I love a well-stocked pantry. If I get the urge to make a recipe, I love it when I have all the ingredients I need. And I really, REALLY don’t like to run out of things. So, to me, a well-stocked pantry means I’m on top of it and not running out of the everyday food we need and use. Creating a fully stocked pantry also means we are far less likely to order in food or eat out because we have dozens of meals right at our fingertips. So, it saves us money AND calories. The pantry might look different at different homes, but I’m giving you all my particulars for easy tips for creating the perfect pantry WITH a checklist!
First things first. When I say “pantry” I don’t just mean the little pantry under our stairs that holds dry goods. For me, I mean all the entirety of food goods we keep in our home in the within the fridge, freezer and pantry to keep us stocked up and running smoothly. When we have a fully stocked pantry, it allows us to make so many different meals and snacks with no extra shopping!
Dry/Shelf Stable Goods
Dry goods, baking goods, dried spices, canned and bottled items make up this category. These are all the products that have a good shelf life that don’t require being in the fridge or freezer.
I like to have plenty of nuts, dried beans, oats, dry pasta, crackers, tortillas, rice (including white, brown and seasoned), instant mashed potato mix, stuffing mix, dry beans, pancake mix and syrup, potato chips, coffee, tea and hot cocoa mixes.
I also like to keep a variety of spice packets available as well. I include taco seasoning, brown gravy, chicken gravy, chili seasoning, white chicken chili and spaghetti spice packets. Those aren’t anything you can’t put together yourself with a well-stocked spice cabinet, but I like the convenience of having them on hand.
All of these components come together to round out your meals nicely. The other bonus to these items is they are all really inexpensive!
For a fully stocked baking pantry, you’ll need the following: Sugar (white & brown), flour, vanilla extract, vegetable shortening, cornmeal, chocolate chips, Hershey kisses, cinnamon, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, cornstarch, powdered sugar, marshmallows and honey.
When you have these:
You can bake just about anything you want if you have all these items. There will always be recipes that have special ingredients that you might have to shop for, but for your average Tuesday afternoon chocolate chip cookies, you are all set!
To stock the spice cabinet at your house, I’d suggest having at least the following:
Parsley, Oregano, Basil, Rosemary, Thyme, Cumin, Chili Powder, Paprika, Turmeric, Salt, Pepper, Bay Leaves, Cayenne Pepper and crushed red pepper.
There will be recipes that call for other spices as well, and as you come across those, you’ll be able to add them to your spice cabinet. However, I find that at least 90% of the time, these spices carry me through any cooking that I might want to do.
Get the Small Bottle
Spices can be expensive! I always buy the smallest bottle of these spices, both for budget purposes and for freshness purposes. If you have the small bottle you are more likely to use all of that spice before it goes bad and not have to throw out lots of dollars worth of expired spices when it’s time to clean out the pantry.
Canned and Bottled Items
I like to keep the following on hand in the canned and bottled categories:
Salad dressing, canned beans, pasta sauce, cream soups (Cream of chicken, celery, mushroom, etc.), Cream of cheddar soup, canned veggies, canned soups, canned chili, peanut butter, canned tomatoes, chicken and beef stock, jams and jellies, ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, vinegars (apple, white, red wine), soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, Worcestershire sauce and vegetable and olive oils.
This category rounds out your dry pantry nicely. You can use so many of the items in this category for so many different menu items and purposes.
Double Duty Ingredients:
For example, I stock Italian salad dressing always. It’s a wonderful chicken or pork marinade, and a good salad dressing. Creamy soups can be turned into gravy, or used as a casserole component. Canned soups and chilis can be eaten on a night when you need something super quick to eat. Slap some crackers or a grilled cheese on a plate next to it and you’ve got a meal! A really quick meal!
On To The Fresh Ingredients!
I like to keep a good variety of meats at the ready. I’ll get one or two fresh meats a week, depending on what’s on sale at a good price. Lots of times I’ll buy extra if the sale is good and put the extra meat in the deep freeze. Purchasing meats that way will let you build up a good variety in your freezer over time.
I like to stock ground beef, ground turkey, ground chicken, chicken breast (both boneless and bone-in), sausages (Italian, breakfast and polish/kielbasa), pork tenderloin and bacon. Between all those meats, you can make just about any meal for your family with just a little defrosting!
I usually buy a selection of deli meat each week for sandwiches, salads,
My favorite part of the deli department is the fresh bread. At my favorite grocery store, you can pick your fresh loaf of bread you want, and then take it over to the bakery counter and they will slice it for you. This is my favorite place in the entire grocery store. It smells so so so good and I love to choose from all the different breads.
This bread is so good for sandwiches, breakfast toast, grilled cheese, dinner toast, fresh croutons, and French toast.
If you are looking to save a little money, usually you can buy yesterday’s bread for MUCH cheaper than the fresh bread of the day. Lots of times I’ll get the discounted bread and stick it in the freezer and use it for toast, French toast and grilled cheese. For those dishes it doesn’t necessarily matter if the bread was fresh that day!
I love the dairy aisle too. That’s where so many of the treats are! I keep stocked (almost all the time) the following dairy items: eggs, milk, cheese (blocks, sliced and shredded), sour cream, butter, heavy cream, cottage cheese and plain yogurt.
These dairy items are great on their own and are wonderful additions to tons of meals too. You can doctor up a lot of these ingredients for snacks as well. Plain yogurt can turn into awesome breakfast parfaits at the drop of a hat! Cottage cheese is a delicious snack and a delicious ingredient in a ton of recipes!
Fruits and Veggies:
Fruits and Veggies can be the items that are the most perishable items you have and need to be managed accordingly. It’s easy to over buy. So keep in mind what you just like to always have on hand, and what you need for any specific recipes that week.
I tend to get out of hand with my fruit buying, so I try to keep it to a reasonable amount of fruit that we will be eating in a timely manner. Apples and oranges will last a little longer, but bananas and berries will go quickly. It’s important to keep track of the items you have so they don’t go bad!
For vegetables, I love to stock some of the longer lasting veggies like carrots, celery, potatoes, sweet potatoes and onions. And then I’ll fill in the meals with other quickly perishable veggies like zucchini, bell peppers, tomatoes and salad greens.
And lastly, this brings us to frozen foods. Perhaps some of my favorite ingredients are on this list! There are SO many good frozen convenience foods these days!
I like to keep stocked: puff pastry, pie dough, mixed vegetables, chopped potatoes, biscuits, garlic bread, rolls, frozen pizza, tortellini and ravioli, lasagna, waffles and frozen fruits.
I’m lucky enough that we have an extra deep freeze freezer in the garage, so I can keep these items ready to roll all the time in that freezer. I love being able to pull out puff pastry for dinner or dessert, or just toss a frozen pizza in the oven on a crazy night. You get your pizza fix without the $30 bill from the pizza guys!
My freezer also has a ton of meals I’ve made and frozen as well. But that’s another post for another day!
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Having all these foods on hand also means being in good control of your food management. You don’t want to buy all these things and have them go bad! Make sure you keep a close watch on your inventory and when things might be getting ready to go bad either use them up or freeze them. Any ingredient is an expensive ingredient if you let it go to waste. Here is a guide from Real Simple about food storage and expiration dates.
Keeping your pantry, refrigerator and freezer organized is vital to staying on top of your food management. And for me, out of sight is TOTALLY out of mind. So if I can’t see it, it’s no longer in the forefront of my mind. Here are a few items that seem to work best for me:
- Stackable Can Rack Organizer, Storage for 36 cans
- YouCopia 50202 UpSpace Box, one size, Wrap Organizer
simplehumanWall Mount Grocery Bag Dispenser
- Smart Design Over The Door Adjustable Pantry Organizer Rack
- Chef’s Path Airtight Food Storage Container Set – 7 PC Set
- Greenco GRC0250 Fridge Bins, Stackable Storage Organizer Containers with Handles for Refrigerator
- HapiLeap Fridge Drawer Organizer, Unique Design Pull Out Bins
- mDesign Divided Lazy Susan Turntable Storage Container
- DII Non Adhesive Cut to Fit Machine Washable Fridge Liner For Drawers, Bins, Trays, Protect Produce
- iPEGTOP Deep Refrigerator Freezer Baskets
InmyelFreezer Cube, A system to freeze and store homemade ready to heat-and-eat meals in zipper closure freezer bags.
- Jokari Original Adjustable Baggy Rack Stand 4 Pack
- Reusable Gallon Storage Bags – LEAKPROOF Ziplock Gallon Freezer Bags
Wrap Up – Easy Tips For Creating the Perfect Pantry
Having a well-stocked pantry brings me comfort and makes me want to cook at home way more often. And having a lot of good choices available at home makes it so much easier to pass on fast food and take out. Which is easier on both the wallet AND the waistline. A fully stocked pantry also allows me to feel like I’ve fed my family really well.
Go take a look and see what you need in your pantry! Make sure you sign up for your Perfect Pantry Checklist to keep handy for stocking your pantry! I’d love to know what you keep in your pantry at all times! And as always, just keep shuffling!
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