5 Things

Caroline Wright's 5 Ingredients for 20-Dollar, 20-Minute Meals

By • August 15, 2013 • 40 Comments

Today, Caroline Wright, who writes 20-Dollar, 20-Minute Meals, is sharing the 5 ingredients she always has in her kitchen to help her make quick, easy, inexpensive meals. And to make your meals faster and cheaper, we're giving away 10 copies of her latest ebook!

These five things are the building blocks of my twenty-dollar, twenty-minute recipes. With these ingredients, you can make the bulk of the recipes in my latest book! 

Fresh vegetables: Fresh produce, without a doubt, is where I begin my cooking. I pick what’s in season at the market, which also means it’s usually the cheapest. Right now I’m trying to eat all the tomatoes I can before they’re gone. (I also keep a few veggies in the freezer for a last-minute meal.)

Good olive oil: One of my favorite ways to elevate a humble, weeknight meal is to give it a little drizzle of a good olive oil. It adds a fresh, green flavor to whatever you’ve spent those cherished minutes to cook, and it makes your dinner look gorgeous.

Your favorite condiments and pantry staples: I love hard-working ingredients, from the humble pack of spaghetti to the flavor-packed tube of harissa paste I find at specialty markets. A few of my favorite staples include lentils, farro, chickpeas, good jarred marinara, olive oil-packed tuna, capers, and Sriracha. If you have the ingredients you like, most often you can find a way to adapt recipes to your tastes by swapping one bean or pasta for another.

Eggs: I love eggs -- I dedicated an entire chapter in my book to them! They are the perfect quick meal and are incredibly versatile. They are an easy way to bring big flavor to the table, whether they’re simmered in spicy tomato sauce or served on top of a cheesy winter vegetable pancake. 

Salad greens: Salad can change a simple dish into a meal, so I tend to keep lots of salad greens on hand. I wash and dry heads of lettuce on the weekend and wrap the leaves in coils of dry paper towels. Stored in a plastic bag, the greens keep all week in the drawer of the refrigerator.

Want more Twenty-Dollar, Twenty-Minute meals in your life? Enter to win a copy of Caroline's new ebook by telling us your most essential ingredients in the comments. We'll choose ten winners at random on August 30th at 3 PM EST.

Jump to Comments (40)

Tags: caroline wright, budget cooking, inexpensive

Comments (40)


about 1 year ago Lgrothe

Some essential ingredients are cumin, coriander, garlic, garlic and more garlic ok toss in some evoo and fresh veggies. I love to cook.


about 1 year ago cookinginvictoria

Fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables; good quality olive oil; dried pasta and farro; an assortment of vinegars and lemons; and an assortment of cheeses (Parmesan, Romano and aged cheddar are always in my fridge).


about 1 year ago Linda K.

I always have cheese on hand. Makes everything better!


about 1 year ago Mrs. Stokes

Olive oil, eggs, lemons, high-quality short grain brown rice, and seasonal veggies!


about 1 year ago Felicia

Olive oil, eggs, and goat cheese!


about 1 year ago CookieLady

I always have garlic, onions, olive oil, lemon, red pepper flakes and an avocado waiting to go.


about 1 year ago lizziebeth

... chicken, olive oil, lettuce and fresh herbs - especially from my balcony garden - and eggs!


about 1 year ago Jen P

Mine are dried pasta, tortillas, olive oil, garlic, and oil-packed tuna.


about 1 year ago Haley

I always have greek yogurt on hand! It can moisten up chicken or it goes deliciously in cakes! Creole seasoning, bananas, spinach, brown rice, and fine chocolate of course (:


about 1 year ago Amanda Nicole

My essentials: garlic, onions, rice, eggs, chili flakes/pepper (because I like my food hot!)


about 1 year ago Mallory

What's essential in my kitchen? Spinach and onions. Spinach can be cooked or left raw, making it a staple for my lunches & dinners. Onion just tastes amazing with everything


about 1 year ago jilloc

garlic, eggs, something green and Siracha - you can make a great dinner year round with that group of ingredients.


about 1 year ago francine

team garlic for life!!! also, bread. almost anything can be stuck between two slices and made into a sandwich!


about 1 year ago erin

As an acient Chinese saying would say, fuel, rice, oil, salt, sauce, vinegar and tea are the essential ingredients in all kitchen.


about 1 year ago KaffeeAndKuchen

Onions and garlic - you can make almost anything with at least those two things. If you have eggs, flour water and salt - onion tart! if you only have meat, veggies or pasta; onions and garlic will transform them!


about 1 year ago lazychef

ditto eggs, whatever's growing in my garden, and lots and lots of fresh herbs!


about 1 year ago Desert Dryad

Garlic, onions, pasta, rice, tomatoes, and bacon. I hate to admit how often bacon is used in my house.


about 1 year ago Lynnie491

Always: Spinach, spring greens, broccoli, cauliflower and feta cheese with an olive oil, Dijon mustard, lemon juice dressing I make. It's my go-to dinner - I steam the broccoli and cauliflower so that it is a warm vegetable salad.


about 1 year ago Ellie Rinkenbaugh

I always have at least 2 chicken breasts in the freezer, a small bottle of olive oil, and Cayenne pepper. It tastes good on almost everything!


about 1 year ago Ellie Rinkenbaugh

I thought it was only 3 items! Misread that lol ill add beans, garlic, and angel hair pasta. Those are ALWAYS in my pantry. If they're on sale, I have tortillas and some sort of berries in the fridge as well.


about 1 year ago Jr0717

Always: Homemade red sauce in the freezer and fridge, homemade chicken stock, fresh produce and vegetables, beans, and a mix of grains (cornmeal, quinoa, and barley, usually).


about 1 year ago Lisa

I always have chicken, olive oil, garlic, tomatoes and some sort of veggie!


about 1 year ago AmyL

I always have these items on hand: olive oil, garlic, ginger, onion, soy sauce, chicken stock, dry pasta, and eggs.


about 1 year ago Ashley

Olive oil


about 1 year ago Audrey Nicole

Olive oil, garlic and red pepper flakes!


about 1 year ago Sarah D

My essential ingredients I can't live without are garlic, olive oil, and eggs!


about 1 year ago Lauren Pedigo

My kitchen is never with out fresh lemons, fresh veggies (zucchini and tomatoes are my favorites!), olive oil, eggs and garlic. <--- all healthy, flavorful and versatile!


about 1 year ago Lori H

Beans, spinach (frozen or fresh), eggs, brown rice, garlic, onions,


about 1 year ago Maja Lukic - Veggies & Gin

Jars of ajvar, lemons, eggs, fresh greens, avocados, and sweet potatoes or squash (when in season). With these ingredients on hand, I am pretty much guaranteed a healthy, comforting meal every time.


about 1 year ago LLStone

Olive oil, eggs, garlic, anchovies, beans, and lemons.


about 1 year ago Amy Williams

I always have eggs too!


about 1 year ago Annabel Chang

My essentials are rice, eggs, chicken thighs, and onions.


about 1 year ago FoodieRobots

Our essential ingredients are quinoa, lentils, avocados, tomatoes, and shallots!


about 1 year ago Joann Podhurcak O'Neil

Essential ingredients in our busy home are obtained directly from farmers: pastured eggs, raw milk, olive oil, grassfed beef, no gmo or soy fed chicken, and in season veggies. Our large family enjoys using all of it.


about 1 year ago laura.amerman

Canned or dry beans. You can create a wide variety of nutritious and yummy meals.


about 1 year ago crazyasitsounds

My essentials are garlic and eggs. Everything's better with garlic, and a fried or soft-boiled egg can turn any leftovers into a meal.


about 1 year ago Eadaoin Boese

Home-made sweet chili sauce, bread-crumbs, and Dijon mustard! $20 in euros! I'd give that a go!


about 1 year ago Faye Pantazopoulos

my family's olive oil from greece, san marzano canned tomatoes, pasta, fresh vegetables, fresh fish


about 1 year ago the totally not-foolish pucko

I would have to say the ingredient I end up grabbing the most is one of a mesh bag of #2 onions. I always have one hanging in my kitchen- they are just the right size for one person. Like they say, if you don't know what to eat for dinner, start by frying an onion. I guess the next important thing would be always having a 25 pound bag of bread flour (Dakota Maid, naturally) in the house. There's a lot of eating there for 12 bucks...


about 1 year ago Lindsay Puetz

one of my staple ingredients is definitely soy sauce