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The Recession-Proof Pantry

The five best non-perishable cheap "meals." Smoked Oysters Shelf life: Several years Nutritional value: Loaded with protein, iron, and good fats. Slap them on Saltines and call it a complete meal. Upgrade: Sardines ($3.20). Undoubtedly the classier option, they're also more sustainable.   Kraft..

The five best non-perishable cheap "meals."


Smoked OystersShelf life: Several yearsNutritional value: Loaded with protein, iron, and good fats. Slap them on Saltines and call it a complete meal.Upgrade: Sardines ($3.20). Undoubtedly the classier option, they're also more sustainable.

Kraft DinnerShelf life: Check the boxNutritional value: The first ingredient is "Enriched Macaroni Product," and half a box contains days' worth of salt. But it packs some calcium and fills you up.Upgrade: Annie's Deluxe Elbows & Four Cheese Sauce ($3.50). Throw in a tomato and some basil, and it's practically gourmet.

Dried black beansShelf life: Two yearsNutritional value: Excellent source of protein, fiber, folate, and thiamin.Upgrade: Taco night! Throw in an onion, chili flakes, Tabasco, and some fresh cilantro, mash with a fork, then plop them into a traditional corn tortilla ($3 for 30 tortillas).

SPAMShelf life:Nutritional value: This salty porkish product packs a protein punch. Just don't look at the ingredients.Upgrade: Prosciutto. It's pricey and isn't as filling, but it tastes a hell of a lot better and keeps for ages. Another option: all-beef kosher franks ($5).

ChickpeasShelf life: ForeverNutritional value: Jammed with protein, iron, fiber, and manganese (which helps you produce energy).Upgrade: Buy some tahini ($3), garlic, and lemons and make your own hummus.
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