So you’re moving into your first apartment, or you’re learning how to cook. Whether you’re a college student, a newlywed, or you just need a few pointers on what kinds of food to keep on hand for quick and easy meals, grocery shopping can be confusing. To help, here are some easy cooking tips and kitchen basics, as well as advice on what kinds of frozen foods, refrigerated food, and spices and condiments to stock up on in your kitchen. However, when shopping for convenience foods, the first place you’ll probably want to stock up is in your kitchen pantry. Buy in bulk, especially when things are on sale, and you’ll be well on your way to successfully cooking on a budget.
Here are some suggestions for convenience foods to have in your kitchen cupboards for snacks and quick and easy meals.
- Your favorite Coffee Brand. This may be the most important item to purchase, of course. Making your own is an awful lot cheaper than running to Starbucks every morning. You may also want tea bags (and honey), hot chocolate mix (and marshmallows), or Chai mix.
- Cooking oil. if you’re going to be doing any kind of easy cooking, you’ll need a container of oil. Olive oil is the healthiest option, and worth paying a little extra. No need to buy the gourmet Food Network variety of olive oil; something simple and on sale will do fine. Keep it in an olive oil dispenser
- Soup. The kitchen pantry standard. Soup is perfect for buying in bulk or on sale.
- Instant oatmeal. This may be world’s most healthy convenience food, and an easy ticket to a warm breakfast. Add some fruit. Cream of Wheat is great for a quick, hot breakfast too. And don’t forget to stock upon cold cereals for easy breakfasts and quick comfort food.
- Macaroni and cheese. Well, don’t live on the stuff, but there’s nothing wrong with mac and cheese for a quick meal. You can use macaroni and cheese in casseroles, like in this tuna casserole recipe. And speaking of which:
- Canned tuna. Make it into sandwiches on a sandwich maker or panini press, or toss it into a salad spinner or casserole bakeware set.
- Onions and potatoes. If you’re serious about cooking now and then, these are important basic items to have in the pantry. (Here are some great onion choppers for you!)
- Baking basics. Flour, sugar, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder.
- Peanut butter. Also a pantry essential, especially if you’re American (and if you’re not allergic).
- Re-fried beans. Do you like Mexican food, and are you looking for easy Mexican recipes? Making refried beans is time consuming, so stock up on some cans. And try out this quick and easy recipe for bean burrito lasagna.
- Pasta and sauce. There’s a whole lot more in the world of pasta than spaghetti. Buy a bunch of different kinds of dried pasta and keep them on hand. You can spend plenty of money on sauce, but sometimes a cheap can with some garlic and herbs thrown in is just as good. Try this recipe for an easy pasta toss. (Here are some great garlic presses for you!)
- Apples. Apples don’t go back as quickly as some other fruits, and they’re available almost all year round. Bananas (great to put on cereal) and oranges are great for quick, healthy snacks as well, but they go bad much more quickly. Make sure you have your apple peeler and apple slicer handy!
- Dried fruit. There are so many kinds: raisins, apricots, apples, you name it. Dried fruit is an energizing exam week snack – especially when you do it at home in your food dehydrator. Your favorite can of nuts can serve a similar function, as does popped popcorn from a popcorn popper.
- Muffin mix. Need a quick comfort food snack? Get some muffin tins and a mix, and you’re ready to go.
- Spam. A controversial inclusion, perhaps! You either love Spam or you hate Spam, and it isn’t the healthiest food in the world. What Spam has going for it is its versatility. Look at all of these quick and easy Spam recipes. Plus it lasts an awful lot longer than other meat.
- Instant pudding or Jello. Easy, easy, easy. And retro fun.
- Cereal bars or granola bars. There isn’t a quicker snack around, especially one with a hint of healthiness. Read labels; some are healthier than others.
- Pasta salad mixes. On the gourmet scale, these instant mixes are a step up from macaroni and cheese. Some of them are very tasty, and you can always throw in grilled chicken or canned tuna opened with a can opener
- Baked beans. The easiest meal ever: canned beans with sliced hot dogs mixed in that have been cooked on a hot dog roller!
- Powdered drink mix. Things like Crystal Light or ice tea mixes are way cheaper than buying lots of soda. Serve them in a beverage dispenser!
Cookies. Need I say more?
While you’re here, be sure to check out our kitchen product reviews!