How to Stock a Pantry

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A well-stocked pantry saves time and money by going to the grocery store less often and provides a safety net during unexpected events.

Pantry with food in jars
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Why you should stock your pantry

Stocking a pantry is a fundamental best practice that offers numerous benefits, making it an essential task for any household. It makes for meal planning, allowing for better eating habits as you're more likely to cook at home when ingredients are readily available. A well-stocked pantry will get you through emergencies like hurricanes as you will always be prepared.

Moreover, having a variety of basic and versatile ingredients at hand encourages culinary creativity and experimentation, enabling you to whip up meals on the fly without the stress of missing ingredients. Maintaining a stocked pantry contributes to a smoother, more efficient, and enjoyable cooking and eating experience.

Knowing what basic items you cook with all the time will allow you to take advantage of sales and save money. Cooking with familiar food can take the edge off deciding what to make for dinner on those hurried nights. Instead of spending extra money through the grocery store, you'll choose recipe ingredients from your own pantry.

Vegetables and food in storage containers in a refrigerator

Assessing the needs of your pantry

Start by checking out the space you currently have for your pantry. You will want to be sure you have adequate shelf and freezer space before organizing the required items. This will drastically affect how much you can store and how frequently you need to restock.

Once you have determined your space, you should evaluate if you need additional space and how you might accomplish this. You may need a stand-alone shelf or a cabinet to expand your pantry.

Next, you should evaluate if any special dietary restrictions will impact your pantry stocking, as you may need to look into alternative shopping sources like bulk shopping on Amazon or a Whole Foods store.

Calendar with coffee in cup on table

Plan your meal planning goals

I stock my pantry with items that I use frequently in my cooking and recipe development. I typically plan meals for a week, and when I have time, I will create a monthly meal plan.

A typical week of meal planning includes five meals, one leftover or fend-for-yourself night, and a take-out night. Of those five meals, at least two should have enough to produce leftovers for the leftover night. We typically have a Sunday dinner, which is more time-involved or fancy, and two quick dinner nights.

I stock up on consumable items like cereal, snack bars, salad, or lunch meat for breakfast and lunch.

Close up view of Cheerios on table

Stocking grains and cereals

Stock up on healthy grains and cereals in your pantry for a powerhouse staple that is versatile and healthy.

  • Rice (white rice, brown rice, jasmine rice)
  • Flour (all-purpose, self-rising)
  • Pasta (spaghetti, ziti, egg noodles, elbow macaroni)
  • Breadcrumbs (panko, plain, Italian)
  • Quinoa
  • Barley
  • Sorghum
  • Quick Cooking or Instant Oatmeal
  • Grits
  • Cornmeal or cornbread mixes
  • Cereals (typically I buy the ones on sale each week)
  • Muffin and biscuit mixes
  • Pancake mix
  • Box stuffing mix
  • Sugar
Jarred vegetables in wooden cabinet pantry

Canned and dried staples

Canned and jarred items are an important part of the pantry because they typically are shelf-stable and enjoy a long life.

  • Tomatoes (diced, whole, crushed, paste, sauce)
  • Vegetables (green beans, corn, lima beans)
  • Cream of soups (mushroom, celery, chicken)
  • Salad dressings
  • Seasonings and spices (your go-to ones)
  • Condiments (ketchup, mustard, vinegar)
  • Canned meat (Spam, chili, tuna)
  • Sauces (spaghetti, alfredo, ready-made curry sauce)
  • Broth (box, cubes, different flavors)
  • Beans (black beans, garbanzo beans, white beans)
  • Sugar
  • Salt
  • Baking powder and soda
Butcher case full of meat cuts.

Meat and Freezer Items

Keeping a well-stocked freezer allows you to take advantage of sales, reducing your spending on a pricey part of your pantry.

  • Beef (ground beef, stew meat, sirloin)
  • Chicken (breasts, leq quarters, thighs, drumsticks)
  • Fish (salmon, shrimp, tilapia)
  • Pork (bacon, pork loin, pork chops, ground pork, ribs)
  • Frozen vegetables
  • Butter (unsalted, salted)
  • Convenience foods (pizza, tater tots, french fries)
  • Bread (can be frozen up to one month)
  • Leftovers (to be reheated later)
Pantry items on shelf in jars

Keeping up with your pantry

Make sure to rotate your items in your pantry, keeping track of the expiration dates. Rotate items on a first-in, first-out basis. Regularly audit your pantry so you know what you have, or keep a good listing.

Organize your pantry into zones to make it easier to grab items quickly or have a good feel for what's there.

Take advantage of seasonal and weekly sales to load up on items that might be pricey or only go on sale once a year.

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