How to Stock Your Pantry on a Budget
Get tons of ideas for pantry essentials and pantry organizing for the home cook. Learn about the staple items that can help anyone whip up a healthy and homemade dinner for their families. And yeah, there’s some chocolate too.
<<<<Click here to get a copy of your free printable pantry essentials list>>>>
If freezer and pantry organizing gets you hot, pour a glass of wine, slip into something a little more comfortable, and let’s go. Organizing voyeurism abounds in this post! If it isn’t your thing (yet), no worries. Just don’t let your “pantries” get in a bunch. 🙂
There are few things more terrifying than realizing you have no idea what to make for dinner. Or lunch. Or breakfast.
Well, rats with tiny hatchets are more terrifying. No questions. I would take meal planning over rats any day. :shudder:
There are loads of meals that can be made on the fly (related: 20-Minute Dinner Recipes), but in order to be flexible with your cooking, you need to have staples on hand. A well-stocked pantry is like an insurance policy or a fire extinguisher; break open in case of emergency.
It is easy to get a bug up your butt and rush out and buy a bunch of new stuff for your cupboards and pantry. I recommend a slower approach because it will make you focus on what you really need. And it can be done in a frugal manner that doesn’t blow your grocery budget. You do have a grocery budget, right? 🙂
So many of the ingredients below can be used for all of these Pantry Staples You Can Make Yourself.
How to Stock Your Pantry On a Budget
Pull everything out of your pantry or cupboard. Everything. Scrub down the shelves, and dust out the cobwebs. Then take a good hard look at what you have, and commit to making one or two meals per week for the next three weeks out of what you found.
Fresh ingredients can be added of course, but really dig deep and get creative with the dishes. Set aside the money you would have spent on new groceries, and at the end of the month, you should have a small nest egg for rebuilding what you need.
If you need any help with random ingredient ideas, you can actually search my recipe archives by ingredient! Just click that link and scroll to the bottom of the page.
Two affordable and convenient ways to add essentials to your pantry are using online services like Amazon and Thrive. Both deliver to your house in about two days, and their prices are extremely competitive!
I also love Azure Standard for their huge selection of food and home goods. Check out this Azure Standard shopping list for a full rundown.
What you should stock really comes down to what you and your family actually eat. Below is a list of what is in our pantry, but it likely won’t fit everyone’s needs – especially if you adhere to a special diet like Paleo, Whole30, gluten-free, etc.
If you do follow a Whole30 lifestyle, check out my two free printable Whole30 grocery lists! Trader Joe’s Whole30 Shopping List and The Essential Whole30 Costco Shopping List.
Pantry Essentials – Baking Essentials
- Bread flour
- All-purpose flour
- Whole wheat flour (pastry and bread) (related: Honey Wheat Bread)
- Coconut Flour
- Almond Flour
- Arrowroot powder (for many of our Whole30 Recipes)
- Baking powder, in bulk
- Excellent cocoa powder I get in bulk at a local store
- Dried/powdered milk (we use it for these Red Lobster Cheddar Bay Biscuits)
- Baking soda
- Chocolate chips (related: The Softest Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies and Air Fryer Cookies)
- Vanilla Extract (related: Homemade Vanilla Extract)
- Vital wheat gluten (to be used with whole wheat flours)
- Organic sugar
- Organic brown sugar (related: How to Make Brown Sugar)
- Old fashioned oats
- Nutritional yeast (so good on popcorn!)
Pantry Essentials – Liquids/oils/sauces
- Coconut oil
- Avocado Oil
- Olive oil
- Worcestershire sauce
- Soy sauce
- Coconut Aminos
- Sesame oil
- Sweet chili sauce
- Hot sauce (Siracha, green Tabasco, Korean chili paste, and Yin Yang)
- Apple cider vinegar
- Brown rice syrup
- Lyles Golden Syrup
- Rice vinegar
- Rice wine vinegar
- Raw honey
- Canned coconut milk
- Peanut butter
- Maple Syrup (the real stuff)
- Almond butter (related: Homemade Cinnamon Almond Butter)
- Collagen (I put it in Blended Iced Coffee)
Pantry Essentials – Grains/Proteins/Misc.
- Beans (dried) – black, pinto, white, kidney, garbanzo. And a few cans of ready to eat black beans. Dried beans are really cheap, but canned beans are still dang cheap, and ready to go!
- Popcorn (related: How to Pop Popcorn Without a Popper)
- Lentils (related: Instant Pot Lentil Soup)
- Pasta – spaghetti, rotini, penne, and dried mini cheese ravioli from Trader Joes that improve almost any soup they are added to. And we always have some gnocchi on hand for Fried Gnocchi and Veggies and Copycat Olive Garden Gnocchi Soup (need a dairy-free version? Check out Dairy-Free Chicken and Gnocchi Soup)
- Broth/stock (related: Turkey Bone Broth, Where to Buy Bone Broth and How to Make Chicken Bone Broth)
- Pecans (related: Stovetop Candied Pecans)
- Quinoa (related: Zesty Instant Pot Quinoa)
- Sesame seeds (for Addicting Garlic Hummus and Pesto Chicken and Cauliflower)
- Sunflower seeds
- Hemp hearts (I use them in Paleo Muesli and Crunchy Salad Toppers)
- Rice (we love it in Instant Pot Garlic Parmesan Rice, Leftover Turkey Casserole With Rice and Instant Pot Tortilla Soup)
- Various cereals for snacks (related: Paleo Muesli)
- Onions. Always onions.
- Garlic. So much garlic. (related: How to Grow Garlic)
- Potatoes – russet, gold, and sweet
- Canned artichoke hearts
- Canned tomatoes (related: Canning Whole Tomatoes and Whole30 Tomato Soup)
- Dates! I always have them and use them in lots of recipes.
Pantry Essentials – Snacks
- Organic goldfish (stupid expensive and not at Costco, but picky Jack prefers them to bunnies)
- Dried apples (related: How to Make Dried Apples)
- A bin of various snacks that are odds and ends of goodie bags from school parties, sports, and purchased stuff, etc.
- Tea. Not really a snack, but I have a lot of it.
- Misc. snacks (related: Homemade snack recipes)
I also have to keep my (kinda dirty looking) Instant Pot in the pantry. My tiny 1970’s kitchen just doesn’t have space for it. But, it’s easy enough to grab and I use it at least five times a week!
And while you can’t actually eat this essential, I find a good music playlist to be so important in the kitchen! Check out my Cooking and Clean Jams Playlist on Spotify. It’s free!
What is the one item you could never be without in your pantry/cupboards?
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Wow! You put a lot of time and effort in this list. Thank you so much. Love your blog.
List making is pretty much my favorite thing Eileen! So glad you found it helpful and thanks for being a reader! 🙂
I’ve been doing a pantry challenge since the first of the year and have been able to put $600 in our emergency fund. Our budgeted amount is $400 a month.
I will have to probably spend the full budgeted amount in March because some things are pretty scarce around here. My baking supplies need to be replenished and the ground beef and chicken are getting very low.
Basically I had way to much meat and veggies in my freezers and it feels good to be using the things i already have and just buying milk, bread, eggs and fruit.
BROTH! I can never have enough bone broth (which I keep in the freezer because I haven’t put on my big girl panties and learned to can it). The kiddo has a vegan friend, so now I make sure to also keep lots of veggie broth on hand. Worked out great tonight when I needed to feed three girls and I hadn’t planned for it!
Our gluten free go-to’s are Enjoy Life chocolate chips (mini’s, morsels, and chunks), Bob’s Red Mill GF 1-for-1 flour, GF pasta and sauce, and black olives (I love them as a snack or on my salad).
Do you have any good recipes for brown lentils for a family that doesn’t like lentils? We found a copycat “Madras Lentil” recipe (copying the Costco pre-mix) that was quite good, but the smells hung around the house too long so we won’t make it again. Our pantry contains more lentils due to a fit of “we are going to eat beans and rice!” And we are trying to use them up ….without anyone knowing it’s lentils….ideas welcome!
i cook them plain and use them ti stretch ground beef in taco meat, meatloaf etc.
Lol – as part of my no spend feb I’m NOT letting myself buy any pantry items. I MUST use only what I have. I’m pleased to report that for the first time in history there are HOLES and SPACES in our pantry.
I can’t thank you enough for encouraging us to do a no spend month. I’ve learned so much and I’m sure if I extended it thru march I would learn more. I’ve learned: we have less then one bag of trash per week when we are not buying anything. I don’t NEED anything – I just WANTED stuff and always justified the STUFF. Most of the time I really am not even aware of the fact that I’m about to make a purchase. This scares me.
Case in point – I am always putting my phone down and then saying a hundred times a day where’s my phone? I saw a gal wearing her phone in a lanyard around her neck that also had a card pocket on it. Game changer! I found my phone and opened my Amazon app and found it. Was bringing my thumb up to buy with a single thumbprint when my brain yelled stop – That is SPENDING MONEY! I seriously was going thru all the stages of making a purchase so rapidly that it was like chewing or swallowing. No thought put into it.
So that is why I believe we are going to extend the no spend into March. Because I really want to make it a habit to think before I throw stuff into my grocery cart or an online cart. No more brain whispering – what a sucky day at work – go ahead, we deserve that!
Sorry so long!!
Fun fact about Lyle’s Golden Syrup – the lion is a depiction of a bible verse/story. I’ve had this stuff in the cupboard my entire life and had never spotted the lion was dead until it was featured on a tv show last year.