Our fridge is filled with staples that you can stock up on in an affordable way. Find out what we keep on hand and how we do it without spending a fortune. Stock your fridge the smart way, so you can have delicious meals at your fingertips too!
This is the third part in our three part series on how to have a well-stocked kitchen that will allow and inspire you make delicious food anytime you please. You can find parts one and two here: Part 1 Stock Your Pantry on a Dime and Part 2 Stock Your Freezer on a Dime.
I’d say the fridge is the most obvious place people think of stocking up on food. In North America, we go grocery shopping, come home and fill our fridges with fresh fruit, vegetables and other produce. I would argue, though, that there are other items that should be on your shopping list, in order to position yourself for huge success if you’re making quick meals on the run, or if you’re trying to save money on your grocery bill.
Our fridge houses a number of things that we try to never let run out – and if we do run out, they go straight onto our ongoing grocery list (that hangs on our fridge). But listen – just because they’re on our list, it doesn’t mean we run out and buy them at full price. No. Unless it’s something we need urgently, with a lot of these items we wait for them to go on sale.
Better yet, we always try to keep at least one on reserve, so we don’t have to go without while we wait for a sale to pop up. The secret to all of these pantry, freezer and fridge stocking tips is to know what you have on hand and then know what a good price is for the things you buy (roughly). Then you know when it’s time to stock up. Some things never go on sale, and that’s fine – you can just buy them whenever it’s convenient. But for everything else, you can save a lot of money in the long run by being strategic.
Here are the things stocking our fridge, in no particular order (aside from fresh fruit, veggies and milk, which we buy regularly):
We keep a strong stash of cheese (cheddar, pizza mozarella, Parmesan, often goat cheese, sometimes gruyere, and some random others too).
We stock up on cream cheese when it goes on a big sale (I’ve recently seen it for $1.50 per package). If you check the best before dates they are usually months away, and I’ve been known to buy 20 packages at once (they come in super handy for making dips, cheesecakes, tarts and more, without spending upwards of $4 per package).
We buy Cheddar and mozzarella cheese for everyday eating in large 450g blocks when they go on sale. I consider a good sale to be $4 or less, and I only stock up on the brands that haven’t downsized the size of their blocks to 400g while trying to make them appear the same size as before. No thank you. We usually pick up around 10 blocks of various types at a time if it’s a good sale. We just bought ten 450g blocks for $3.77 each. Sure beats almost $8 regular price! If you’re curious, check the best before date. It is probably months and months away. Store it in a cool part of your fridge and you’ll be eating cheap cheese for months!
We always have real Parmesan cheese, and I gave a breakdown of price comparison in this recipe for Easy Pasta Carbonara. We get it at Costco, where we also get goat cheese and sometimes splurge on gruyere – it is by far the best price I’ve found for those cheeses. We get two large rolls of goat cheese for around $7.
We also buy lots and lots of plain yogurt. Check out this post to learn more about some of the amazing benefits of buying and eating plain yogurt. Walmart carries our yougurt for $2.67 and regularly puts it on sale for $2. We go through a LOT of it. I have a few new recipes coming up, but for now, you can see how we use it in the place of sour cream often in Easy Loaded Twice Baked Potatoes and Vegetarian Ranch Shepherd’s Pie. I also use it regularly to whip up a batch of ranch salad dressing with our Homemade Homemade Ranch Dressing Mix. I used to buy huge bottles of ranch at Costco, because I love it on salads. Now we just make our own, which is much healthier and takes about five seconds using this recipe.
Better Than Bouillon
As you probably noticed from about half the recipes on this blog, I’m in love with Better Than Bouillon. A few years ago I would gaze
longingly at recipes that called for chicken stock because I didn’t normally buy it – I would only pick up a carton if I had a recipe in mind that used the whole carton. Anything less would just end up in the fridge and eventually down the drain. And broth can be expensive! I would usually skip over the recipe.
Then I discovered Better Than Bouillon. The small jars make 41 cups of broth (when mixed with hot water) and cost under $7 at the Superstore and under $8 at Sobeys near where I live. Sometimes I luck out and Costco has giant jars for around $6 too! Amazing value. I’ve also bought their organic broth at Organic Earth Market in Halifax.
They also make beef, vegetable, lobster, roasted garlic and a bunch of other bases. I still make homemade broth when I cook chickens or turkeys, but I love the convenience of keeping this in my fridge, so I can use just a cup for a recipe if I want to!
Sriracha hot sauce, hoisin sauce, fish sauce, oyster sauce, plum sauce, toasted sesame oil, soy sauce, sweet chili sauce (which I hope to start making) and sambal olek. These sauces form the backbone of a ton of the cooking we do in this house. We would have to drive for hours to get to any type of an authentic Asian restaurant. While I would by no means say our meals are super authentic, they are, at least, super tasty 🙂 We couldn’t do it without a selection of these sauces.
Curry paste (both yellow and red) also forms the base of so many delicious curries, pastas and soups in our house.
Carrots are a superstar workhorse vegetable, in my opinion. They are healthy, last forever, are cheap, and often go on sale. I try to just stock up when they’re on sale because they last forever in the crisper. I look for prices of around 50 cents /pound. We use them in salads, soups, curries, for snacking and very often as an extra vegetable with so many meals. We love them roasted.
My goodness I love eggs. We go through tons of them. We get them locally when we can, and otherwise we just get them at our local grocery store. Eggs are not only delicious and versatile, but they are cheap, healthy, last a long time in the fridge, and can make vegetarian meals more filling. I have plans for some delicious egg recipes on the blog in the future.
I looooove mayo and I buy the big jars of Hellman’s from Costco. We also keep ketchup, barbecue sauce, mustard, Dijon mustard, honey mustard, maple syrup (from Costco), tahini, Tabasco and Worcestershire sauce on hand. Buy them on sale whenever possible!
I buy instant yeast in large one pound vacuum sealed blocks. I used to be able to get them at my local co-op, but now they don’t carry them anymore so I get them at the Superstore. They cost around $5. It might seem like a lot of yeast, but I’ve always used them up before they lose their potency. If you’re worried that you won’t use it all, why not split the block with a friend? The cost savings over the tiny bottles or packets is enormous. I keep it in a mason jar in the fridge once I open the package.
Pickled and briny things
We keep a few different kinds of olives, dill pickles, capers, hot pepper rings on hand. They last a super long time and add zip to lots of recipes! Dill pickles and hot pepper rings often go on sale. Some olives do, some don’t.
Whenever bacon goes on sale for a really good price (say $2-3), I buy a few packages. We almost never cook up a whole pound and eat it for breakfast (okay, once in a while 🙂 ) but we often use a half package chopped up in pasta, spread onto homemade garlic fingers or in a soup. Unopened, bacon usually lasts a super long time. If we use half a package and don’t anticipate using the other half soon, we wrap it up well and freeze it.
Natural peanut butter
We go through a LOT of natural peanut butter and we were never 100% sold on it until we started storing it in the fridge, upside-down. Sounds weird, doesn’t it? But it totally improves the consistency and helps the peanuts and oil stay better combined. We usually either buy it on sale or get it at Costco, where we get get two 1kg containers (for some reason lots of natural peanut butter comes in smaller containers) for around $11. We eat it on toast, in breakfast bowls, and in Asian style cooking.
Strategic grocery shopping definitely helps us save money, and I love having a wide variety of ingredients on-hand to make whatever my heart desires!
What do you like to keep on hand in your fridge? What foods can you not be without? Let me know in the comments below!
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