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Taking stock of stocking the pantry

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Whenever I read about frugality, I find a lot about what “not” to buy. Well, I’m going to tell you what you should buy. This is what to stock up on when it goes on sale. If you can budget a few dollars each month for stocking up on sale items it will save you a bundle in the long run. Here are some of the goodies no Diva pantry should be without.

Salad dressing — Especially Italian, Greek and Balsamic. You can’t make these dressings cheaper at home if the price goes under $1.25. They make great marinades for meat, poultry and fish and you can also use them to dress steamed vegetables. Very versatile.

Canned tomatoes — All kinds. Lycopene, the antioxidant found in tomatoes, is located in cell walls. Cooking tomatoes releases lycopene to do its work so canned is actually healthier than fresh. They keep for about a year.

Frozen vegetables — When the price goes under the price per pound of the fresh veggies it’s time to pick some up. Kept frozen they remain at peak quality up to 12 months.

Canned soups — Keep a few cream soups on hand for quick meal fixes and a few main dish soups on hand for emergency meals. Watch for quality brands to go for $1.50 a can or less.

Condiments and sauces — Like teriyaki, barbecue, mustard and catsup. They keep for a very long time and help with inspiration when it comes to meal planning.

Peanut butter — It keeps a long time and is always handy. Stored in a cool dry area it’ll last at least two years.

Pasta — Under a dollar a box for the good stuff is a good price. The bagged pasta can be found under 75 cents a few times a year. Stock up! Unopened packages, stored properly last up to three years.

Pasta sauce — The canned stuff goes on sale under a dollar. If you’re like me you usually add stuff to it anyway, a little onion, garlic and sausage, you know. There’s your last minute meal, ready and waiting.

Baking supplies — Flour, sugar, baking powder, yeast, chocolate chips and other baking essentials go on sale once in a while. If you stock up on flour, freeze it then seal it in plastic wrap before putting it in the cupboard. It’s a good idea to put flour in the freezer at least 24 hours when you bring it home. Cooties.

Cake and brownie mixes — When they get under $1 it’s hard to resist the convenience. I consider them insurance against an entertaining crisis. You never know when someone will need an emergency cake.

It helps if you know the regular prices of items so you know if you’re getting a good deal. I always recommend you keep a little note pad with you when you shop and record the prices of the items you use regularly.

In general the “Best by” dates on packaged foods are the manufacturer’s guideline on how long the food will stay at peak quality. In many cases unopened foods that have been stored properly will be good long past the “Use by” date. Remember the manufacturer has a vested interest in having their products removed from the shelves dues to “expiration” because it forces the grocery stores to purchase more product. As a country, we waste so much perfectly good food just because of our concern about the expiration dates on the package. A great resource for questions about the shelf life of foods is the website Still Tasty — www.stilltasty.com. Use your judgment, if food has an off odor, strange flavor or just doesn’t look right, toss it. When in doubt, throw it out.

Frugal Fodder contributed by Patti Diamond, author of Divas On A Dime — Where Frugal, Meets Fabulous! www.divasonadime.com Join us on Facebook at DivasOnADimeDotCom.