Having a pantry is one of the easiest ways to save money when it comes to your food budget. Whether you have a week worth of food, or a year, when you have food in the pantry you are less likely to go to the store.
My current goal is to have enough food in my pantry to last my large family 6 weeks (12 weeks is my long-term goal). To do this I generally stock my pantry with 4 weeks worth of meal ingredients and I always (ALWAYS!) have 2 to 3 weeks worth of “emergency food”. In the event of a financial issue I want to know that I won’t have to sacrifice when it comes to feeding my family, and at the end of a stressful day it’s nice knowing my kids went to bed feeling full and happy.
Here are some tips for starting and organizing your pantry, and feel free to add your own in the comments.
-You don’t need an actual pantry. Your pantry items cans be stored in cabinets, a linen closet, on a shelf in a garage, under the bed, in a drawer or wherever you have space. My only suggestion is to avoid storing things on the floor because of the potential for water damage and bug infestation (yes, that’s personal experience talking.)
– Storing dry items with a long shelf-life is key to a well-stocked pantry, especially if you’re prone to power outages but don’t overlook your freezer and fridge. Your freezer can store meat and bread purchased on sale. Your well-stocked spice cabinet can transform your meals from bland to gourmet. Your refrigerator can be used as a root cellar. Some people include bathroom supplies & their medicine cabinet in their pantry, too.
-Stocking your pantry slowly is easy to do and won’t hurt your budget. Take advantage of BOGO sales and stock up on items with a long shelf life when they are on sale. For instance, when canned tuna hits $.40/can I will buy as much extra as my budget allows. Just $5 here and there adds up quickly.
-FIFO, or, first-in is first-out. Organize your pantry by dates so the oldest items are used first.
-Make a list of what you have & possible meal ideas (see here for more info!) Some pantry-friendly meals are tuna casserole, fried rice, baked ziti and scalloped potatoes.
What you put in your pantry is up to you and your personal food storage goal. Here is a short list of the most popular items in my pantry. This is just an example, my pantry won’t be exactly like yours and there are some things I just don’t buy because my family will eat a month’s supply in 2 days (canned fruit comes to mind).
canned beans (dry beans are great but take more time)
lentils (dry, but don’t take as much time to cook as beans)
condiments (ketchup, mayo, BBQ, pickles, dressings, syrups, etc)
flour, sugar, cocoa & other baking supplies
oil (canola, olive & sesame)
root vegetables (sometimes moved to fridge)
vinegar (white is a necessity but I usually also have red wine, rice and basalmic)
canned or powdered milk (I also like to keep canned coconut milk around)
dry & canned pet food (we can’t forget about them!)
ramen noodles & other quick-prep lunch items
butter & margerine
long-lasting fruit (usually apples, pears, oranges)
lemon juice (I use it for cleaning and cooking)
leftovers to be re-purposed
freezer soup mix (small amounts of leftovers are placed into a bag and made into soup by adding broth & pantry items)
red pepper flakes
bandages of all sizes
ibuprofen (adult & kid)
two uses worth of emergency medicines (inhalers, epipens, etc)
feminine products (coupons and bogo are the best way to stock-up on these)
bar soap and body wash
hand sanitizer (check out after-season clearances at fancy body lotion stores for great deals!)
shampoo & conditioner (I buy 2 or 3 months worth at a time)