11 Versatile Supermarket Items You Can Bulk Buy Without Ever Getting Bored

Bulk buying is cost-effective and easy. And best of all, it doesn't have to be boring!

Fresh and canned tomatoes
Photo: Paula Banks / Getty Images

Some of us were already champions of bulk shopping before the pandemic, while others waited until lockdown to begin ordering flats of canned tomatoes and buying ice cream by the gallon at Costco. But the fact remains: bulk buying is a budget-friendly way to stock your kitchen, and you don't have to settle for boring options to do this.

Stocking your pantry with steadfast staples doesn't mean you always have to be cooking up the same dishes. Here are 11 of our all-time favorite staples that can be jazzed up or dressed down to make a panoply of dishes you'll never bore of.

1. Canned Tomatoes

What can't canned tomatoes do? From basic marinara sauce to vegetable soup, from chili con carne to lasagna, canned tomatoes are a jack of all trades that will never let you down. When stocking in bulk, consider opting for whole plum tomatoes, which can easily be broken down by hand or with a potato masher when crushed tomatoes are called for in a recipe.

2. Canned Chickpeas

Canned beans of all kinds are great kitchen staples, but canned chickpeas are particularly useful in preparations both cold and hot. A welcome source of protein in a chickpea salad or a hearty base for deep-fried vegetarian falafel, chickpeas often take on a Mediterranean flair. But they're just as delightful in Indian chana masala or simply dry-roasted for a crunchy, healthy snack. And don't toss their canning liquid! Known as aquafaba, it's an awesome sub for eggs in recipes like this vegan chocolate mousse.

3. Canned Coconut Milk

Canned coconut milk effortlessly imparts creaminess and flavor to a host of dairy-free recipes from Panang chicken curry to creamy pumpkin penne and Thai coconut soup. And it's also welcome in sweets like coconut pie or rice pudding. And don't forget it's a key ingredient in cocktails like piña coladas, virgin or not!

4. Frozen Peas

Some veggies are just better fresh, but that does not hold for peas, which are delicious and sweet when prepped from frozen—often more so than in their starchier fresh form. They make an excellent addition to fried rice, shepherd's pie, or pasta. Frozen peas can also be used as a base in a purée, patty, or salad. This little legume is the perfect staple to keep in the icebox.

5. Costco Beef Tenderloin

Costco's whole, untrimmed beef tenderloin is often touted as one of the big box chain's best deals, and for good reason: with this one cut, you end up with a whole lot of high-quality beef. And you don't have to eat it all the same way! Cut the fatty chateaubriand into a roast, which you can enjoy Wellington style or stuffed with garlic and served in a wine sauce. Enjoy the chain, also known as beef tips, stewed over noodles or in a creamy, slow-cooker stew. Then cut the filet mignon into steaks, which you can serve with pepper sauce, béarnaise, or a rich balsamic glaze.

6. Brown Rice

Brown rice is a fiber-rich whole grain that makes a delicious side to recipes ranging from chicken tikka masala to kung pao chicken. But brown rice isn't limited to the role of sidekick. This starchy staple can be a tasty base for a Mediterranean salad with veggies and feta, or a burrito bowl topped with black beans and cheese. And it's the star of a host of tasty desserts, like a fruit-topped porridge or a creamy spiced rice pudding.

7. Plain Greek Yogurt

Once you start stocking your fridge with plain Greek yogurt, you'll never want to stop. Yogurt makes chicken juicy and tender when used in marinades for tandoori chicken or pan-fried chicken shawarma, and it also adds creaminess to dressings and sauces without a ton of added fat, as in this pasta salad or this jazzed up ranch dressing. And of course, there are loads of ways to sweeten yogurt up for dessert, like fruity parfaits or tangy yogurt cake.

8. Pesto

Pesto is best known as a pasta topper, but that's far from the only way you can use this delicious combo of basil, pine nuts, Parmesan, and garlic. Drop a spoonful into your tomato sauce to add flavor, or stir some into a bowl of minestrone just before tucking in for even more zing. Fold it into your morning omelet, smear it on your grilled cheese, or spread it on toast for makeshift garlic bread. Thinking outside the (pasta) box will make this jarred sauce a new fave for sure.

9. Canned Tuna

Canned tuna fish can be used for way more than classic tuna salad, tuna melts, and tuna noodle casserole. It's a fun filling in avocado tapas and fries up nicely into tuna patties that can be enjoyed as-is or on a sandwich. Venture into sushi-making with homemade spicy tuna rolls, or craft a delicious Italian tuna spread hors d'oeuvre. Consider keeping both water- and oil-packed tuna on-hand, as the latter is a delicious addition to plain chopped salads.

10. Nut Butter

Almond butter, peanut butter, cashew butter… any and all are the ideal additions to your pantry, and not just for sandwiches. Almond butter can be a great base for dressings and sauces, as well as a fun substitution for peanut butter in peanut noodles. And of course, nut butters fill smoothies with protein and flavor.

11. Pizza Dough

Frozen pizza dough is a lifesaver on days when you just don't know what to make. Set it out to defrost in the morning, and come evening, you can top it with anything you like! While basic pizza sauce and mozzarella is a no-brainer, pizza dough can also be the perfect way to jazz up leftovers. Top your pizza with barbecue sauce and shredded rotisserie chicken from the night before, or smear with sour cream and bacon for a play on flammkuchen. You can even use the prepared dough as the base for ultra-easy focaccia. Let your creativity be your guide, and you'll soon see why this has become a beloved freezer staple.

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