BrokeAss Gourmet

BrokeAss Gourmet

The $50 Pantry

Being a true BrokeAss Gourmand is kind of like being a Boy Scout in that you have to be prepared so you can go out into the wilderness and have a good time (insert dirty joke here). Having a well-stocked pantry means that you are better able to follow recipes and create new ones because you’ll have most of the required non-perishables and dry goods already on-hand. The following is a list of staple ingredients frequently called-for in recipes.

All of these items can be found inexpensively at Trader Joe’s or your local discount supermarket. Having a well-stocked pantry makes shopping less expensive, since these ingredients last a long time and are used in a lot of different recipes. As a bonus, there are plenty of dishes that can be constructed almost entirely from pantry ingredients, which means you’re eating well while saving money—like a true BrokeAss Gourmet boss. When I refer to a “pantry” item in a recipe, it means you should already have it on hand. The below prices are approximate, rounded up and based on Trader Joe’s prices in San Francisco, CA.

Ingredients

  • unbleached all-purpose flour (I prefer "King Arthur":http://www.kingarthurflour.com/ ) $4 for a 5 lb bag
  • extra virgin olive oil $6 for 12 oz 
  • vegetable/canola oil $4 for 16 oz
  • kosher salt $3 for 24 oz
  • pepper (ideally in a grinder) $3
  • baking soda $3 for a 6 oz can
  • baking powder $3 for a 6 oz can
  • white granulated sugar $3 for a 16 oz box/bag
  • brown sugar $3 for a 16 oz box/bag
  • honey $4 for 8 oz
  • balsamic vinegar $4 for 12 oz
  • peanut butter $4 for 12 oz
  • mayonnaise (store it in the fridge after opening!) $3 for 16 oz
  • garlic $0.50 for a head

Category: Meals

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What They're Saying

Annelies, on Feb 5, 08:33 AM, wrote:

In preparation to move apartments I am “cooking through my pantry” and distill it down to the basics, which I’m glad to see are in line with your $50 pantry. Looking forward to more posts. Congratulations on your launch!

Caitlin, on Feb 5, 10:29 AM, wrote:

Hey Gab- The site looks awesome, putting it on my reader and looking forward to reading more. Congrats!

Karina Marie Diaz, on Feb 5, 11:21 AM, wrote:

This is such a gorgeous site and I am so excited for you! Congratulations! Looking forward to any tips on non wheat and dairy options for an unlikely chef.

Sayo Martin, on Feb 5, 03:11 PM, wrote:

Thanks for this great list of Must-Haves! I’m a Trader Joe’s fan and these prices definitely look about right.

Dave Doolin, on Feb 5, 08:55 PM, wrote:

Great site!

Stick with it, you’re in my RSS feed.

Betty, on Feb 5, 09:21 PM, wrote:

Hello, nice meeting you. I cam over from blog well done. This is a really great idea and can’t wait to see what’s next.

chris, on Feb 7, 07:58 PM, wrote:

I would like to know what kind of meal “ can be constructed almost entirely from pantry ingredients”? Oil and vinegar dressing?

Michael Gibson, on Feb 8, 10:20 AM, wrote:

Chris, there’s an important word you seem to be ignoring, and that’s “almost”. Buy a protein, and perhaps add a starch, and with the ingredients in your pantry you’ve got a damn fine meal, most likely, for under $7 or $8 spent on that trip to the store.

The point of the article isn’t, “Oh, look at what you can make with these ingredients.” Rather, it’s, “Have these ingredients handy as they can lead to almost anything.”

Robin Kraft, on Feb 8, 07:59 PM, wrote:

Great list! I’d just add that with a pound of peanuts ($2/lb @ Whole Foods bulk foods section) and your blender you can make your own peanut butter in less than five minutes. With the money you save, get fancier olive oil or (for the bakers among us) some chocolate chips or yeast.

Amanda, on Feb 9, 08:51 PM, wrote:

Great list!

Some other ingredients I always seem to get stuck without:

yeast
vanilla extract
worcestershire sauce
white wine vinegar
cream of tartar
bread crumbs
chicken & beef boullion cubes
evaporated milk
allspice

Random I know, but I always seem to find recipes where I have all the ingredients and then am missing one of these.

Another thing I figured out recently is that the dollar store is the BEST place to find spices. No more spending $5 on a tiny plastic container of paprika for me!

Becky Blanton, on Feb 10, 03:05 AM, wrote:

Beautiful site! The name is why I clicked through. Well done and congratulations on the launch. I love the list. Only thing I’d add would be Capers, dry mustard, cooking sherry and cans of stewed tomatoes….Looking forward to seeing more!

WiseWellnessWoman, on Feb 10, 06:57 AM, wrote:

Interesting site…I’ll be back. A few suggestions for your list. Haven’t done the math, though. Olive oil is great, but canola or vegetable oil add to the omega 6 overload. That’s a lot of sugars…should last a year. Stevia’s a better choice for that occasional need for sweetness. Peanut butter is great, if it has no added sugar or fat. Inexpensive source of protein and rib-sticking. Substitute whole wheat flour for the white (unless you’re gluten sensitive as so many are, in which case look for millet or flax). Kosher or sea salt are so much healthier than the processed salt most use. Beans (canned if you’re short of time). Rice (any but de-branned white). Canned tomatoes. And when your budget allows, add herbs…they can make the difference between an okay dish and something truly special. The Mexican food section has a selection at much lower prices that the regular herb section, or buy bulk. (I wonder how many of these foods are on the federal WIC program list which is in desperate need of a nutrition guide.)

Lydia Sugarman, on Feb 10, 09:51 AM, wrote:

Buy whole peppercorns in bulk and invest in a great pepper grinder.

Wow, $2 per head on garlic, even organic, is definitely not broke ass.

Couple other pantry staples are a bag of yellow onions and 2-3 different shapes of dried pasta.

And, don’t be lulled into thinking Trader Joe’s is a good deal for everything. There are bargains to be had everywhere, even Whole Foods where they’re lowering prices in response to the changes in the economy.

The Cook from Houston, on Feb 23, 11:18 AM, wrote:

My God, where do you shop? Hawaii? Your $50 pantry would cost about 27 bucks in Houston, and I’m getting much larger quantities. For example, I got three liters of extra virgin olive oil for $12 at Costco, so 12 ounces is $1.42. Honey is $9 for FIVE POUNDS, or 90 cents for 8 oz. Balsamic vinegar is $2.39 a bottle at Kroger. Garlic sells for five heads for 50 cents (in a netbag). I would add additional “basic” spices to your pantry: tarragon and nutmeg for stroganoff-inspired dishes, basil for Italian (I always use fresh oregano and dried basil), a persian spice called sumac which adds a slightly sour tang to my kebabs, and generic curry powder (I know, it is a British concoction, not really Indian curry) to jazz up things like peas in yogurt.

My pantry is jammed full (shopping in bulk), but we do rotate. We carry a number of generic staples like white and brown rice, several types of pasta (regular and whole wheat), and canned vegetables for things like Shepherd’s pie. Most are bought in bulk.

s trybus, on Feb 23, 03:14 PM, wrote:

they now sale three dollar wine only at walmart not bad no hang over

Darla, on Feb 23, 03:26 PM, wrote:

SUCH A CATCHY NAME. It roped me in immediately. I’ve already been telling people about it. Good luck in keeping it legit.

Pj Little, on Feb 23, 06:07 PM, wrote:

I can fix meals for a family of four well under ten bucks using the same basic ingrients you do. For instance, I paid less than $5 for 18oz of whole pepper corn at Sam’s club and less than that for a 5 oz can of Hungarian Paprika at Krogers (Ralph’s in California). I can regularly buy 1 oz of nutmeg for less than a dollar. Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge fan of TJs. I drive 300 miles for the laundry soap because it is a necessity.

There is a point when the wallet dictates gourmet or practical dining at home. I could buy a pantry full of staples fo $50 if I had it to spare.

Here are a couple of tips. Once a spice is opened, invert the container for longer shelf life. Buy bulk from the local restaurant wholesaler. Much of the time you will get a wholesale price – if you ask.

Katie, on Mar 10, 03:29 PM, wrote:

I would add:

canned tomatoes
chicken stock
a lb of rice
a few bags of pasta

These always come in handy, and with them, you really can make a whole meal just from pantry foods.

Julie, on May 10, 10:20 AM, wrote:

I’d definitely add Sriracha hot sauce to this list. Fucking love your recipes; all I ever ate was brown rice + lentils before discovering it as a broke ass grad student. Bulgar Bowl for life!

Ronnie, on Aug 15, 10:59 PM, wrote:

I keep flour, rice and brown sugar in the freezer. Freezing prevents the bugs in grains so it’s a good idea to keep staples you use infrequently in the freezer. I don’t use brown sugar much either, so in the freezer it goes. You can soften it quickly in the microwave.

Amy, on Jan 4, 05:45 PM, wrote:

I just found Brokeass Gourmet while clicking around on the internet today. As a brokeass prospective grad student, I had come to terms with giving up food as part of my daily routine. Your website has made eating possible again. I love food, but I also love books and having a roof over my head; thank you for not making me choose. This site is great, and I’ll be sure to tell all my other brokeass friends about it.

Stephen Zollman, on Feb 13, 10:42 PM, wrote:

this is totally awesome…I don’t cook due to fear of failure and the cost…but this site could overcome both:)

Peter Walzer, on Jul 18, 08:05 PM, wrote:

Gabi — My wife and I were doing some surfing for recipes at our home in Topanga and we landed on your website The Broke-A** Gourmet. It is well organized with great recipes — lots of vege options. We are impressed! Hi to Mom and Dad. All the best, Peter & Faye

AFwifePeachez, on Aug 16, 05:45 PM, wrote:

for those who are wondering why the ingredients listed cost more than what they usually buy at Costco or whatever regular supermarket you go to…the meaning of “gourmet” means skillful preparation with QUALITY ingredients. As most people know most of the regular stuff u buy at Sams Club or Costco or where ever in bulk for cheap is NOT considered a quality ingredient, what this blog aims to show us is how we can eat QUALITY homecooked food regularly without going broke. A meal made with cheap regular stuff is NOT gourmet. Stores that sell quality ingredients is Whole Food, Trader Joes and other health food stores but Trader Joes is cheaper than most with just as good quality. however u are NOT going to find quality ingredients in bulk at the regular supermarkets. just wanted to clear that up.

CB, on Feb 27, 11:29 AM, wrote:

To The Cook From Houston: I DO shop in Hawai`i. Some of these prices seem high to me as well.

anna thomas, on Feb 28, 03:34 PM, wrote:

You are paying veryt high prices for almost all your items. Flour should be 2.25 for 5 lbs, sugar 3$ for 5 lbs, baking soda 0.75$ oliver oil 4$ for 16ozs, peanut butter 1.50,mayo,3$ for 32 ozs,{Hellmans} brn sugar 1.25, what’s wrong with apple or even white vinger?. Don’t you shop sales,use coupons,or dollar stores? You have a 30-35$ pantry, and no rice, pasta,dry beans,or canned tomotoes,

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Katie T, on Oct 26, 07:20 PM, wrote:

I find it funny that the main comments in this thread talk about the prices being unusually high, while on the blog page that linked here ( The $15.82 Shopping Trip” ) the main note was about how prices are unusually low. I guess you lose no matter what eh? Come one people, there are a ton of differences in price depending on where you shop AND what brand you go for! Stop with the hate?

This is an amazing blog, and these shopping posts are extremely helpful! Would you consider doing a well-stocked spice rack article some time?