The first thing you should look at when making a pantry list is your old menu plans. What types of meals do you make most often? We make meals that consist of meats veggies and starches. Out of the three food groups, the starches are the least expensive per serving to purchase. Therefore, that is where I begin.
WEEK 1: Grains & Starches
I purchase a 25-pound bag of flour ($1.74 per 5lbs.) and a 25-pound box of rice (2 cups per dinner=$.59 per dinner) and a 2-pound bag of yeast ($4.16). This will give me the foundation to make breakfast lunch and dinner with just these basic ingredients. In addition to these items, I may also purchase pastas in bulk or a large quantity in smaller boxes if they are on sale.
All of these purchases except the pastas are broken down into kitchen canisters and the surplus is stored in the deep freezer.
WEEK 2: Frozen Veggies
Next, I turn my focus to veggies. I begin buying frozen veggies in bulk. At warehouse stores, they range between $4-$6 for 5lbs. I purchase corn nibblets, butter/lima beans, green beans, and garden mix (carrots, broccoli, & cauliflower). Each bag is broken down into 1 1/4 cup containers and stored in the kitchen freezer. The excess is stored in the deep freezer.
Dividing the bulk items allow me to keep track of how many servings/pounds I get from each purchase. It also prevents waste. If you divide the food into smaller sized canisters, it will prevent the grains from growing bugs while sitting in the cabinets. Store yeast in the freezer keeps it fresher and dividing the veggies will prevent freezer burn and bacteria from taking the whole bag in and out of the freezer.
WEEK 3: Fruits
This is the week that I purchase fresh fruits that freeze well. I check to see what fruits are on sale and in season. There are usually great prices on strawberries and bananas during the spring and summer. Both of these fruits freeze well and can be used in smoothies and for banana bread. If I can find a reasonable price, I also purchase peaches.
Many families have different methods of stocking a pantry with many different requirements for the purpose that their pantry will serve. I have two goals for my pantry. Goal number one is to be able to make basic and nutritious meals without having to run to the store every week. The second goal is to be able to maintain or reduce our annual grocery bill, which is now $3200 annually for a family of 6 (from 2004 until present) including toiletries and occasional dining out. Our budget is down from $4800 annually (2000-2001 family of 4, 2002 family of 5, and 2003 family of 6).
The biggest decisions that have reduced our grocery bill have been reducing processed foods and unhealthy snacks. We still eat unhealthy snacks such as chips and ice cream but they are a treat now, something that we have on “Family Night’s”. Sweet treats are no longer a regular part of my weekly shopping list such as before.
As you embark on the journey to stock your pantry, remember that pantry shopping is a behavior and it takes time to learn a new behavior. So if it does not come together at first just retrace your steps, figure out what needs adjustment, and try again. You won’t regret it.