Often times when we do our weekly grocery run, we end up grabbing random things off the shelves which causes us to over-spend. If you want to save on groceries, stick to the essentials. Below are the top 10 pantry essentials any Filipino home often has.
Onions and Garlic
Onion and garlic are the two main spices we use to flavor almost everything we cook. We usually start by frying chopped onion and garlic until it gets fragrant, and then we cook the meat with it. Onions and garlic are very easy to store. Just keep them in your refrigerator’s vegetable basket or place them on the counter. They can last a long time, making them great pantry staples. Some super markets and groceries even sell these already chopped and prepared to make it easier, but if you want to save, buy them per kilo at the public market.
Salt and Pepper
Aside from onions and garlic, salt and pepper are staple ingredients for flavoring. They’re fairly inexpensive and can last you a long time. A small jar of black pepper cost less than 50 pesos and you can get salt for less than 20. Other than making food taste better, salt can also be used as a cleaning agent, to make natural body scrubs, and even to reduce puffiness.
Ketchup has become a pantry staple for us Filipinos since the Americans introduced it to us. Although tomatoes are the usual prime ingredient for ketchup, we choose bananas over it here in the Philippines. Banana ketchup is made with bananas, sugar, spices, and vinegar, and has a sweeter taste compared to tomato ketchup. This was made because of the high production of bananas and shortage of tomatoes during the Second World War. We use ketchup on everything, from rice to eggs, and even as an added ingredient to dishes that contains tomato sauce like spaghetti.
This condiment is made from fermented soy beans, brine, roasted grain, and Aspergillus sojae or Aspergillus oryzae, a type of mold used to ferment soy and grains. Soy sauce originated from China, and made its way throughout Asia where it’s commonly used as a condiment or an ingredient for cooking. We add soy sauce to dishes to give them a more savory flavor. It’s also commonly used as a table condiment and mixed with vinegar or lime and chilies to make a dipping sauce or sawsawan.
Every Filipino kitchen needs to have vinegar in the pantry. We use it for cooking, as a condiment, dipping sauce, and it’s also handy for cleaning and other house-hold chores. White distilled vinegar made from sugar cane is the most famous type of vinegar we Filipinos use. Cane sugar is made by extracting the juice out of sugarcanes. The juice is collected and stored to ferment and turn sour. Cane sugar has a mellow taste, making it great all-around vinegar to use. We also commonly use vinegar that’s made from fermented coconut water, which as a sharp, acidic taste with a subtle yeasty note.
You can buy milk in powdered form, in cans like evaporated and condensed milk, or in cartons or what we often call “fresh” milk. Powdered milk is great for storing and as a recipe ingredient. Just add it to some hot water and you have a comforting drink to help you sleep at night. Evaporated and condensed milk are more commonly used as ingredients for desserts, but they’re pantry staples none the less. Milk sold in cartons are a bit difficult to keep since they can turn sour if you don’t store them properly. The best thing to do after opening it is to place them in the refrigerator. It’ll stay good for a few days.
Eggs can be prepared in so many ways and eaten as breakfast, lunch or dinner. They’re packed with nutrients and they’re easy to cook. A dozen eggs cost less than 100 pesos and can last you a good week. Store them in the egg tray that the come in inside the refrigerator and they’ll stay fresh for a long time. Make a fried egg or an omelet with some vegetables and meat for a fast meal for cheap.
We Filipinos keep a good stock of canned goods in our pantry. These are for those days that we just don’t feel like cooking a meal from scratch or when we’re hungry and want to have something to eat right away. You can find a wide variety of canned goods at the grocery. There’s everything from canned chicken, pork, and beef, to vegetables and fruits. Some brands even have canned versions of usual Filipino favorites like sisig and caldereta ready to be opened, re-heated, and eaten. A reminder though, canned goods do contain a lot sodium and sugar, so it’s not very healthy to have them every day for a meal.
A quick meal can be made with instant noodles. These come in a wide variety of flavors, and you can choose between the kinds that you cook in a broth or a dry noodle dish –commonly known as pansit canton. Filipinos often eat instant noodles as a quick-to-prepare snack rather than a meal, but add a fried egg and your meal is complete. Some neighborhood stores or sari-sari stores would even sell and prepare them for you so you can eat it on the spot. Instant noodles are also a popular choice amongst people who are looking for something to help them sober up after a long night of drinking.
A staple in any Filipino kitchen, we must have a stock of rice in our own pantry. We Filipinos eat rice at least two times a day. It contains a lot of carbohydrates that our body uses for energy. Storing rice is as simple as placing it in a container and keeping it in a cool dry place. You don’t have to buy a whole sack of rice every time you go to buy your groceries. Grocery stores and supermarkets often sell rice per kilo or in smaller sacks for 5 to 10 kilos.