Tuesday, April 22, 2008


I look in amazement at my shopping cart everytime I am checking out of Trader Joe's because I am only shopping for two people but my cart is about to overflow. Here I will admit that I have a problem - I am a pack rat but I have managed to eliminate this in every part of my life except the kitchen cabinets.

I hoard food because I hate running out of ingredients. Also I refuse to have anyone make a last minute trip to the grocery store - mostly because it would throw off the timing of my meal. I tend to have a backup supply for everything I use on a daily basis at the very least; honey, milk, yogurt, peanut butter, toast, Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Spread, Uncle Sam's Cereal, dried fruit, orange juice...

I did tell you I have a problem and you definitely should not think you have to emulate me in this respect. However, if you want to be able to throw meals together quickly either a small meal for yourself or your family or a larger dinner party with friends having a few staple ingredients will make this less expensive and less of a chore for you. The following are some core ingredients to keep on hand;


  • Butter
  • Breadcrumbs
  • Mustard (I keep Dijon and yellow but it really is a personal preference)
  • Ketchup
  • Better Than Boullion (chicken stock paste good for quick sauce and better tasting than the powder or cubed boullion)
  • Beer (it is great for cooking one of my staple dishes but I drink it occasionally as well)
  • Grated, parmesan/romano mix
  • Eggs
  • Milk (This might be optional for you personally - we use it everyday ourselves)
  • Yogurt (Again, this might be optional for you personally - we tend to eat this every morning but I also use it as a sour cream substitute)
  • Cheeses; (individually wrapped goat cheeses, a nice mild hard cheese, mozzarella, etc. We like to snack on them ourselves but they are also good to have in case people drop by)
  • Fresh vegetables (I tend to always have broccoli, zuchini, potatoes, onions, garlic, carrots and shallots on hand. I add others as needed for various recipes or specific meal ideas.)


  • Peas
  • Corn
  • Dorot Chopped Garlic
  • Dorot Chopped Basil
  • Selection of meats and fish (I keep a package of chicken thighs, chicken breasts, some fish, ground beef, ground turkey, etc.)
  • Frozen ready made things (soups that I have made, almost any Trader Joe's hors d'ouevres or quick pasta dishes, meatballs, etc.)
  • Frozen desserts (icecream, cookies, etc)
  • Frozen fruit


  • Olive Oil
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Rice Wine Vinegar
  • Soy Sauce
  • Canned Tomatoes
  • Canned Kidney Beans
  • Canned Garbanzo Beans
  • Dried beans, lentils, and "seven bean" mix (for soups)
  • Sugar
  • Flour
  • Cornmeal
  • Rice (white and brown long grain or even a basmati)
  • Quinoa (quick cooking grain that is high in protein)
  • Boullion
  • Chicken, Beef and/or Vegetable Stock (always good to have on hand for soups and sauces)
  • Lasagna noodles
  • Trader Joe's Starter Sauce
  • Instant coffee (not used very often but is a good way to flavor a quick beef stew or chili)
  • Cornstarch (always handy to thicken sauces)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Baking Powder
  • Baking Soda
  • Vanilla
  • Dried Herbs (My most frequently used - chili powder, tarragon, oregano, sage, thyme)

Now if you don't already cook or bake; the above might be horrifyingly overwhelming to you so I suggest you gradually build up to this. If you start cooking and buy items like sugar, flour, herbs and spices in bulk - this will eventually be a very economical way to eat. I don't buy everything at one place either; the bulk of my groceries come from Trader Joe's because they have a lot of organic and natural products that suit my cooking and budget. They also have a whole of lot ready-made items that taste homemade and allow for quick, healthy meals. However, I go to Rainbow Grocery to buy my herbs, spices, baking ingredients and teas in bulk. Buying in bulk at any health food store is typically a much less expensive option. With herbs and spices you pay a lot for packaging so by buying in bulk you are just paying for exactly what you need.

Costco is carrying a lot more organic, canned goods so I tend to stock up on my tomatoes, kidney beans and garbanzo beans there but don't usually purchase much other food. Mostly because it is just too much for two people to use. Other than that I tend to purchase much of my fruit and vegetables at produce markets; sometimes my time just doesn't allow it but ultimately you tend to save money at these places and can pick and choose exactly what you want.

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