Pantry Staples to Splurge and Scrimp On

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Pantry Staples to Splurge and Scrimp On

With the rising cost of living and inflation leaping across the globe, many of us are feeling pinched for pennies. As the cost of everyday basics continues to increase, groceries are becoming trickier to budget for. That’s why we’ve pulled together a list of the cupboard samples you should scrimp on—and those you may want to consider splurging on if you have some extra cash on hand.

Splurge: Olive Oil

A bottle of good quality olive oil goes a long way and is definitely a product worth investing in. It’s perfect for making marinades and dips and drizzling over basically anything to give your meal a little pizazz. Lower-quality “olive” oil is often blended with other, cheaper oils and is missing true olive oil’s spicy bitterness.

Splurge: Salt

If you’re using salt as a garnish—think of flaky salt with smashed avocado on toast or the salty rim of a margarita glass—it’s worth spending extra on flaky salt. The crystals provide a lovely crunchy texture and enhance the other flavors you’re working with. However, for seasoning stews or pasta water, don’t waste your money; the cheapest available table salt will do the trick.

Splurge: Pepper

There’s nothing worse than powdery pepper that doesn’t taste like anything and gets stuck to the roof of your mouth. Invest in a peppercorn grinder instead, and you can buy refills of peppercorns that are cheap to replenish and will bring flavor and texture to your dish.

Splurge: Coffee

Speaking as a wannabe coffee connoisseur, investing in a decent bag of ground coffee or beans is essential to replacing your more pricey coffee shop fix. If you don’t have the necessary coffee paraphernalia like a French press or a moka pot, spending a little bit more on your instant coffee will make all of the difference too, as the best alternatives can even micmick the creamy texture of a shop-bought coffee.

Splurge: Orange Juice

Whether you like pulp or not, a premium orange juice is so worth the investment to accompany your Sunday morning coffee. Cheaper alternatives work well for mimosas or punch bases, but you’ll really notice the difference in flavor by spending a few more dollars on a product that is more natural—and has less sugar!

Splurge: Spices

Like salt and pepper, spices can really make or break a dish. Higher-quality chili flakes or cinnamon often have a noticeably more complex flavor than the cheaper options. To ensure the extra pennies you’ve spent are going to good use, make sure you store your spices properly—use a zip-lock bag to keep them fresher for longer.

Scrimp: Honey

This may be a controversial take, as there is evidence to suggest that a lot of the honey found on store shelves isn’t honey at all. But if you’re simply looking for a sweet somethin’ to brighten up your oats in the morning, then a cheaper bottle will give you much of the same desired taste and effect.

Scrimp: Sparkling water

Although it might be true that bubbles in a pretty glass bottle trick you into thinking the stuff inside tastes better, in reality, the pricey stuff is often exactly the same as the cheaper options on store shelves. Save yourself the extra money, and spend the cash you would have parted with for the premium bottle on citrus fruit, like lemon, lime or grapefruit to jazz up your bubbly instead.

Scrimp: Soy sauce

Slathering soy sauce on noodles, rice or grilled meat is a must, and if you’re anything like me, you go through the stuff very quickly. I’ve never noticed the difference between premium brands and store brands, but to make the most of your money, I’d recommend taking a trip to an Asian supermarket where the bottles are usually a lot larger for a fraction of the price.

Scrimp: Canned tomatoes

I haven’t once noticed the benefit of buying expensive chopped tomatoes over the cheaper option. Real tomatoes are a different story, but if you’re getting them from a can, in my experience, the price makes very little difference. As most people use canned tomatoes for sauce bases, you’ll probably be adding extra components like onions, garlic and spices anyway, which will be what really brings the magic to your meal.

Scrimp: Canned fish

Ethical fishing practices may factor into your choice of what canned fish you buy, but if you’re looking solely at opportunities to save, you’ll likely see no noticeable difference in flavor of some canned fish products. There can be a big difference between canned tuna at different price points, but you can usually opt for the cheaper mackerel, anchovies and mussels without missing out on much in terms of flavor.

Scrimp: Beans and pulses

Beans are beans, and usually, cost isn’t a huge factor when it comes to quality. A great way to make cheaper beans pop is to drizzle them with oil, salt and spices and then roast them in the oven. They make a great addition to a salad or as a healthy, cheap alternative to potato chips.

Scrimp: Dried pasta

Pasta sometimes gets a bad rep for being a student pantry staple, but it’s a must for all stages of life and a lifesaver when you need an easy dinner fix after a hectic day. Don’t bother investing in high-quality dried pasta, but to make things more exciting, you might want to have a variety of pasta shapes in your cupboard. If you want to splash out on a good pasta, opt for fresh egg pasta that really amplifies your dish.