Hello, internet! I started this blog as a way to document my adventures in the kitchen and the strategies I’ve learned to do so on a young married’s budget. The name, Feast All Week, comes from my personal belief that you don’t have to sacrifice beautiful, tasty food because you’re working with limited funds or time. In short, that anyone can (and sometimes, should!) feast all week.
To start out, I’m going to hit the most basic level – stocking the pantry. Although I include the most basic of all pantry staples – flour, because of its applications in nearly every aspect of cooking – I am going to bypass other staple baking ingredients such as sugar and baking powder. The items I do mention will be things that are useful on an everyday basis, are almost always incredibly cheap, and will make your kitchen feastworthy.
You would be amazed how often people (me included, sadly) run out of flour. I usually stock up in the bulk bin section of my favorite Sprouts grocery store and store my flour in a plastic cereal container like this one. This mostly serves to keep the super creepy flour bugs out, and sometimes makes it easier to pour or measure from. Flour is used as a base ingredient in almost every baking recipe, but is also great for breading (Feast Rule #1, anything and everything is better breaded and fried.) and in sauces. If you happen to find an awesome deal on flour, go ahead and stock up and store any extra in the freezer until you need it.
No, I’m not going to tell you to always make your own bread. Though homemade bread is definitely superior in taste and ingredients, I personally almost always have a store-bought loaf in the house However, yeast can up your kitchen game like you would not believe. Having a big crowd over? You can easily get away with serving a big pot of stew aside some homemade bread. Date night? Make a homemade pizza together and spend the money you were going to give the delivery guy on sweet, sweet red wine. Want to really win over your co-workers? Three words: Homemade. Cinnamon. Rolls. Keep a jar of yeast on hand (I like Red Star Active Dry) to have a kitchen upgrade at a moment’s notice. If you don’t think you’ll use a whole jar, feel free to start with the packets or better yet, store your jar in the freezer.
3. Dry Beans
Truly magical, and I don’t mean like you sang in elementary school. We usually have a minimum of 3-4 types of beans in the house and they get used constantly. Again, hit up the bulk section in your local grocery store and stock up! I feel so classy having all different types of beans in glass canisters on my counter. Chickpeas are a great staple, and can be used for a weekday salad or kickass homemade hummus. Great Northern beans can be used for minestrone, pasta, and even baking. Black beans are a staple for any Mexican recipe. Kidney beans make up one half the classic Cajun duo of red beans and rice. Pinto beans are the main ingredient of one of my favorite meals, brown beans and cornbread. Lentils make a great base for an exotic (cheap) vegetarian (cheap) Indian dish that I have even served to company.Can you tell I really love beans?
White or brown, I don’t discriminate or demonize. Rice is a staple in some of my favorite casserole and skillet meal recipes. Not to mention, it’s a necessity for serving with Indian and Chinese food, which makes it a necessity for, oh, living. Some brave souls would even venture to say that rice can be made into a breakfast food, though I don’t know if that’s a journey I’m personally ready to take yet. I’m only recently coming around to rice as a dessert food, so maybe rice and I will take that next step in our relationship soon. It’s getting pretty serious.
5. Canned Tomatoes
Listen, I know. Canned veggies are disgusting. It took years of therapy for me to be able to trust corn or peas again, but tomatoes… Tomatoes are the exception to the rule. Canned tomatoes are one of the handy-dandiest cheap kitchen staples there are. Whirl some diced tomatoes in a blender and simmer the heck out of ’em for an easy sauce, or start with crushed tomatoes and red wine for something truly breathtaking. Diced tomatoes and green chiles mix with black beans for a great Mexican side dish or with Velveeta (SIDE NOTE: I do not condone Velveeta, except for this express purpose) for Oklahoma queso. They can add substance and flavor to hundreds of quick and easy soup recipes. Just have them.
Those are my five pantry passions, all things that will send me scrambling to the grocery store if I see my supply running low. If you learn to love them, they will serve you just as well. Aside from the five big ones, I have a list of smaller, bit part pantry staples. These things aren’t quite necessities, but I try to keep them on hand as they can serve several useful purposes.
- Oatmeal: The ultimate cheap and easy breakfast. I often bypass the traditional “hot slop” vibe and use it for homemade granola or protein bars.
- Honey: For baking, biscuits, and hot toddies. Enough said.
- Chicken base: Mix with water to substitute for chicken stock in soups and stews, and also to add a savory dimension to sauces.
- Canned tuna/salmon: Both great to have on hand for a quick lunch salad protein or some bangin’ fish cakes.
- Mrs. Dash/Your Favorite Salt-Free Seasoning Blend: Mrs. Dash and I have a good thing going. You want the real secret to cheap and easy eats? Take food. Add Mrs. Dash. Eat food, which is now delicious.
Now that you know my pantry secrets, I want to know yours. Did I miss a crucial ingredient to a great pantry? Do you have any new, amazing uses for the staples I have mentioned here? Let me know in the comments!