Frugal Living Pantry Essentials


As many of you know, I’m in the midst of a pantry challenge where for one month my family is eating only what is in our freezer and our pantry. No grocery store stops – well, except for four quarts of ice cream for our youngest son’s 7th birthday party!

While doing this challenge, I’ve discovered some key pantry items that are essential for a frugal pantry. These are items which, in the past, I haven’t really given a second thought about, but this month they have become my good friends!

Here is my list of essential frugal items for a pantry:

Dried Beans

Okay, I’m a canned bean freak. Love them! Love the ease and convenience.

Dried beans from Erin Turner's frugal pantry.

Dried beans are a frugal pantry staple.

During our challenge this month, I decided to do something with some of the bags of dried beans we have sitting on the shelves. Was I ever surprised!

First of all, they don’t really take that much time and if you plan ahead, you can cook up a big batch and just have a bunch in the refrigerator. I made a huge batch of bean and cheese burritos and still have lots of leftover beans for other meals.

Second of all, they are so much cheaper than canned beans. I usually pay around 50-60 cents for one can of beans. That is about twice the price (or more!) of dried beans. Plus, they are dried, which means they won’t go bad. I will be stocking up on bulk dried beans next month. (Just be sure to rinse them real well or you’ll spend all your savings buying Tums!)

Dried Herbs

Every summer, we grow an herb garden brimming with parsley, cilantro, basil, dill, oregano and chives. We try to preserve as many of the herbs as we can and I’m here to tell you, it pays off!

Growing your own herbs is best but if you don’t have that option, then buy fresh herbs in the summer (when they are cheaper) and dry them. It saves vast amounts of money and is fresher tasting. This month, I have relied on our herbs for adding to soups, eggs, and other dishes.

Erin's homemade ranch dressing mix uses dried herbs from her pantry.

Dried herbs means fresher and less expensive ranch dip!

My favorite use for the herbs this month has been using it to make fresh ranch dressing. Using greek yogurt, milk, dill, parsley, and dried garlic and dried onion, I can whip up a bottle of dressing that tastes like I’ve been transported to the Hidden Valley for a handful of cents vs. a couple of dollars for a store-bought bottle.

Before this month, I didn’t realize how important those dried herbs are to a frugal pantry.

Chicken Stock

I would assume most people have a can or two of this always on their shelf. The frugal key is buying it when it is on sale and matching it with a coupon for even more savings. Getting it for 50 cents or less would qualify it for stocking up. We also have a supply of stock we canned ourselves—cheaper and tastier!

Every frugal pantry keeper should a have good stock of chicken broth. I’ve used chicken stock this month for soups, stews, and gravies. Without this item in my pantry this month, I would have been very limited in my weekly menu planning. Chicken broth has been a good friend this month!

Flour, Sugar, Oil, and Salt

These are staples which most people always have on hand, but during my month-long challenge I have realized the importance of having a good stock of these items. If I had run out of flour this month, I would not have been able to bake bread for my family or bake the all-important 7-year-old’s birthday cake!

These are the items that drive a grocery bill sky high when you realize you are out of them and need them for tonight’s dinner.

Erin Turner's pantry stock of flour.

Erin stores bulk flour and sugar in her pantry bins.

At the end of January, we went to a liquidation sale for a restaurant which was closing.

For better-than-coupon prices, we bought their staple items – flour, sugar, salt, pepper, etc. Since we use these items in large amounts, we didn’t hesitate to purchase in bulk.

We tend to take these simple ingredients for granted, yet they are essential in any home cooking. And a frugal home does a lot of cooking from scratch!


Noodles are one of my favorite things to coupon for because I can usually get it for free. So, I have stocked up on pasta and this month I’ve been grateful for it! With three growing boys who love their noodles, I know I’ve got a winning meal if there is pasta in it. And since I used coupons to get it for free, it tastes even better!

Having a stockpile of pasta has been a life saver this month for dishes like spaghetti, homemade macaroni and cheese, plain noodles tossed with olive oil, and, my favorite, egg noodles with butter, onions, and cottage cheese.

As we head into the last third of our pantry challenge, I can’t help but share with you the key ingredients I’ve quickly learned to appreciate over this last month. These are items which should be on your shelves if you are looking at having a frugal pantry. Be sure to stock up on dried beans, dried herbs, flour, sugar, oil, salt,
and pasta when the prices are rock bottom and you’ll be ready for your own pantry challenge!

Are there any items in your pantry which you have found frugally essential?


Erin’s got tons of tips for saving money, couponing, and sticking to a budget in her previous posts: Save Money and Do It Yourself with PinterestLearn How to Save with a Couponing Class, and The Frugal Living Pantry Challenge. Be sure to check out the Missoula Save it Club.

   Visit the Coupon Queen’s “Save It” archive.


Erin Eisenman-Turner is proud to be a native Missoulian. Along with her husband and three sons, they raise chickens, pigs, rabbits, and vegetables at Turner Family Farms in the Orchard Homes area. When the farm chores are done, the coupons clipped, and the blog written, you can find Erin exploring Montana, collecting antiques, and trying to maintain a well-run, happy, and organized home for her family.

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