Save Money; Eat Better- Pantry Essentials

by JoellieGirl

Always a few dollars short on your grocery list? Here are some easy ways to save big money- and I'm not talking about couponing!

Some of the things that we all stock our pantries with are a real waste of money- try a few of these ideas and recipes to make some breathing room in your budget.

Instant Rice vs. Long Grain

Did You Know...

Instant rice averages close to $1.50 per pound, while long grain rice is usually less than .60 per pound. Yes, it's faster to cook instant rice, but, truth be told, almost no meals are actually ready as fast as instant rice. 

If you go to the grocery and spend $4.50 on a 2.5 lb box of instant rice then it might last you a while- but if you spend $5.50 you can get a 10 lb bag of long grain rice that will last you 4 times as long for a dollar more. So why do we even buy instant rice if it's that much more expensive?  Convenience, right?  

How much is convenience worth? 

Here's a quick recipe that will change your idea of convenience and make rice a rare and cheap purchase:


Microwave Rice

  • 1 part long grain, NON instant rice  (1 cup of dry rice makes 2 cups of cooked rice) 
  • 2 parts water

Combine the rice and water in a bowl with a tight sealing lid. 

Cook for 5 minutes on high.

Cook for 15 minutes on 50% power.

 Remove lid, stir and let sit for 5 minutes before serving. 


The average american eats 21 pounds of rice per year. If only half of that is at home, then that's 10.5 pounds per year. If your household is 3 people, that's 31.5 pounds of rice per year that goes through your pantry. 

If you buy instant rice at the averate 1.50 per pound then that's $47.25 per year spent on rice. 

If you buy long grain rice in bigger packages then that's $18.90 per year on rice. 

That's a yearly savings of $28.35  - JUST on rice. 


CornBread Mix or Mix Your Own CornBread

I've had people explain to me that it's only .50 a box for their off-brand corn bread mix, but who wants to eat pasty corn muffins that taste like a salty yellowcake mix gone bad? Even at .50 a box, cornbread mix only saves you 4 little steps and costs you a lot. Here's my favorite cornbread recipe- if you want to save time you can make a big batch and devide it into ziplocks to use as a ready made mix.

You don't cook from scratch? Oh yes you do. If you can measure out the milk and oil that you have to add to your cornbread or cake mixes then you can also measure out the flour, sugar and baking powder. That's all there is to cooking from scratch, so look me in the eye, take a deep breath and repeat after me: 

I. Can. Cook. 


Old Fashioned Corn Bread


  • 1 cup flour
  • 3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 3 tablspoons sugar
  • 2.5 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup oil

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Oil a 9" springform pan, a 9x13 cake pan or a dozen muffin cup tin. 

Stir together dry ingredients, then add wet ingredients and mix until you don't have any lumps. 

Spoon into pan and bake 25 minutes for cake pan or springform and 15-20 minutes for muffins. 


Savings? Oh yeah. They're there- this batch makes a full dozen muffins, which is 2 times a .50 cent mix. 


1- 5 lb bag of flour (off brand, for the sake of the off brand mix argument)  $1.50

1 - 4 lb bag of sugar $2.50

1 - baking powder  $2




How is that a savings? 

Well... lemme tell you.  These groceries, which you most likely keep your cupboards stocked with anyways, will make at least 12 batches of cornbread, which is equivalent to 24 boxes of cornbread mix. 

Savings?  That depends on how often you eat cornbread. If you only make cornbread once a month then $6 per year. If you make it once a week, then $24 per year. 

You do the math. :) 





Pizza/Pasta Sauce- The Real Kind

What do you pay for your favorite pasta sauce? $2 for a 16 ounce jar? That's for the cheap stuff... If you wanna go really cheap you can get the Hunt's can for a dollar, right? 

Well. What if I told you that if you made your own pasta sauce it would be twice as delish and only $0.60-0.75 per 16 ounce package? 

I'm telling you that now. 

So grab the biggest pot you can find, run to Sam's Club or Costco and get cooking. 


Most Excellent Pasta Sauce 

Sautee - 

  • 4 large onions, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 crushed cloves of garlic
Add  - 
  • 4 - 102 ounce cans of crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup italian seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh chopped basil

Simmer, covered, for 2 hours, stirring frequently. 

Cool to just above room temperature (if you divide the sauce into smaller containers then this will happen a lot faster. I like to pour it into baking dishes because they are shallow enough to let it cool quickly. )  

This will make about 25 quart bags of marinara sauce that is perfect for pizzas, pastas and vegetables. 

The entire batch will cost you about $15 in crushed tomatoes and fresh basil, and the rest of the things you should have already in your cupboards. If you count the spices and sugar, then add, at most, $3 for that. That's $18 for 25 "cans" of sauce. 


That's a $32 savings, right there. 

And it's about 6 months worth of sauce. 

So $64 a year. 

Be thrilled. 


And enjoy.



I Just Saved You $100 Per Year...

...At least. That's with cornbread and pasta sauce only once a week and you eating only half of your expected amount of rice at home. It could be as much as $200 a year pretty easily. 

So are you going to give it a try?  Stay tuned for more articles about stretching your grocery budget and living healthier. 

After all, the less our food is processed, the better off we are. If you don't believe me, check out the lable on your pasta sauce and cornbread mix and see how many "extras" you'll be leaving out. It's worth a looksee. 

Updated: 06/05/2012, JoellieGirl
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