Pantry Savings All-Stars

If you’re sick of looking into your pantry wondering what in the world to make for dinner—or worse—see only empty shelves staring back at you with little cash to fill them with, take heart. There’s a whole team of pantry savings all-stars ready to rescue you and your budget.

So what exactly is a “pantry savings all-star?” Simply put, it’s an inexpensive, shelf stable and versatile ingredient that well deserves some valuable real estate inside your pantry. Worth mentioning, too, these all-stars can work wonders when purchased in bulk while on sale and then reserved to help carry you and your budget through leaner, tighter times. So stop listening to your grocery budget squeak, and instead reach for the can opener. These pantry all-stars are prepared to save the day, meal and dollar.


Beans are healthy, healthy, healthy. Loaded with fiber, low in fat and a great vegetarian source of protein, canned beans are not only convenient and relatively inexpensive, they’re something you can feel good about eating and feeding to your family. Make great homemade soups, vegetarian chili from scratch or throw them on top of green salads. These diet dynamos come in a wide variety, so there’s no need to get stuck in a bean rut, either. (Pantry Price Tag: About a buck for a 15oz. can)

Pineapple is loaded with vitamin C, manganese and other nutrients and you can’t beat it’s sweet and tangy taste. Additionally, it can be a refreshing reminder of Summer during the cold Winter months. When you opt to purchase, though, opt for pineapple that’s canned in 100% juice. With absolutely nothing to waste, the juice drained from the container can then be used as a tasty drink, a marinade or a sauce starter. (Pantry Price Tag: Just over $2 for a 20oz. can)

Tomatoes are tough to beat when it comes to versatility. The diced or stewed variety are a great base for soups and tomato sauce can easily be whipped up into homemade pizza or pasta sauce. Loaded with lycopene, canned tomato products are actually better for you than their fresh, produce department counterparts because the disease-fighting nutrient is more readily absorbed once cooked. Word to the saving wise, though, don’t get suckered into buying too many varieties. Stock up on what’s already on sale, and puree or chop up the canned tomatoes yourself. (Pantry Price Tag: about a buck and a half for a 15oz. can)

Pumpkin is traditionally only paid it’s due in November, but the canned variety is available year around and just begging to be added to your pantry rotation. It’s chock-full of vitamins and fiber, low in calories and fat and is deceptively versatile in both sweet and savory dishes. Worth noting, too, canned pumpkin freezes well. So if you only need a tiny bit, be sure to throw the remainder inside a freezer baggy and save it for the next time. (Pantry Price Tag: About $2 for a 15oz. can)

Broth, whether vegetable or a meat variety, can be an invaluable tool to whipping up quick and fantastic meals. From soups to homemade gravies to just infusing more flavor into other dishes such as rice or couscous, the convenience of broth can’t be beat, nor can its ability to stretch a meal be denied. Got leftover meat or veggies? If you’ve got a can of broth in the pantry, you’ve got homemade soup nearly already made! (Pantry Price Tag: About a buck and a half for a 14oz. can)

Photo credit: Lynda Giddens

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Author Info

This post was written by Shannon M. Medisky. Shannon is an educator turned parent turned writer and focuses on sharing new and innovative ways to not just survive, but thrive on empty. Visit to learn more. Her newest book The Complete Idiot's Guide to Stretching Your Dollar is available in bookstores now.

2 Responses to “Pantry Savings All-Stars”

  1. Max |  Jun 27, 2011 at 11:20 am

    Thanks for the advice Shannon, it seems every two weeks, my pantry is rather bare before payday. With your tip it will no longer have to be that way!

  2. 20 and Engaged |  Jun 28, 2011 at 3:37 pm

    We purchased everything you named except pumpkin (because we don’t eat it). We also make sure our pantry always has pasta. You can make so many different meals with pasta.