Stocking the Pantry and Other Time and Money Saving Tips

Wonder how some people always seem to have a homemade meal on the table without effort. Yep, I'm one of those people that can do it - and you are too! Read on for a list of the essential items you'll want to have in your pantry and freezer. By keeping these basic meal-building essentials on hand, you’ll always be ready to throw together a meal or a party at the last minute. Shazaam!! Meals will materialize before your family's eyes. You will be the new kitchen Superhero!

Canned soups are the staple to many of my “famous” recipes. I stock up on cream of chicken, cream of celery, cream of mushroom, tomato and chicken and beef stock whenever it goes on sale. I use these items all the time, so I buy in bulk whenever possible. Holiday seasons are a great time to add these to your cart. From Thanksgiving through New Years', stores often put soups and stocks on sale.

Canned Veggies/Fruit:
Tomato sauce and tomato paste are also foundational to many of my recipes. I use in my hamburger casserole and spaghetti. Canned corn is always great if you can find it on sale, as are artichoke hearts. I use artichokes on my homemade pizzas and in dips.

Seasoning Packets:
Italian seasoning packets, Lipton onion soup mix, au jus packets, chili packets, taco/enchilada seasonings – these are great “go to” seasoning packets when you need something in a flash. Another cheap trick I have is that I use these seasoning packets as a marinade. I’ll buy chicken, pork, or steak at the store and then mix the packets together with a little bit of olive oil and put the meat in a zip lock bag with the mixture. Refrigerate overnight and then you are ready to grill, bake, fry or whatever the next day! The seasoning packets are great to throw into a crock pot with a roast or pork shoulder roast and create some tasty pulled pork, or whip together with cream cheese or sour cream for an instant party dip. You can’t go wrong stocking on up these babies when they go on sale.

Let's pause for a moment to see just how awesome you will be:

Frozen veggies:
I really like pearl onions to “dress up” a recipe. I always have a bag or two of pearl onions stocked away in the freezer. Another fantastic help for the harried mom or lazy chef is chopped onion. I normally keep a few bags on hand in case I: (a) forget to buy an onion or two at the store; or (b) simply want to cut down on my preparation time. My mom used to say “there’s nothing better than the smell of onions sauteing." That's all it takes! Whenever I start to saute some onions, my five year old comes up from the basement and asks: “What smells so good? Are you cooking dinner?” A little savory smell goes a long way.

I also buy frozen mixed vegetables for my individual chicken pot pies, as well as the steamed corn with butter. Whenever I find those on sale, I stock up too. The buttered corn with a bit of salt and pepper during the cold winter months lets me bring back a little bit of summer time. Kids love it too.

Being the parent of an infant can force you to grocery shop at odd times. However, we've learned that this can work to our benefit! If you arrive first thing in the morning (5:00-6:00 a.m.), that is usually when the butcher is putting out his or her manager specials. They are normally the “freshest” then. I tend to buy boneless skinless chicken breasts, pork ribs, beef ribs, and flank steak whenever it goes on special. Pop them in the freezer and then you can defrost and make up quick and easy dinners later without a trip back to the store. I always buy on sale, and try to use coupons as well.

Other Tips:
Coupons are now back in STYLE! In fact, my husband asked for a coupon organizer this Christmas. You can get them in the paper, at the store, or go to coupons.com. We save on average $60.00 or more off bills around $150 or more. Why not take advantage of free money? We have turned it into a game for the whole family. We all go to the store, and give my 5 year old the coupon. He is then told to search the aisle for that particular brand. Then, we do a price per unit check to ensure that the “sale” or coupon price is really the best deal. If not, we buy the best price per unit.
With just a little bit of planning ahead, you can avoid the last minute trips to the fast food joint, and impress your family and friends with wonderful, homemade meals in a flash.
Disclaimers: Do try this at home. Superhero cape is not included with this offer.

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