Why You SHOULD Keep a Stocked Pantry and How to Do It
Updated: Jan 19
Have you ever been on a late-night Pinterest scrolling marathon and come across a recipe for the most decadent chocolate caramel cake and absolutely HAD to make it ASAP? Or maybe your day has been go go go and when you get home at 8 pm everyone yells, Mom, we’re so hungry! What’s for dinner? only to realize that you completely forgot to plan? Sound familiar?
Now, imagine you have a fully functional, stocked pantry with all the essentials, equipping you to whip up dinner or that late night treat craving in a flash, without having to go to the store or resort to cereal for dinner. All of a sudden the pressure goes away, and you breathe a sigh of relief because you’ve got your own back. Go you!
As busy moms, I believe we all need to focus on ways to help make our job easier since we spend a lot of time taking care of everyone else. While it may feel like we cannot be on top of everything all the time, my goal as a mom is to make my life easier by figuring out how I can make daily tasks more efficient. That way I can always stay one step ahead and on top of things at home.
When unpredictable situations pop up, I want to be prepared.
Right now, we are going to focus on our duty to make food and have it available, and that starts with our pantries.
Whether it's a midnight craving, a dinner rush, or a power outage, I’m going to teach you how to build a pantry that has all the essentials so that you can be prepared. Moreover, I’m going to teach you how to accomplish this all while fitting it into whatever budget you set for yourself.
Why you need a stocked pantry.
Other than the obvious fact that a stocked pantry is exactly that, a pantry that has what you need when you need it, other benefits include:
A cushion against inflation and rising grocery costs
Coverage when money is tight and you need to create space in your budget
An inevitable SHTF situation. Now, just WAIT! This is NOT a prepper’s pantry that we are building. That is an entirely different scenario. Think more 2020 lockdown situation when all the toilet paper is no-where to be found and your family of five is on the last roll.
Lowering your monthly grocery bill. Not everything is always on sale when you need to go grocery shopping. By stocking up when there is a sale you will give yourself a little hold over until the next sale comes around.
What to keep in a stocked pantry.
Let’s start by creating a list of all of the items to keep in a stocked pantry. This will be individual to everyone, and you can create your own list simply by looking at the ingredients in the meals you cook most often and going from there. My list is going to include ingredients that are included in most meals the average American family would make during the week. For a downloadable and editable list, click below.
How to use this list: This list is a guideline to get you started in building your stocked pantry. It is intended to help you determine what you have vs. what you need. Go through this list and in the Quantity column, indicate how many of each item you would like to keep stocked. You will determine this based on your usage frequency. That is how you will determine what you will need to buy, which you will then indicate in the Buy column. This list is simply an extra-large grocery list to get you started, and that you will chip away at over time.
You can also keep this list in your pantry as a quick reference to what you have stocked.
I personally keep this list hung up in my pantry with the quantity section filled out, and when I take anything from my pantry, I write that item on a sticky note attached to this sheet that I can then take to the store as my shopping list. I keep it hung up so that I know what I have, and to check myself that I indeed have the correct number of items I want stocked.
(This list is a guideline. If you know you will never, ever in a million years use canned potatoes, take it off your list!)
Sugar (white and brown)
Baking powder and soda
Pasta (various shapes and sizes)
A variety of nuts
Snacks (crackers, bars)
Snacks or crackers specifically for surprise guests
Quick soup like ramen
Various spices (taco seasoning packets, roast packets, Italian seasoning, chili seasoning packets, salt and pepper, onion and garlic powders, cinnamon)
An assortment of beans (black, white, kidney)
Vegetables (carrots, green beans, potatoes, corn)
Canned meat (Tuna, Spam, Corned beef, whatever you like and will use)
Tomato sauce or crushed tomato
Chicken, beef, and vegetable broth or bouillon cubes
Shelf stable milk or nut milk
Sweetened condensed milk
Various oils (one high heat cooking oil, such as coconut, and one eating oil, such as olive, and one baking, such as vegetable)
Condiments (Ranch, ketchup, mayo, mustard, teriyaki and or soy sauce, Italian dressing)
Jellies and jams
Frozen foods: (When it is on sale, pick up as much as you can fit in your budget and freeze it. This list will include items that you can freeze)
SOS pads and sponges
I understand that this list looks like a lot, and it looks EXPENSIVE. But stick around and I will show you how you can create a pantry with these exact ingredients, and that you can ABSOLUTELY afford.
This is my pantry. It is clean and organized, and when I look inside, I can see what I have. There are multiples of several items, and bulk containers at the bottom for things like rice, flour, and oats that we use a lot of. I no longer have to allocate money to stock my pantry now that it is stocked, because when I need something, it usually fits right into my grocery budget. I save money staying ahead of the game by keeping a stocked pantry and, specifically, stocking up when things go on sale.
How much of each item should I keep stocked?
This is individual and will depend on how often you use the items in your pantry. In general, I recommend (for starters) one to three of each item in your pantry: one, if it is rarely used, and two to three if it is moderately to heavily used. Some good rules I've heard that I keep in my mind are:
One for now, two for later.
One is none and two is one.
For example, I do not use a lot of pumpkin puree, but I keep it in my pantry because I know I may need it. We go through a lot of peanut butter, so I keep two jars in my pantry aside from the jar we are currently using. Flour, sugar, and butter are the base of many recipes I make, and I can get by making sauces from scratch this way, so I am sure to keep plenty of these ingredients on hand.
How to keep a stocked pantry.
It is easy to go to the grocery store and just start buying these pantry items in one big trip, but realistically not many of us can afford to do it that way. Also, I do not recommend getting everything in one big trip, because gathering these items will, in part, rely on stocking up when you see a sale, and if you buy everything in one trip you may be missing out on these sales. You will then end up paying much more than you need to.
Instead, we are going to take smaller bites.
Step 1. You are going to need to find out how much can you comfortably allocate each month for building up a stocked pantry. Another way to put it is, how much does being prepared for those days when it’s 8 pm and you need to feed your family, or having supplies for surprise company or power outages mean to you? You need to understand that you are setting yourself up for future success. It does not have to be a big amount, but a stocked pantry can be acquired with an extra $10, $15, or $20 a week. That’s one trip to Starbucks or Chick Fil A per week.
Step 2. Next, you need to look at what you already have. Look in your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer and make a list of the items you are currently using. (Remember that printable list I linked above? Time to use it!) Look also at what you and your family usually eat during the week. We are going to start building our pantry by buying the items we use the most frequently. Then we will work our way toward the lesser used items and things you do not have.
Step 3. Once you have your list, it’s time to go shopping! When you go to the store, you’re going to first look if any of your items are on sale. Then grab one for now, and two for later.
Pick as many as will fit in your budget.
For example, you have $15 this week to spend, so you get one bottle of Ranch dressing for the fridge, and two for the pantry. While at the store you notice peanut butter is on sale, two for the price of one, so maybe you pick up four of them. Now you are set for a while with those items.
In another scenario, you are not running out of anything currently, but it is time to go to the store. Pick out some items from the list that you do not have and stock up on those items.
By using the above method every time you go to the store, you will gradually see your pantry grow with stocked items.
1. It is important to keep a running list of your pantry staples inside of your pantry, along with a pen, so when you grab something out of there you can make a note to replace that item when you go to the store. That way, your pantry always stays fully stocked.
2. Compare grocery stores to see what is on sale. Many of us have several different grocery stores available to us, and to ensure you are not missing out on any sales, I recommend checking the store app before you shop. (By adding items to your cart, you can calculate exactly how many items you can get this trip). If one store is having a sale on a few items on your list, maybe shop there this week.
3. Do not feel rushed to get everything as quick as you can. You can only build your pantry as fast as your budget allows.
4. Don’t forget about first in, first out. Put your new items behind your old items so you always grab the old items first, before they go bad.
5. Buy in bulk if you can. Flour, sugar, oats, tomato products, condiments etc. are, most of the time, cheaper when bought in bulk. Pay attention to price per unit. The best thing about buying in bulk is that you will not need to replace that item in your pantry as often.
For bonus points, you can even add household staples to this list such as paper towels, toilet paper, dish soap, laundry soap, etc.
Having a stocked pantry helps you be prepared for everything from surprise guests, to, Oh, crap! I forgot about dinner! to late night treat cravings, to power outages; the list goes on and on. It saves you time from having to make a trip to the grocery store if you discover you do not have a certain ingredient. It also saves you money because when you have everything available at home, you resort less to expensive takeout.
This is not possible without putting in the work. It requires organization and planning, but it is such a good feeling to know you have what you need at home.
My goal on this blog is to help moms have it all together when you're busy having to take care of everything and everyone, and that starts with focusing in on our daily tasks and finding ways to set yourself up for success. Your future self will thank you!
What are you keeping stocked in your pantry?