Stocking a frugal real food pantry saves time & money! Learn how to stock a pantry on a budget & basic pantry staples/ingredients every kitchen should have. Make meal planning go smoother with a well-stocked pantry.
As a frugal foodie, I’ve kept a habit of keeping a well stocked pantry. I snag an extra jar when peanut butter is on sale, recognize a great price from the weekly circular, and make it a point to finagle that store into my weekly errands. When my pantry is properly stocked and I shop smart and seasonally for produce, I have everything I need on hand to make healthy, fresh, and budget-wise meals.
These frugal habits can work to our benefit: we have good food readily available AND a grocery budget under control.
Of course, there are more benefits to having a well-stocked frugal real food pantry other than that, so I thought I’d share reasons why WE have certain items almost always on hand – so you can see that your kitchen can actually help you on your real food journey.
Benefits of Having a Stocked Pantry
I have found there are many benefits to having a well-stocked real food pantry:
- There’s always something to eat.
- Last-minute trips to the drive-thru become less frequent.
- Stocking up provides the opportunity to buy in bulk.
- Your shopping list is shorter.
- Meal planning, prep work, and cooking are easier.
Having certain items ready for use in your pantry can not only save you time but also money.
Basic Essential Ingredients Every Kitchen Should Have
The point of planning a meal isn’t to show off our culinary skills. The purpose of making a meal is to fuel our bodies with good food. If you stock your pantry well, you’ll be able to do that at every meal.
Consider your basic pantry essentials (this could look different for you, but here is what I always have on hand):
- Whole grains, like quinoa, pasta, rice, oatmeal, etc. (Before you stock up, make sure to have proper storage for your grains to prevent infestations.)
- Oils and vinegar. I like to keep a good supply of olive and coconut oil. Vinegar is a must too! Here’s how you can make your own apple cider vinegar.
- Spices & seasonings. Basic seasonings like salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder, and so on. I like to make my own spice blends and have these on hand for marinating meat or making delicious homemade dressings.
- Baking essentials. Baking soda, baking powder, flour, sugar, cornstarch, vanilla extract (here’s how to make it homemade), etc.
- Beans. I keep a good stock of my favorite dried beans for making in the Instant Pot or slow cooker.
- Stock and broth. Both are fantastic for recipes. I make my stock homemade in the Instant Pot.
- Canned goods. Whether you like to can food yourself or you use pre-canned items, it’s always good to have some canned goods in your pantry.
- Honey. Being on a real food journey, I’ve found that switching sugar for honey in many recipes works and is much better for you! I always keep a good supply in my pantry.
- Vegetables. We almost always buy carrots, onions, and potatoes in bulk. When I’m cooking dinner, I know my vegetable options: carrots, onions, and potatoes!
How to Stock a New Kitchen Pantry for the First Time on a Budget
If you’re stocking a pantry for the first time, consider the items you’d like to have on hand all the time, then try to purchase them in bulk as you’re able. Look for sales and build your pantry up as time and your budget allow. Start off with your essentials first, even if they are not purchased in bulk, then when you can, buy them in bulk!
How to Keep a Well-Stocked Pantry: Buy in Bulk
The key is stocking up in an affordable manner is to not buy them all at the same time. By choosing to buy just a few each month (or each grocery budget cycle), you reap the rewards of buying in bulk without breaking the bank. You can take an extra step when buying in bulk and use some of your bulk purchase to build up a stockpile, for as little as $5 a week (remember when there was no toilet paper?).
Here are just a few examples of how we save by buying in bulk:
- Cashews are $5.99/lb when you buy them in bulk from Costco, compared to $7.99/lb from other places when you buy smaller portions at a time. Savings = $4.99.
- Bob’s Red Mill rolled oats are $10.48 from Amazon for a total of 128 ounces. You can get the same rolled oats from Walmart for $8.80, but you only get 64 ounces – half as much! Savings = $7.12
- Organic butter is $3.99 per pound at Costco when you buy 4 pounds at a time. My local grocery store has organic butter for $4.99/lb – a whole dollar more! Savings = $4
The total savings of buying just these three items in bulk is over $16 – I could buy a whole organic chicken with that savings!
How to Stock a Real Food Pantry for a Year
If your budget allows it, and you’d like to stock your pantry in one shopping trip, you can do this by:
- Making a list of all the items you would like to have on hand.
- Seeing how much of certain pantry items you use in a month.
- Calculate how much you think you will need for the whole year. Keep in mind holidays and feeding guests usually mean more ingredients, so factor in a little wiggle room for these items.
- Shop in bulk for the items on your list.
If you end up with too much of an item at the end of the year, you know you don’t need to buy as much the next year.
Personally, I like to shop for pantry essentials every few months, instead of for the whole year. But if this is your shopping style, go for it!
Basic Healthy Eating Pantry Staples on a Budget
For my family and our healthy eating habits, we always keep the following healthy essentials on hand:
- Einkorn flour. This flour is made of ancient grains and is so good for you. It makes amazing bread, pizza dough, muffins, and so much more.
- Honey and turbinado sugar. When we decided to cut out or cut down on sugar, we switched to using honey or turbinado sugar. The kids haven’t complained about recipes not being sweet enough, and they’re eating less sugar!
- Quinoa. This whole grain is filled with protein and antioxidants.
- Apple cider vinegar. I make mine at home and use it for detox elixirs and other recipes. It has great health benefits!
Of course, we have the other essentials I listed earlier, but these are the specific healthy eating ones I keep in stock. I try to purchase as much as I can in bulk so I save money in the long run.
I recommend deciding what is a healthy eating essential ingredient for your family and trying to stock up as the budget allows every few months. Keep an eye out for sales too!
Why I love having a well-stocked pantry
For my family, when our pantry is well stocked, meal planning is so much easier.
You don’t have to decide between brown rice or white rice if you only have one kind of rice in the pantry… know what I mean?
When a full flat of strawberries is cheaper than any other fruit, take advantage! Let them be the go-to fruit for snacks, side dishes, and dessert. Just be sure to freeze or dehydrate a batch so you have some when the sale or season is over!
I think it’s safe to say that stocked a frugal real food pantry can save time, money and make the world of a difference in your real food journey and everyday life!
We keep a well stocked pantry. Something my mom taught me growing up. She also always told me to buy 2-3 of everything when it is on sale. That way when it goes back on sale we can stock back up at the sale price instead of full price. Something I am passing onto my daughter.
Things that I always keep on hand: flour, sugar, baking soda/powder, cornstartch, yeast (when I can find it) chocolate chips, cocoa, oats, rice, pasta and dried beans. I do the same as you and stock up on carrots, potatoes, onions and celery (things we eat daily). When we buy milk we buy 2-3 gallons at a time, same with buttermilk. Our freezer is almost always overflowing with stick butter and we buy spreadable butter 2-3 tubs at a time (especially when on sale and we have coupons). We usually keep 2-3 bags of fresh spinach and the cartons of spring mix on hand all the time (for quick salad dinners and omeletes). We usually have 6-10 dozen eggs in the fridge at one time (we use a lot of eggs) and when they go on sale we usually stock back up. We also keep a ready stock of cheeses (we seem to use this often also).
We don’t buy vegetable/soups in cans anymore (I have a strict sodium free diet) so I keep one of my deep freezes stocked with frozen spinach, broccoli, asparagus, bell peppers, green onion, peas, corn, lima beans, butter beans and various other vegetables.
I can’t hardly use a 10 Oz. package before it gets all Frosty what’s your secret?
This is a great post! Wondering if you had a list somewhere of those real food “staple” items you always keep your pantry loaded with?
You know, I’m not sure I do Sara… but that would make for a great post!! I’m putting it on my calendar!
I always have the usual suspects in the pantry (rice, pasta, potatoes, canned tomatoes…). For me, it’s the cashew butter (allergic to peanuts), butter, and bacon that I get as many as I can when on a great sale. I recently got 7 packages of all natural uncured bacon at half price. I bought all they had and put then in the freezer.
I second your note on butter and bacon! I once bought 6 packages and froze them… the only problem is not reaching in there to grab a pack every week!
Do you happen to have some flexible meal planning ideas? I work 5 nights a week, so I cook on my nights off. BUT, I still would love if my husband could cook an easy wholesome dinner for himself and for my son. Any easy wholesome recipes that are “dad friendly”? I would love the help so I can accurately plan and fix up my shopping list! 🙂
Me to im now in the same boat:)
Caylee and Di – Off the top of my list, I think of my stand-by’s of salad, soup and sandwiches. My husband LOVES grilled sandwiches, and so long as we have bread (homemade), he can fend for himself. He usually pairs it with roasted potato wedges (homemade french fries essentially), but chili + baked potatoes are good too. I would suggest on your nights off making a double batch of something and freezing it for the men later, OR purposely making a slow-cooker meal on that night too, but delegate that to the freezer. Teach the husband to microwave a potato and thaw chili and you’re good to go!
PS – I’ll make a note to put this in a future blog post too. 🙂
This was a great post! I also read the links in the email this week on how to shop at various stores. I recently discovered the local dollar store, and was pretty amazed at the fresh produce I could get for very little money. An entire head of cauliflower for $1?? Yes please.
What a great find Marcia! So glad the weekly newsletter helped!
Tiffany, I have been using your meal planning service, and I feel like I am getting better each month at eating out of my pantry. For April, I actually ventured down to my buckets of food that I’ve been avoiding for a couple of years, and pulled some from that pantry up to use this month. I don’t have any cannelini beans, but I have gobs of navy beans! So this month – navies. Thanks for all you do – you and your family are inspiring to mine!
You’re most welcome Jessica! Thanks for leaving this encouraging note! 🙂
LOVE this post! I love eating whole foods, there’s just something about how yummy they look. God wasn’t stupid when He made our food. Can’t wait to practice your tips!
My husband recently passed away, and I often find myself at the grocery, getting to the checklane with very little in my cart. Not that I don’t need anything, but that nothing.sounds. good. to.eat. I am often nauseated, which makes it difficult to choose what might sound good over the next week. I have (at least a few times) purchased a particular item that sounded good at the time, take it home and eat part of it for a meal, then not being interested in it at all, so the remainder goes in the garbage, because I ignored it until it was not edible. I do try to keep fresh fruits and vegetables in the frig, but they don’t do it for me, either.
Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
And, by the way, my doctor wants me to go gluten free, dairy free, sugar free, and walk 10 minutes on the treadmill after every meal. I told her that this would qualify as another major life event, but I would do my best to work on it.
Martha – have you considered shopping and cooking with someone else who is in a similar situation as you? Maybe the companionship a couple nights a week would help off-set the side effects of mourning. I know this is a tough time, and I will pray that God gives you peace!
Get a second opnion on that that is an expensive lifetlye change. Good luck.