Breakfast for dinner: Smoothies and Dave’s Killer Bagels with Cream cheese.
  • Tuesday: Quesadillas, green salad, fruit
  • Wednesday:  Chicken and Veggie soup
  • Thursday:  THANKSGIVING FEAST WITH FAMILY
  • Friday:  Some sort of Thanksgiving leftover based meal (perhaps a Moist Maker Sandwich- Friends fans know what I mean)
  • Saturday:  Pizza time (also salad will be served)
  • Sunday:   Leftovers, as per usual

I had someone ask me how we always have enough of anything for leftovers. I always cook enough of the main dish for 6-8 servings, that way we have leftovers for lunches later in the week or leftover night. And really when you make stuff like soup, it’s hard to make a batch of soup that only feeds 4 people.

Talk Back: What are you planning to cook this week?

11/18/19 Weekly Meal Plan!

stemarie_1650skitchen

I didn’t make the chocolate peanut butter cupcakes I had hoped to make last week, but I am eyeing them for this week’s baking, in addition to chocolate chip cookies (always the kiddos favorite).

This week is starting off with a trip to the YMCA for yoga and some time at child watch. There is a lot going on over the next few weeks around here, so I’m trying to get us into a new routine with meal planning and getting more exercise for all of us.

For those of you that are new to meal planning, I’ve got an easy 101 style post here with super easy tips and steps. After you get that down, here is info about batch or freezer cooking.

I’ve gotten a pretty good inventory of the pantry, freezer, and fridge done (I update it after every shopping trip), so I’m able to plan meals and use up what we’ve got with little waste. If you are looking for kitchen inventory printable, I like the kitchen inventories here. They are great printables.

You may notice a lot of plant-based meals- We are not vegetarian (well, the big kid is, but the rest of us aren’t), but I am trying to get more veggies into our diet. I do a lot of cooking from scratch- I find it easier to get veggies and fruit into recipes that I can have 100% control over.

I only post our dinner plans for the week, because our other meals are usually the same each day:

Breakfast: Coffee with 1/2 and 1/2  for me, and pancakes or something along those lines for the kids (they love the Kodiak Cakes Mix).  I also keep sandwich Ziploc bags of other frozen fruit on hand to make the kids smoothies when they request them (a few times per week). Berries, peaches, and mangos are pretty popular.

Lunches are leftovers, salads, or soups for me and Bitty. The big kid takes his lunch to school, but once in a while, I can convince him to buy his lunch.

For dinner, when we’ve got busy days (like Mondays), I’ll try and put something in the crockpot in the morning, or pull something I’ve already prepped out that can be quickly cooked. Last week I did a lot of veggie prep and I’ve got a bunch of bags of veggies in the freezer for meals this week.

  • Monday: breakfast for dinner: Everything bagels with various toppings (options will include scrambled eggs with cheese, avocado slices, bacon crumbles, sliced sharp cheddar, cream cheese), and smoothies.
  • Tuesday: Leftover Kale and Butternut Squash Risotto from Dinnerly (It made a HUGE amount). This time I’ll be adding bacon crumbles and serving it with fresh rolls.
  • Wednesday:  Chicken fajitas with onions and peppers, rice, and refried beans (quesadillas as the main dish for my vegetarian kiddo)
  • Thursday:  Veggie Soup with grilled cheese sandwiches
  • Friday:  Date Night (Dinner out- Woo)
  • Saturday:  Pizza time (also salad will be served)
  • Sunday:   Leftovers, as per usual

I had someone ask me how we always have enough of anything for leftovers. I always cook enough of the main dish for 6-8 servings, that way we have leftovers for lunches later in the week or leftover night. And really when you make stuff like soup, it’s hard to make a batch of soup that only feeds 4 people.

Talk Back: What are you planning to cook this week?

11/11/19 Weekly Meal Plan

stemarie_1650skitchen

I haven’t gone to the grocery store for this week, and I’m holding off, as we’ve got all kinds of stuff in the kitchen. I’ll be making some chocolate peanut cupcakes this afternoon, and pumpkin donuts later this week.  And we’ve got two meals from Dinnerly to cook this week!

No school today, so I’m a little late in posting this. We slept in until 8:15. Ahhhh.

For those of you that are new to meal planning, I’ve got an easy 101 style post here with super easy tips and steps. After you get that down, here is info about batch or freezer cooking.

I’ve gotten a pretty good inventory of the pantry, freezer, and fridge done (I update it after every shopping trip), so I’m able to plan meals and use up what we’ve got with little waste. If you are looking for kitchen inventory printable, I like the kitchen inventories here. They are great printables.

You may notice a lot of plant-based meals- We are not vegetarian (well, the big kid is, but the rest of us aren’t), but I am trying to get more veggies into our diet. I do a lot of cooking from scratch- I find it easier to get veggies and fruit into recipes that I can have 100% control over.

I only post our dinner plans for the week, because our other meals are usually the same each day:

Breakfast: Coffee with heavy cream for me, and pancakes or something along those lines for the kids (they love the Kodiak Cakes Mix).  I also keep sandwich Ziploc bags of other frozen fruit on hand to make the kids smoothies when they request them (a few times per week). Berries, peaches, and mangos are pretty popular.

Lunches are leftovers, salads, or soups for me and Bitty. The big kid takes his lunch to school, but once in a while, I can convince him to buy his lunch.

For dinner, when we’ve got busy days (like Mondays), I’ll try and put something in the crockpot in the morning, or pull something I’ve already prepped out that can be quickly cooked. I did a little meal prep over the weekend, chopped and bagged veggies soups and chili, and made cookies for the kids.

  • Monday: Birthday dinner for my dad with the fam
  • Tuesday: Kale and Butternut Squash Risotto (From Dinnerly)
  • Wednesday:  Grilled Cheese sandwiches and Soup
  • Thursday:  Coconut Curry Ramen with Jammy Eggs (Also from Dinnerly)
  • Friday: Pasta Free Lasagna (I have TONS of zucchini), garlic bread
  • Saturday:  Chicken and veggie stir fry with rice
  • Sunday:   Leftovers, as per usual

 

Talk Back: What are you planning to cook this week?