Because there are times when it pays to buy more than you need.
I don’t know anyone who doesn’t appreciate a good bargain deal when it comes to stocking up on your favorite/most-used food items. You walk out the store with a cart full of goodies, along with a sense of purpose and accomplishment. Not to mention, after a long, busy day at work, it’s always nice to already have a few items on hand that you can throw together for a satisfying meal without having to make an extra stop at the grocery store. Buying certain items in bulk to always have at your disposal can prove incredibly helpful on any given day of the week when you find yourself in a time crunch. Not to mention, relying on these items you’ve smartly purchased in larger quantities keeps some cash in your wallet, reduces your carbon-footprint, and cuts waste on packaging. The best choices for bulk items are shelf-stable foods and items that freeze well. It helps to pick up a few large tightly sealing jars or bins to store shelf-stable foods. For anything frozen, freezer-safe plastic bags are a must.
Here are the best food items to buy in bulk now—because they’ll have your back when heading to the grocery store is an absolute no-go.
Countless are the times when pasta saves the day with its amazing ability to transform into many a picky eater-proof meal. When it goes on sale, this is the first item that I stock up on. Pick out a few different shapes of noodle, from fettuccine, penne, and spaghetti, to jumbo shells and lasagna noodles. You can keep dried pasta in the pantry for about 2 years, but I seriously doubt you’ll have any issue using a surplus up before then.
Dried Beans and Lentils
You can’t have an award-winning chili without the an array of beans in the pot. Dried beans can technically last almost indefinitely, but they tend to loose their moisture after 1 to 2 years. Little pro-tip: Dried beans and lentils are best if you soak them overnight to cook the next day.
With the large variety of grains, like farro and bulgur, growing in popularity and availability, they are a great staple item to keep around, especially if you want an alternative to rice and pasta. Most keep up to 6 months and should be stored in an airtight container to preserve their natural oils.
A classic chicken and rice never goes out of style. If you can cook it to perfection without a rice cooker, consider yourself a pro; and if not, there is no shame in your rice cooking game. Once you make a big batch, leftover can be utilized for stir-fry, soup, casseroles, and more. Most rice varieties will keep indefinitely with the exception of brown rice, which lasts only 3 to 6 months.
There’s legitimately nothing worse than realizing you’re down to your last couple of tablespoons of sugar the night before that bakesale you just remembered you volunteered to make your famous chocolate chip cookies for. As long as you keep sugar in an airtight container, you can hold onto it for as long as you need.
Pop open can of tomatoes to make pasta sauce on the fly. Beyond being able to simmer into a quick sauce with very little effort, canned tomatoes are incredibly versatile and can enhance countless dishes. Add them to your pot roast, cook them with your rice, spoon them over a quick chicken Parm, or blend them for an easy tomato soup.
If you see it for a good price, it’s definitely worth picking up an extra bottle of honey. It’s a natural sweetener that you can add to coffee, tea, smoothies, cereal bowls, fresh fruit, and more. Unopened, honey has an average shelf life of 2 years, and can last even longer if it was properly processed and packaged.
Buying meat in bulk can be majorly advantageous when you pre-portion before freezing. Double bag your portions with freezer-safe plastic baggies and pull out only what you need for dinner that night to defrost in the refrigerator. You’ll always be well-stocked on protein, but never face the headache of trying to safely defrost and refreeze the meat in its bulk packaging. This works great with chicken breasts, ground meat, steaks, and pork chops.
A dip in boiling water or a quick steam bath brings frozen vegetable to life in a flash. You get a hit of green on your plate with next-to-no effort. Now, I know what you’re thinking… but there actually are some great key uses for frozen veggies, like adding them to soups or pasta dishes. Try out frozen broccoli and spinach for starters.
This story originally appeared on MyRecipes.