If you are on a strict budget, the first thing you may want to try is to cut back on how much you are spending on groceries. Of course, meal planning is the number one way to do that. If you have a limited food supply, I’m sharing my go-to easy pantry staple meals you can make in a pinch.
I’ll get straight to the point on this one, BUT if you are new to meal planning and saving money on groceries, go here and check out these posts.
Before you even head to the store to get these two proteins that will save your family a bunch of money, check your pantry and freezer right now.
If you want to make things fun, list what meals you could make from your pantry. If you don’t want to do that, no worries because I have thirty-three pantry staple meal ideas below.
Suppose your pantry is bare-bones; no worries. You can check out this list to get your basics stocked up.
Shopping from your pantry first will save you so much money. It also helps to learn this skill for anything unexpected that may come up.
Today, you can buy these two proteins and get a week’s worth of dinner meals from them. Plus, we’ve added 27 more pantry staple meals, giving you thirty-three meals to choose from.
Once you have your basics in your pantry, you can meal prep and devise quick, healthier meals in a few minutes.
If you have an unexpected bill, a layoff, or any other emergency expense, try making these meals this week to save your family money.
For more pantry staple recipes beyond using two pieces of meat, scroll to the bottom of the post for 27 more ideas.
Quick Helpful Tips for Keeping a Well Stock Pantry
1 Whole chicken
Depending on what’s in your pantry, you may need to add only five or so more items to your list. Don’t worry; I’ll get to that.
Let’s Get to It.
Buy a whole chicken. We raise our chickens and eat them throughout the year. But if you buy these from the store, they are VERY cost-efficient. Opt for under $0.99/lb as a decent deal.
Sometimes, our local grocery store will run specials where they are 69¢/lb. That’s the price to stock up and get as many that will fit in your freezer.
We are a family of four, and I can get three meals out of this chicken for us.
Here are the three pantry staple meals to make from one whole chicken.
- Shredded BBQ chicken sandwiches
- Chicken Tacos or Quesadillas
- Chicken Soup
- (How I make these further down)
The following protein to buy is ground beef. It is another cheaper-priced meat.
I always get a huge pack from BJs unless Tops runs a better deal. If you don’t have the freezer space, look for meat priced at $2.89 and under per pound. This will vary based on region; we live in New York)
You can also ask BJ’s to pack you a smaller package of beef.
When I get a massive meat pack from BJs, it will last us two weeks. We can make it last longer if I only eat one weekly beef meal. So, for this helpful tips, we will use it for a week.
The three meals are made from ground beef.
- Hamburger Helping ( our own take on Hamburger helper but better recipe here)
- Harvest Hamburger
Now you have six meals.
For the last meal, you can eat leftovers, if any, or make homemade pizza.
If you are stocking your pantry like you should be when meal planning properly, your grocery list will probably look like this.
- Whole chicken
- Hamburger Buns
- Sour cream
Of course, you will fill in with snacks, fruits, and veggies for a complete grocery trip. But for meals this week, this is a super basic, easy way to save money.
Read this if you want to learn how to meal plan for an entire month.
If you don’t have pantry items, you must get more ingredients. Don’t feel discouraged if your pantry isn’t well-stocked right now. If you stock it right, you won’t have to feel this way again.
If you have venison meat, you can save even more. Or, if you don’t like beef, try substituting mushrooms blended with canned beans. The mushrooms can give a meat-like texture when you chop them very small.
I get hamburger buns from Costco or BJ’s. We get 16 for $1.99. This is the way we get two meals out of one pack. It is a great place to get cheap bread, too.
How Much I Spend For These Meals
- $1.99 per bag of mozzerlla cheese
- $1.99 for hamburger buns
- $17 for ground meat
- $2.99 for two huge packs of sour cream at BJs
$24 for a week worth of dinners. The t’s only $3.42 a day or $0.85 per person. Su e beats taking the family out to eat for $40 or $50.
Plus, when you have these two proteins on hand, you can quickly whip up any meal if you want even MORE frugal ways to stretch your ground meat; read this post here.
Yours will be more with the whole chickens. It is just inspiring you. To get an idea of how much I spend for an entire week’s worth of groceries, check out my weekly grocery trip posts here.
Here’s how I prep mine.
I think for meal prepping, I love to use my Ninja Foodi. If you have a pressure cooker, cooking this chicken quickly and meal prep is best. It takes about 40 minutes when I put my chicken in the Ninja food from start to finish.
When the chicken is done, I let it cool for a few minutes. Then I start shredding. I shred as much meat off the bones as I can. I also add extra water when pressure cooking because that’s my soup base.
I use two containers for the shredded chicken. The same night I put the shredded chicken in a pot with BBQ sauce. Our favorite is Sweet Baby Rays. I dd a little water to it and let it heat up. Su r easy, super cheap friends.
We put it on a bun with a little bit of lettuce, and boom. Meat is done. You can add cheese, whatever you have on hand.
The next night I season the chicken with taco seasoning and heat tortillas. Tortillas are something I always try to have on hand. Mainly because they go super cheap at Tops, and they never go bad.
For the chicken soup, I use everything left in the Ninja Foodi. I go through and make sure to get any bones out. When I want to serve it for dinner, I add a little water and simmer it up. I add carrots and celery. The best part is it doesn’t need any seasoning, giving you delicious, comforting flavors.
Check out my favorite recipes for the Ninja Foodi:
- Easy Restaurant Quality Ninja Foodi Yeast Rolls
- Upside Down Taco Nachos in the Ninja Foodi
- Easy Chocolate Chip Skillet Cookie in Ninja Foodi
- Easy Way to Make Hot Dogs in Ninja Foodi
Raising our chickens, I can easily make the girls chicken egg wraps in the morning,
Use whatever veggies you have on hand. For example, depending on the season, you can have tomatoes from your garden, or I only use salsa on the tacos when I don’t have fresh tomatoes.
Sour cream is a must for our tacos.
For the rest of the meat, I section it into three or four pieces. I’ll freeze the last one. I’ll keep the others in the fridge.
You could quickly cook all your ground beef to save time, but I like to keep my options open if I change up a meal at the last minute.
If you are looking for various Pantry Staple Meals beyond chicken and beef, here is a list of 27!
27 Favorite Pantry Meals
- Chickpea Curry: You know those cans of chickpeas you’ve got gathering dust in your pantry? Time to give them a new lease on life. Add some curry powder, canned tomatoes, and any veggies you have on hand. Voila! A hearty meal that practically cooks itself.
- Lentil Soup: Lentils are a budgeter’s best friend. They’re cheap, nutritious, and wonderfully versatile. Cook them with some onions, carrots, celery, and spices for a classic comfort food.
- Spaghetti Aglio e Olio: This is just a fancy way of saying “spaghetti with garlic and olive oil,” but don’t let its simplicity fool you. It’s packed full of flavor and comes together in no time.
- Tuna Salad: Mix canned tuna with mayo, pickles, and a dash of lemon juice. Serve it on bread for a quick sandwich, or on lettuce for a low-carb option.
- Rice and Beans: This combo is a pantry staple in many cultures for a reason. It’s filling, nutritious, and can be jazzed up with spices and sauces. Plus canned beans are super cheap- especially if you shop at Aldi!
- Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches: An oldie but a goodie. Sometimes, you just can’t beat a classic.
- Fried Rice: Got leftover rice from last night’s dinner? Then it’s time to make some delicious, comforting flavors pop with fried rice. Add some veggies, soy sauce, and a scrambled egg, and you have a meal. If your garden gives you herbs, top it with fresh ingredients.
- Pasta Puttanesca: A zesty pasta dish made with canned tomatoes, olives, capers, and anchovies. Don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it – it’s a flavor explosion.
- Homemade Pizza: Making pizza at home is easier than you think, and it’s a great way to use up random ingredients in your fridge.
- Pancakes: Who says you can’t have breakfast for dinner? Pancakes are cheap, easy, and always a crowd-pleaser.
- Baked Ziti: Pasta, cheese, sauce. What’s not to love?
- Sloppy Joes: An ultimate favorite comfort food that still hits the spot.
- Tortilla Soup: A spicy, hearty soup that’s perfect for cold nights.
- Canned Salmon Patties: Mix canned salmon with breadcrumbs and eggs, shape into patties, and fry. Serve with a side of veggies for a balanced meal. The cheapest place to get canned salmon is wholesale clubs.
- Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup: Another classic combo that never gets old.
- Vegetable Stir-Fry: This is the ultimate quick meal. Use whatever veggies you have on hand, add some soy sauce and garlic, and serve over rice. Stir fry can be anything you have that you can add a little sauce to.
- Egg Salad Sandwiches: Boil some eggs, mix with mayo and mustard, and spread on bread. Simple and satisfying.
- Shepherd’s Pie: Traditionally made with ground lamb, but beef works just as well. Top with mashed potatoes for a hearty, comforting dish.
- Bean Burritos: Refried beans, cheese, and salsa wrapped in a tortilla. Cheap, filling, and delicious.
- Macaroni Salad: Cooked macaroni, mayo, and whatever veggies you have. Great for picnics, potlucks, or just a regular Tuesday night.
- Omeletes: For those busy weeknights bring out the eggs. Eggs are a cheap source of protein, and omelets are a great way to use up leftover veggies.
- TikTok Ramen– Have you stumbled upon these super easy recipes using ramen? I haven’t had ramen since college, but because of Tiktok, I bought a big pack. You can find hundreds of videos now making meals from Ramen. And the best part is they are all simple and cheap.
- Baked Potatoes: Top with cheese, sour cream, and chives for a simple, satisfying meal.
- Cabbage Rolls: Stuff cabbage leaves with a mixture of ground meat and rice, then bake in tomato sauce. It’s a bit of work, but oh so worth it.
- Quesadillas: Cheese, tortillas, BBQ sauce, and a hot pan. This comes together in 20 minutes from start to finish.
- Pasta Salad: Cooked pasta, veggies, and your choice of dressing. A great way to use up leftover pasta.
And there you have it! 26 budget-friendly meals that are as delicious as they are affordable. So next time you’re standing in front of your pantry, wondering what you’ll make for dinner, remember: you’ve got options. Lots of them.
I hope this helps inspire you to think smaller when making dinner for the next couple of weeks. Please feel free to leave a comment to help others stretch their protein options and meal plan.