Jarred goods sitting on a pantry shelf.

10 Hearty, Healthy and Affordable Pantry Must-Haves

It’s easy to go broke if you’re giving all your hard-earned cash to impromptu meals out. When you’re tired and hungry, and the cupboards are bare, it’s easy to spend excessive amounts on unhealthy fast-food and quick-service menu items. But if you prepare ahead of time, stocking your pantry with filling, affordable staples, making your own meals will be much less daunting.

And it comes with a bonus: cook a larger batch than usual and you’ll have leftovers ready for tomorrow’s lunch (or even tomorrow’s dinner).

You don’t need fancy recipes or ingredients if you stay stocked with basic foods that allow you to mix-and-match. Start with a starch, add a protein and vegetable, and you’ll be set.

Check your local bulk wholesaler for these goods (Sam’s, Costco, BJ’s, etc.); you can also find these items, sometimes even on sale, at your local grocery store:

  1. Frozen Broccoli

    A powerhouse of vitamins, fiber, and antioxidants, broccoli has been ignored in favor of “trendier” vegetables. But there are endless ways to prepare broccoli, and purchasing large frozen bags means that you’ll always have some on hand. Experience different variations with oven roasted frozen broccoli, steamed broccoli with olive oil, garlic, and lemon, or even broccoli pesto.

  2. Dried Lentils

    The beauty of dried lentils is that they’re incredibly cheap, have a long shelf-life, and are available in different variations to suit your tastes. According to fix.com, lentils provide more folate than any other plant food. They come in multiple varieties: brown lentils are a traditional mainstay of chain supermarkets, but green, red, and yellow lentils can be found with a little digging. Each type of lentil has its own taste and best usage: check out this breakdown on Bon Appetit.

  3. Whole Wheat Pasta

    A few minutes to boil the water, ten minutes to boil the pasta – done. If you’re accustomed to “white pasta”, make the switch easier by getting two boxes, one whole wheat and one traditional, and slowly starting to mix the two. Whole wheat pasta has a nuttier flavor, with a more chewy texture than traditional pasta. Enjoy its benefits of increased whole grains and dietary fiber.

    Whole wheat pasta can be enjoyed with a variety of sauces, such as tomato, alfredo, or pesto – or simply with olive oil, garlic, and herbs.

  4. Walnuts

    These nuts are typically more pricey than the other items on our list, but you can find amazing deals on bulk bags of walnuts at large wholesale stores. Walnuts contain ridiculously healthy phenols and are mighty tasty when crushed and added as toppings to yogurt, cereal, and even pasta dishes. If you’re feeling really adventurous, take a shot at making your own walnut butter.

  5. Canned Salmon

    Inexpensive and readily available, canned salmon is equally nutritious as its fresh counterpart. Canned salmon can be kept on hand for a super-quick meal: salmon salad. Drain the salmon and combine with a light mayo, and desired herbs, for a light dinner on bread or whole-wheat crackers. If you want a more hearty meal, try these baked salmon croquettes.

  6. Rice

    Delicious and affordable, rice is popular with many cultures for a reason. But it has recently come under fire for potentially high arsenic levels, especially in some brands. Reduce the risks and enjoy your rice with this cooking hack. Make a big pot of rice and enjoy throughout the week as a bed for sauteed vegetables and beans. Enjoy white rice in moderation.

  7. Split peas

    Like lentils, these come in multiple varieties, though you’re likely to only find the traditional green type in most stores. Split peas are perfect for hearty, protein, and fiber-filled meals – especially perfect for steaming bowls of soup when the weather grows chilly. If you’re a slow-cooker aficionado, you’ll enjoy this easy-to-prepare recipe for split pea soup.

  8. Dried Italian Seasoning

    If you want to get really fancy, you can make your own Italian seasoning. But if you’re like the rest of us, you’ll probably benefit from purchasing a large container of this versatile herb mix. Again available in bulk at most major wholesalers (ask someone for help in finding the herbs and spices section.) Italian seasoning can be added to both pasta and rice dishes as a finishing touch – a quick hack to provide a savory, gourmet flavor profile to your everyday meals.

  9. Unsweetened Cocoa Powder

    The joyous news about cocoa is that it’s actually quite good for you, in its pure, unsweetened form. The news on the street is that cocoa is a delightful (and awakening) source of antioxidants – just don’t try it on a spoon, though, you’ll need to mix that powder with something. Try these healthy cocoa baking recipes from Shape.com.

  10. Peanut Butter/Nut Butters

    A staple of kid lunches, peanut and nut butters are also available in bulk at many wholesale stores. But did you know that you can make a delicious sauce for pasta, vegetables or rice? Try out this amazing all-purpose nut butter sauce from Cooking Light.

Cooking and eating on a budget doesn’t need to be boring. Investigate more budget-friendly resources at Timberline Financial and explore your options for debt-relief.

If you are burdened with high amounts of credit card debt and are struggling to make your payments, or you’re just not seeing your balances go down, call Timberline Financial today for a FREE financial analysis.  Our team of highly skilled professionals will evaluate your current situation to see if you may qualify for one of our debt relief programs. You don’t have to struggle with high-interest credit card debt any longer.  Call (855) 250-8329 or get in touch with us by sending a message through our website.

Tips on how to keep the summer heat from raising your bills.

How to Keep Summer Utility Costs in Check

The summer months can be expensive to navigate. Families incur additional costs from rising utility bills, increased daycare expenses, and vacation costs, which can strain the family budget. The cost of utilities can double from the increased use of HVAC units combating high temperatures and additional water usage to keep gardens and yards thriving.

Finding effective ways to keep costs in check can prevent you from spending unnecessarily in order to bridge the gap. Fortunately, there are simple measures to keep costs down. Here are effective ways to lower utility bills even when the temperature gauge rises.

Lowering Your HVAC Bill

Running the air conditioner can influence up to 50% of your power bill. Whether you operate on gas or electric power, there are small changes you can make that will make a big impact on your bill.

  • Inspect your HVAC unit. Before the summer gets underway, have a professional inspect and clean your unit. Routine maintenance will keep the AC running efficiently and ensure you have adequate freon to cool your home. Low coolant and clogged air vents will wear out the motor faster and make it harder to keep the home cool. Other simple tasks you can complete include, changing air filters regularly, ensuring furniture does not block vents, and removing dust and debris from the system.
  • Raise the thermostat. One of the most effective ways to lower costs is to set the thermostat at a higher temperature. Consider programming your programmable thermostat to raise the temperature while you are at work or away from home. Doing so can shave 1% off the bill for every degree you raise the temperature for 8 hours or more.On the other hand, do not turn the AC off when you leave, because this action can actually raise your power bill. When the home gets hot during your absence, it takes more energy to cool the home. The unit will run non-stop on high until the house reaches your desired comfort level instead of coming on occasionally to adjust the temperature a few degrees.
  • Use fans strategically. Turning on fans in occupied rooms can allow you to run the central AC unit at a higher temperature. Ceiling fans are particularly useful in circulating air in a room.
  • Close vents and shut doors in unoccupied rooms. The growing size of homes can leave you cooling additional square footage for rooms you do not regularly use. Closing vents in unused rooms and keeping doors closed can lower your power bill. Separate thermostats in lightly used areas are another effective way to reduce the cost of heating basements or infrequently used areas of the home.
  • Reduce Air Leaks. It is common for homes to have places where air escapes. These are often small passages that allow cold air outside and warm air into your home. Start with major areas such as door and windows. You can caulk areas with gaps or add weather stripping to prevent air loss. If you can see the light from outside through or around a door or window, air is escaping. After sealing these areas look around fixtures, attics, and even light sockets on exterior walls for air loss.Many utility companies offer free energy audits, which can identify your biggest areas of concern.
  • Turn off the lights when not in use. Lights not only use power, but they also produce heat. In addition to turning off the lights or installing motion sensors to activate lights, you can also save money by converting to low wattage bulbs. Spiral fluorescents and LED lights have a higher upfront cost, but they last longer, use less energy, and run cooler than traditional light bulbs.Another strategy to bring light into the home is open curtains and blinds to receive natural light, which can eliminate the need to keep the lights on. In the heat of the day, natural light can add heat to your home. In this case, closing blinds and curtains in unused rooms and sun-facing rooms can lower the heat levels caused by the sun’s radiation.
  • Avoid using the oven and dryer. Both of these appliances add a lot of heat to your house. The dryer uses the most power of all other appliances, except for the refrigerator. To reduce dryer use, hang clothes outside, use the dryer on cooler days, or use it in the morning before work.To reduce stove usage, cook outdoors, use a toaster oven instead of the kitchen oven, or cook in the microwave.

Lowering Your Water Bill

The second bill largely impacted by warm weather is the water bill. Hot summer days increase water use by family members as well as keeping gardens and lawns fresh and growing. Here are a few simple strategies to lower the water bill during the summer months.

  • Water plants during the coolest part of the day. Whether you want a green lawn or flowers and vegetables, water in the early morning or late evening. Watering midday leads to fast evaporation, losing much of its benefits. Homes with automatic sprinklers should ensure their positioning will only water the lawn and not the driveway. There are also many systems that have settings that will prevent sprinklers from coming on during or shortly after rain.
  • Choose water-resistant plants designed to grow well in your climate. Hardy plants require less water to thrive and can reduce the need to water frequently.
  • Redirect rainwater. Capturing rainwater from drainage spouts will allow you to water your garden without running up the water bill.

If you are burdened with high amounts of credit card debt and are struggling to make your payments, or you’re just not seeing your balances go down, call Timberline Financial today for a FREE financial analysis.  Our team of highly skilled professionals will evaluate your current situation to see if you may qualify for one of our debt relief programs.  You don’t have to struggle with high-interest credit card debt any longer.  Call (855) 250-8329 or get in touch with us by sending a message through our website.