This is what I buy.
  1. Olive oil: Trader Joe's California Estate Extra Virgin Olive Oil
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    It's cheap ($5.99 for 16.9 oz.) and good-tasting enough to use for drizzling. California Olive Ranch's Arbequina, in a square bottle, is a close second. Whatever you do, buy extra-virgin oil, preferably one from a recent olive harvest.
  2. Salt: Pink Himalayan sea salt in a grinder from Trader Joe's
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    Don't buy any other Himalayan salt. This one is the best and the cheapest. Diamond kosher salt is a close second and comes in larger quantities.
  3. Flour: King Arthur All-Purpose Flour
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    Budget-friendly hack: Trader Joe's all-purpose flour, in the blue and pink bag, is actually King Arthur, under the TJ's brand.
  4. Unsalted butter (for baking and cooking): Clover (local to NorCal) or Kerrygold (in the silver foil package)
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    Note that Kerrygold is pretty expensive, so probably not great for big baking projects.
  5. Salted butter (for spreading and finishing dishes): Kerrygold salted butter or Trader Joe's French butter in blue foil.
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    I currently favor the French one, which is slightly saltier than the Kerrygold.
  6. Coconut oil: TJ's or Spectrum
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    ALWAYS buy unrefined, virgin
  7. Spices: Whole Foods' 365 brand.
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    Reliably high-quality and great variety.
  8. Apple cider vinegar: Bragg
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    Don't be grossed out by the floating glob of "mother" in each bottle. Give it a good shake before using and she'll disperse.
  9. Soy sauce: San J Tamari (reduced sodium)
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    Handy for when you might be feeding gluten-free folks (unlike regular soy sauce, it is wheat-free), and plenty salty without being overly so.
  10. Peanut butter: Earth Balance Creamy Coconut & Peanut Spread
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    I can't get over how good this is. The crunchy kind is good too, but the creamy variety has all the appeal of the super-processed Skippys and Jiffs of our childhoods, but with the goodness of coconut oil.
  11. Wildwood Sprouted super firm tofu
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    The best for pan-frying or baking. Also available under the Trader Joe's brand for slightly less.