This is my standard list of the most common things I buy and don’t buy. Common items, such as eggs and milk are not listed.
Products I Buy
Dry beans – I can make refried beans, chili beans, baked beans (pork and beans), and various soups and chilies. It does take time to cook and prepare these, ingredients list on a bag of dry beans is just beans. I keep a stock of Red Kidney beans, Pinto beans, Black beans, and Great Northern beans.
Potatoes – I can make hash browns, mashed potatoes, potato salad, use in soups and stews, french fries, fried potatoes, etc. Healthy, it is a potato, nothing more. I also leave skins on except for my potato salad which is just personal preference.
Evaporated Milk – I use this for making condensed cream of whatever soups for use in various recipes. Takes about 5 minutes to make cream of mushroom (plus you can decide on types of mushrooms and amount used), cream of celery soup or cream of chicken soup. (Condensed milk is normally sweetened so I avoid that unless a recipe calls for it.)
Real Cheese – I buy this in blocks, Cheddar, Swiss, and Edam, these come from New Zealand, and the ingredients are milk and rennet, nothing more. Can be sliced or shredded, and real cheese will melt much much better than packaged shredded cheese. Cheeses are used in many of my recipes listed on this site. The Thai produced cheese I use is Cream Cheese, Mozzarella, and Parmesan, all good quality at half the price of imported. For Cottage cheese, I make that myself from whole milk and some vinegar, easy.
Dry Pasta – Just the pasta, not the prepackaged meals. Pasta is cheap, stores well and for a long time, useful in many recipes on this site as well as for side dishes. I keep a good stock of pasta on hand.
Fresh Fruits and Vegetables – You know exactly what you are getting, fresh. If making a stew, nothing is better than fresh potatoes, carrots, celery, etc.
Tomato Paste – I normally have about 20 cans on hand, used to make tomato sauce for pizzas, for pasta, soup, ketchup, and even juice to just drink and enjoy or for making a good hearty chili. Very versatile.
Spices – Most of these I buy in the small bottles but for regularly used items, I buy in large bags, not only does it cut down the price, there is less packaging. There is many spice mixes you can make if you have a large variety of spices available.
Pre-made Spice Packets – I do buy the Thai made, particularly Lobo brand spice packets for things such as chicken and rice, northern Thai sausages, Chinese five spice, and even gravy mixes.
Canned Whole Tomatoes – Used in a variety of dishes from Chili to some skillet dishes, and even as a base for salsa, which is excellent. I keep these stocked as they are almost as versatile as tomato paste. Reason for the canned is during the rainy season we cannot get to the market for fresh tomatoes.Canned tomatoes are excellent for tenderizing beef as well.
Tuna – I like canned tuna and I keep that stocked at the house for emergency use. Fresh tuna, now we are talking! Want a great tuna salad sandwich, use fresh tuna, making a tuna and noodle casserole, use fresh tuna. One can of tuna, which the ingredients are normally tuna and water (or tuna and oil) is about 30 to 45 Baht a can, a fresh whole tuna is about 40-60 Baht each. One fresh tuna can is about 2-3 cans of canned tuna, without the can or waste. One can of tuna, on average, is 1/2 cup of tuna.
Frozen or Canned Vegetables – Used in many recipes. For canned veggies, I do stock some items for emergency use but mainly buy when I need a particular item. Canned or frozen vegetables are basically prepared items, not processed.
Canned beans – Although convenient, canned beans for the most part are just beans, water, and some salt, we do keep canned pork and beans for emergency use.
Products I Don’t Buy
Frozen Hash Browns, Tater Tots, and Fries – All very convenient, all very processed. Tater Tots are hash browns with natural flavoring added. Adding natural flavoring to a product that is supposed to be potatoes just does not seem right. I have been known to use frozen fries once in a while but that is rare. Hash browns, dead easy to make.
Cream of Anything Soups – Convenient but highly processed, and are mainly made of water flavored to taste like the soup. There is lass than 2% cream in these soups, then if you just wanted to make a pot of soup with these, you have to add a can of water as well, so you are watering down a water based product. Doesn’t make sense. I do keep a few cans of soup on hand but I am going to eliminate that from my stock.
Processed Cheese – Probably the most hideous product ever created, it is basically a soft plastic and most of it cannot even be called cheese, has to be called Singles, Slices, etc. I have not bought processed cheese in over 10 years.
Prepackaged Pasta Meals – Think Kraft Mac and Cheese, Cheddar cheese is not supposed to be glow in the dark orange! And most packages like this use powdered cheese, that just does not even sound good!
Tomato Sauce / Spaghetti Sauce / Pizza Sauce – These are easily made from paste, you control the spices, salt and sugar. No need to stock these, I just stock tomato paste.
Pre-made Spice Packets – Think imported Taco Seasoning or Cajun Seasoning or even Stew Seasoning to name a few. Not only are these are heavily processed items, they are also expensive as well compared to what you can make from a shortcut on this site. Spice packets are well know to be heavy on the salt as well. This is the ingredients for a common taco seasoning packet, the 3rd ingredient is Maltodextrin, right after, you guessed it, salt. I have no imported prepackaged spice packets in the house.
Cottage Cheese – For starters, this is not available where I live unless I go up to the city (50 km away) and it is also very expensive. Three liters of whole milk, some vinegar, and a bit of time and you can make 3 cups of Cottage cheese, dead easy and foolproof.
Salsa – I make mine from scratch using canned whole tomatoes as the base, half the cost of jarred salsa.
Tartar Sauce – I make mine from a shortcut on this site, well less than half the cost of prepared tartar sauce, and you know what goes in it.
Pickles – I make refrigerator pickles, very simple recipe listed on this site, foolproof. Reuse jars with lids you already have instead of paying a much higher cost for a jar of pickles, since you are paying for packaging.