More Bang for Your Buck Part 2: The Pantry

Welcome to Part 2 of More Bang for Your Buck.  This week we’re going to talk about your pantry.  Now, last week I had you make a list of main dishes your family liked to eat.  Hang on to that list, we’ll use it soon.

What comes to mind when you hear the word “pantry”? Do you think about one or two small kitchen cabinets where you stuff your canned goods? Do you think about a small walk-in closet type setup with a few shelves? Do you envision a large room with floor-to-ceiling shelving full of home-canned goodies? When I think of the word “pantry” I think of all of those things and none of them.  Say what? To me, a pantry is more than just a place to put food.  To me, a pantry IS the food.  So I don’t really care about where you store your food.  I care about the food you store.



Having a well-stocked pantry is crucial to keeping your family well-fed, but it is also crucial to keeping your costs down. I always keep certain things on-hand all the time.  When I start to run low on those items, they get put on the grocery list to restock.  I’ll talk a little bit later about knowing your sales rotations for cheaper restocking. Having a stocked pantry means I can pull together a meal quickly and easily without making an extra run to the store for missing ingredients. You need to stock staples. Now, what your family considers staple items may be different from mine, but here’s a list to get you started:







cocoa powder

canned corn

canned green beans

canned peas

canned tuna

peanut butter

strawberry jelly




bbq sauce

baking powder

baking soda

vanilla extract


egg noodles

macaroni noodles

shredded cheddar cheese



canned mushrooms

pork and beans

canned peaches

canned pears

canned pineapple

tomato sauce

canned diced tomatoes

ground beef

home canned chicken

home canned roast

coconut oil

olive oil

various herbs and spices

Ok, that’s a short list of staple food items I keep on hand at all times. The actual list of staple foods I keep all the time is much longer, but you get the idea.  With these items always on hand, I can make most of the meals my family likes at any given time.  Now, I do make a menu plan every shopping period, but it’s more for sanity’s sake then for making the grocery list.  Unless I’m trying a new recipe that uses a new ingredient, I don’t use my menu plan to plan my grocery list.  No, I plan my grocery list based on what I’m running low on.  Now I know that’s different from what some people teach.

Having a well-stocked pantry also allows me to change up my menu plan if necessary.  Maybe I planned to make that new recipe one night and life happens and there is no way I can take the time to try something new.  Instead I can pull out a tried-and-true meal that is quick and brainless without throwing a complete wrench in things.

Having a well-stocked pantry also allows me to hunker down on those blizzard days when all the other crazies are rushing to the store to stock up on stuff.  Not me.  I’m safe and warm at home knowing my pantry will feed us until the blizzard is over and I can get out to the store again.

Ok, so how do you get to that point if you’re scrambling hand-to-mouth right now?  It could take some doing, but it is doable.  Remember that list of main dishes?  Take that list and now write down all the ingredients you need to make each dish.  You should start to see some repeat items. To that list add other staple items you use all the time.  Use my short list as a starting point. This new list will become  your Master Pantry List. The items on this list are the items you need to have on hand in your pantry at all times.  Not necessarily enough of all the items to make all the dishes on your list, but if one or more of those main dishes calls for a can of mushrooms then I would expect to see at least one can of mushrooms in your pantry.

Now, the next time you go to the store and you are buying a staple item – buy two.  If you need one can of tomato sauce this shopping period, buy two if you can afford it.  Put that second one away. Do this with as many items as you can afford.  WAIT!!!  I’m supposed to be helping you spend less money not more!  Trust me on this.  This is just the first step.  Having a well-stocked pantry will save you money. Decide how many of each staple item you would feel comfortable having on hand and build up to that.  Alternatively, learn your store’s sales cycles and stock enough of each item to get you from one sale to the next.  For instance,  I like to keep at least 6 cans of tomato sauce and 6 cans of diced tomatoes on hand all the time.  That gives me plenty of options for spaghetti, lasagna, chili and other tomato needing recipes. Once I get down to 3 or 4 cans left on the shelf of either product, it goes back on the list to stock up. It took several shopping trips to get that level of stockage, so don’t try to do everything in your first trip.

How many times have you come home from work absolutely exhausted and declared you were too tired to think of something to cook so you ordered take-out? Or how many times have you been run all over the county with the kids and by the time you get home you have more interest in a padded room than trying to come up with something to cook? Having that well-stocked pantry helps cut down on the number of times take-out becomes the answer for dinner.  I know for us, a large pizza and wings can run up to $30 with no coupons and tip.  Ouch!!! That’s a budget breaker for sure.

So, let’s work on getting our pantry up-to-snuff while we also work on the other aspects of our project.  Meet me back here next week and we’ll tackle the next step.

Linking up with:,,,,,,,


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jen
    Jan 13, 2014 @ 18:29:39

    Really good tips! Thanks!


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