In light of recent economic trends and the persistent need for shelf-stable items, this week's feature post will be devoted to cheap pantry staples. The following products are recent grocery store finds that have made mealtime much simpler, not to mention they have been easier on my wallet. While it always best to focus on fresh fruits and vegetables, these shelf-stable goods have pleasantly distant expiration dates. Translation: no surprise molds, slimes, fungi, or otherwise unidentifiable organisms when you go to prepare supper.
You may have seen these enticing cartons of soup lined up at the grocery store, boasting of flavors ranging from acorn squash-mango to creamy butternut squash. I was attracted to these soups due to their larger quantity included in the package (32 oz.) for a smaller price tag. With carton in hand, I soon realized that these soups are not only economical but also organic, and most varieties are vegan! Despite their deceptively non-vegan sounding names (all flavors include "creamy" in the title"), all but one flavor are animal-product free; only the Creamy Chicken Soup includes animal products. Imagine Soups use soymilk in place of cow's milk, making them quite the find for vegans in need of a dish of flavor and warmth.
I have sampled the tomato and acorn squash-mango varieties, and both were equally velvety and delicious. Most varieties contain around 20% of the RDA for sodium per serving, so be sure to balance the rest of the meal with lower-sodium accompaniments. While they are low in protein, Imagine's Garden Natural Soups contain impressive amounts of fiber (2-3 grams per cup). Specific varieties also tout significant vitamins, such as the squash-mango's 35% RDA for vitamin A.
Each 32 oz carton costs from $2-3, although my local Whole Foods in Durham frequently features a 2/$4 special. If you're interested in smaller size containers, Imagine also sells 2-serving containers. Additionally, Imagine produces stocks, broths, and a line of Bistro Bisques.
Be sure to check out Imagine's websites, which is full of recipes with innovative ways to use their soups and stocks.The moussaka below was inspired by one such recipe.
Milton's Whole Wheat Crackers
You can't have soup without crackers, right? Enter: Milton's crackers. I discovered Milton's crackers when my usual Kashi Honey Sesame crackers were out of stock at my local grocery. After a temporary moment of panic, I had the sense to look at alternative options. Milton's were on sale for $2.29, so into the cart they went. Milton's Baking produces hearty and tasty crackers with the benefits of whole grain. Each serving has a mere 1 gram of fiber, but the ingredients list is pleasantly short--always a plus in my book. These crackers were a lifesaver when I was sick a few weeks ago; they are easily digestible but provide a more healthful alternative to the traditional Saltines.
Each 14 cracker serving provides 130 kcalories, which is very comparable to the popular favorite, Kashi TLCs. Milton's produces 4 varieties of crackers: multi-grain, whole wheat, garlic & herb, and French onion. Additionally, Milton's produces gourmet crackers, bread, and frozen entrees. These crackers are excellent for dips, cheese, and soaking up delcious soups!
365 Creamy Peanut Butter
As I've mentioned before, I am devoted creamy nut butter fan. My initial back-to-school Target trip necessitated buying a jar of crunchy PB. After a few weeks of making do, I decided I could afford a $2 jar of creamy PB that would bring me far more satisfaction. The only two ingredients in this little 16 ounces of heaven are peanuts and salt. Each two tablespoon serving contains 200 kcalories and 16 grams of mostly heart healthy fat. Basically, it contains all the goodness of natural PB without a hefty price tag.
This product is shelf-stable until opened; it is best to refrigerate after opening.
365 Rice Milk
In yet another grocery store dilemma, I am faced with a dilemma: my usual Almond Breeze bears a $2.49 price tag, which is not too bad in itself, but I also buy a half-gallon of soymilk every week. My non-dairy milk consumption has become an expensive habit but a very necessary one, as their fortification ensures that I get the calcium I need. Fortunately, on the shelf just below the collection of almond milks, I spotted a $1.69 gem--365 Rice Milk. The nutritional panels vary according to flavor, but all are fully fortified, providing 300 mg calcium per 8 oz serving. The unsweetened varieties also (unsurprisingly) have significantly lower sugar contents.
I enjoy this rice milk in my cereal, fruit smoothies, and even my macaroni and cheese.
What are your favorite pantry staples? Share, comment, enjoy:)