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Old School Jams – Pantry Organizing

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If pantry organizing gets you hot, pour a glass of wine, slip into something a little more comfortable, and come on in. Organizing porn 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 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 (another topic for another post), but part of being able to be so flexible with your cooking, involves constantly having 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? 🙂

Here is the approach I suggest for building a stash without a huge output of cash. 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 deeply and get creative with the dishes. Set aside the money you could have spent making those meals, and at the end of the month, you should have a small nest egg for rebuilding what you need.

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, gluten-free, etc.

Pantry organizing


  • Bread flour
  • All-purpose flour
  • Whole wheat flour (pastry and bread)
  • Baking powder, in bulk
  • Excellent cocoa powder I get in bulk at a local store
  • Dried/powdered milk
  • Baking soda
  • Chocolate chips
  • Vital wheat gluten (to be used with whole wheat flours)
  • Organic sugar
  • Organic brown sugar (simply made from sugar and molasses in my Kitchen Aid)
  • Old fashion oats
  • Corn meal
  • Nutritional yeast (so good on popcorn!)
  • Salt


  • Coconut oil
  • Avocado oil
  • Olive oil
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Soy sauce
  • Sesame oil
  • Sweet chili sauce
  • Hot sauce (Siracha, Korean chili paste, and Yin Yang)
  • Molasses
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Brown rice syrup
  • Lyles Golden Syrup
  • Rice vinegar
  • Rice wine vinegar
  • Raw honey
  • Homemade vanilla extract (brewing, or done)
  • Peanut butter


  • 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 damn cheap, and ready to go!
  • Popcorn
  • Lentils
  • Pasta – spaghetti, rotini, penne, and dried mini cheese ravioli from Trader Joes that improve almost any soup they are added to
  • Panko
  • Almonds
  • Hazelnuts
  • Pecans
  • Quinoa
  • Sesame seeds (usually for making tahini for hummus)
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Rice
  • Various cereals for snacks
  • Onions. Always onions.
  • Garlic. So much garlic.
  • Potatoes – russet, gold, and sweet
  • Canned artichoke hearts


  • Annies cheddar bunnies
  • Organic goldfish (stupid expensive and not at Costco, but picky Jack prefers them to bunnies)
  • Triscuits – the baby loves them when he is teething, and Costco now carries an organic version!
  • Dried apples. Jack and I dry them in fall in our dehydrator.
  • 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.

Pantry organizing

A well-stocked pantry is like having a solid foundation and good bones for a house. Once it is built, you get to do the fun stuff like decorate! Well, really, it is cooking a meal. Which depending on the day could be thrilling, or make you want to stab someone’s eyes out with a spork. Potato, po-ta-toe.

What is the one item you could never be without in your pantry/cupboards?

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6 comments on “Old School Jams – Pantry Organizing”

  1. 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.

  2. 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!!

  3. 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!

  4. 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).

  5. 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.