Staple Foods

Mike and I sat down on Friday night, like we do every other Friday night, to discuss the budget for the upcoming two weeks and make sure we're on the same page financially.
It is usually uneventful, with little or no surprises, but after number crunching this time around we realized there was just no money for the groceries!
With some unexpected medical bills, higher than usual utilities (thanks to sweltering heat this summer) and a few other unexpected financial things here and there we are just having one of those months.
It is always a sacrifice financially to live on one income. We choose it and don't regret it a bit but there are certainly times, like this week, that I have to kick the creativity into high gear in the kitchen and make it work. We could tap into our savings but aren't because...well secretly, I actually enjoy these times. Not only does it bring about some unusual, exciting meals but on a deeper level it reminds me of how blessed we are to have the luxury of an abundance of food in our cupboards and in our freezer that can sustain us as a family. And even during weeks like this, where the money just isn't there, we are far better off than much of the world.

My expertise is definitely not in the area of storing food, freezing meals, buying ahead or even planning more than a week or so in advance. I admire people who do but that simply just isn't where I put my energy.
So in weeks like this, I start scouring the back of the shelves and corners of the fridge to start coming up with meals that require no trips to the store and yet provide our bellies good, healthy, filling food to come together around the table for at the end of the day.

Having basic "staple" ingredients on hand will really help out during weeks like these (assuming that you too have these belt-tightening times).
These are the foods that I always try to keep around. They are the things that I'll pick up two of, instead of one, when grocery shopping.

Buttermilk is great for so many things. Pancakes, biscuits, cakes and muffins.
King Arthur Flour
I use King Arthur because I find it works better than any other flour out there. I keep AP flour and Bread flour on hand for the obvious (baking) but I also use it to thicken sauces and making pasta.
Peanut Butter
A peanut butter and jelly sandwich is one of the easiest ways to stave off hunger pains between meals with the kiddos.
Popcorn is an essential snack food in this house. We air pop it, which is much healthier.
Lentils and black beans are the two staple beans in this house. A meal of black beans and rice or a quick lentil soup is filling and delicious!
Chicken Stock
I try to make homemade chicken stock when I have time but I also like to keep a couple of cartons of store bought organic chicken broth on hand to add to soups, beans and sauces.
A basic olive oil and garlic pasta sprinkled with a bit of cheese just can't be beat. I add in some peas and a bit of leftover chicken or bacon to add even more flavor.
Frozen peas, corn and broccoli
Must haves for veggies in a pinch!
Butter and Oil
These are essential in almost any cooking or baking so be sure to have extra around.
I always try to keep a bag of apples in the fridge. When the boys are hungry and wanting a snack, I always send them to the fridge for an apple. It seems to satisfy their craving for something sweet and something crunchy.