This blog post outlines how I go about stocking our pantry and freezer and includes a list of everything I like to keep on hand. A well-stocked pantry is one of the best and easiest ways to help you cook from scratch more and save money on your grocery bills. 

I did not grow up thinking about a prepared pantry or having lots of staple items on hand. We ate a lot of frozen meals, prepackaged items, and premade breads and muffins. When I got married and moved to a very rural area I was forced to think about keeping staples on hand because a lot of food items are not available locally or are very expensive. In addition, we were only making trips to “the big city” every 6-8 weeks for groceries and I HAD to learn to cook from scratch and keep basic food items stocked in our pantry.

As I grew in our health journey, I began to realize this was also MUCH healthier for our family as well. As time went on and I grew in my skills, I learned how much I enjoyed the creative outlet of cooking many, many things from scratch. The more I did it, the more we realized how delicious home-cooked meals are and the desire to eat out began to appeal less and less. With a little practice, even things like tortillas, bagels, and english muffins are much simpler than you would imagine and so much better than their store-bought counterpart. 

Why Keep Your Pantry Stocked

A stocked pantry is necessary to cooking and baking from scratch, but it will help you save money on groceries too. If you keep flour, salt, sugar, and baking powder, basic seasonings, and some canned vegetables on hand, you can make just about anything. Buying the ingredients for these things, especially if you buy in bulk, will cost you pennies compared to purchasing the items pre-made. 

The last benefit to keeping a well stocked pantry is preparedness. Now I’m not one to create fear-mongering here, but we’ve all faced unexpected circumstances and wished we were more prepared. Tornadoes, winter snow storms – there are a number of circumstances that can catch us off guard and leave us feeling unprepared unless we are intentional to prepare. Keeping a fully stocked pantry is not something we do out of fear, but it is a great way to ensure that our families are taken care of in the event that something unexpected happens. 

In addition to all of these things, meal planning from week to week also gets much simpler when you know your pantry is stocked and you have ingredients on hand to whip up easy meals. 

Before I share exactly what I stock in my pantry, I will say that we try to eat a whole foods based diet, rich in protein and lots of fruits and vegetables. We do eat bread, but mostly sourdough recipes, and we very rarely make sweets. I have almost completely eliminated refined sugars from our diet and use honey, maple syrup, or coconut sugar to sweeten things. We buy a whole beef from a local farmer every year and so we have a full freezer of beef. We supplement with salmon and chicken that we buy in bulk from Sam’s Club. 

When you are thinking about stocking your pantry, it can also be very beneficial to think about how to make basic substitutions for recipes. For instance, if you are out of eggs, or trying to conserve your eggs, did you know you can use 1/4 cup of applesauce or banana in place of an egg? Simple substitutions like this will help you stretch your grocery dollars.

How to Store Bulk Pantry Items

If you’re going to keep a kitchen pantry fully stocked, you are also going to want to consider the best way to store your items to keep them fresh. While canned goods have a long shelf life, things like flour and bulk grains will need a little more attention. You will want to make sure that you have plenty of airtight containers on hand to store your flour, sugar, oats, and dry beans in. I like to use large 1/2 gallon or gallon sized glass jars for dry beans, oats, and whole grains. Large good-grade buckets with airtight lids are another great option for bulk dry goods. 

The freezer is yet another under-utilized space for storing foods for a long time. Things like whole wheat flours, coconut flakes, chocolate chips, and nuts store really well in the freezer and it is a great option, if you are running out of room in your pantry for food storage. 

Stock things for Easy Meals

The first things I like to add to my shopping list for a stocked pantry are food items that I can use to quickly whip up a healthy meal for a quick dinner. Start by making a list of your family’s favorite recipes and adding those ingredients to your grocery list. Here’s a few things I like to keep on hand at all times that helps making the menu plan easy.

Chicken stock or bone broth – So many yummy meals you can make if you have broth on hand: it is a great base for soups, use it to cook rice for extra nutrients, or just sip on it during illness. I make my chicken bone broth and then keep it in the freezer. I also like to have a bone broth powder on hand to add to soups and gravies for extra protein and nutrients. 

Canned tomatoes – If you don’t stock canned tomatoes, this is something you should definitely add to your pantry list. With diced tomatoes on hand I can do so many things: add them to soups and stews, puree to make tomato sauce for pizza and pasta sauces, or even make salsa. They are such a versatile item to have in your pantry for quick meals. 

Dry beans – I also love to have a variety dry beans on hand. Black beans, pinto beans, navy beans, and kidney beans are all excellent options. They are simple to cook, full of protein and fiber, and taste so much better than the canned version. Plus, many types of canned beans have additives that we try and avoid. 

Basic Seasonings –  You can purchase things like taco seasoning, or you can keep paprika, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, cumin, and salt on hand and easily make your own. I love making my own spice blends because its cheaper, I don’t have to run to the store for it, and it doesn’t have all the extra yucky ingredients of store bought. 

Dry Good Pantry Staples

Flours and thickeners – Flour is one of the most versatile staples to have on hand. Use it for bread and baked goods or thicken soups and stews with it. I like to keep all-purpose unbleached flour on hand, but you could buy bread flour if you prefer. I also purchase whole wheat berries in bulk, as well as spelt, einkorn, and rye berries to grind in my mill. Country Life Foods is my favorite place to buy these things in bulk. 

Sweeteners – Basic sweeteners are also important to keep on hand. We mostly avoid refined sugars, but I do keep some white and brown sugar in my pantry. I primarily use natural sugars such as honey, maple syrup, and coconut sugar and buy them in bulk when I can. If you have a local bee farmer this is often your most cost effective option for getting raw honey plus you get the benefits that come with eating raw, local honey. 

Oats – Oats are a great thing to have on hand for breakfasts, granola, and baked goods. We buy our oats in bulk from Country Naturals.

Grits, cornmeal, and cream of wheat – Whether you purchase things will depends on your family and if it is something you will use and eat. We are big fans of grits and cornbread and keep both grits and cornmeal stocked in our pantry.

Rice and quinoa – Two more of my favorite grains to have on hand for cheap, easy meals. Both store well long-term in your pantry.

Pasta – We do not eat much pasta, but if your family does, this is also something you may wish to consider purchasing and keeping stocked. 

Seasonings – Salt is an absolute must. I buy ours in bulk from our favorite company, Redmond Real Salt. I would also recommend keeping garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, basil, rosemary, thyme, dill, parsley, paprika, chili powder, cumin, cinnamon, ginger on hand. You can make the most basic of meals taste delicious with these seasonings, plus you can make so many different spice combinations (taco, ranch, etc).

Pantry Items To Stock

Canned tomatoes – I’ve mentioned these, but canned diced tomatoes are a must in my pantry. They are so versatile.

Tomato products – Tomato sauce, tomato paste, pasta sauce, and pizza sauce are all excellent things to keep on hand for quick meals. If you don’t have space for all of these items, stick with diced tomatoes. All of these products can be made from diced tomatoes with a little extra time. 

Oils – We use only extra-virgin olive oil and coconut oil in our home. I buy olive oil from Sam’s Club in bulk and fill a smaller jar for our counter from that. Coconut oil is also a must- it is good for so many things in the kitchen and out of it. I use coconut oil for almost all recipes that call for vegetable oil. 

Leavening agents – Yeast, baking soda, and baking powder are all leavening agents, meaning they can be used to raise dough. We keep this on hand for biscuits, muffins, and so many other yummy baked goods when I am not baking with sourdough. Baking soda is also wonderful for cleaning!

Vinegars – Apple cider vinegar is a must for our pantry stock. We use it for salad dressings, drink it with lemon juice for a anti-reflux tea, use it for detox baths and so much more. White vinegar is also a versatile staple for both recipes and cleaning. 

Canned tuna, chicken, and salmon – These are great items to have in your pantry for quick, high-protein meals. 

Pickled items – Follow your family’s preferences here, but I keep olives, pickles, relishes, and okra on hand for easy sides or adding to salads. 

Canned fruit – Applesauce, and home canned peaches are two of our favorites and I like to keep these in the pantry.

Sauces and condiments – Soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, mayo, mustard, barbecue, and ketchup are items I like to have on hand and keep on back up in my pantry. 

Salad dressings – I make most of my own dressings, but if you do not, or want an easy go-to, think about adding these to your stock too. 

Fresh produce is difficult to buy in bulk and keep fresh and I recommend keeping canned and frozen vegetables on hand to supplement with your fresh produce when you run low or it is not available. Things like potatoes, onion, and garlic are the exception to this and will often keep for quite a long time if kept in a cool, dark place. 

When considering keeping your pantry stocked, I would also consider keeping a stock of basic hygiene items and other tools to keep your family healthy or treat them in the event of an illness. Some of our favorite remedies for sickness are actually things in the kitchen: apple cider vinegar, salt, honey to name a few.

​Personal hygiene items to consider stocking:

Toilet paper – No one wants to run out of this! Keeping an extra package in the back closet for the day you accidentally run out will save you a huge headache. 

Soaps – I make our hand soap using simple ingredients, and it is a great way to keep items on hand that have multiple purposes. Check out this blog post to see how I make my own hand soap with just three ingredients.

Toothpaste, shampoo, deodorant – These are the items I am generally purchasing one or more extra of when I am out, always keeping at least one in my back up.

Health and wellness items:

You can see all the things that we do in our home to prepare for illness in this blog post, but apple cider vinegar, salt, and honey are all items I keep on hand. I also stock up on elderberries to make elderberry syrup and purchase homeopathic remedies, vitamins, and supplements that I would need to treat common illnesses. You can find my recipe for homemade elderberry syrup here.

Now that I have shared all of the things I like to keep stocked and how I go about doing it, I need to say that I am not saying to just purchases lots of these items and hope your family will eat them in an emergency. I only buy items that my family will eat; I keep extras of things on hand, and purchase more when I start to pull from my back stock. In this way, we are continually eating through our stock of food and not actually wasting anything. I do not stock items that we do not like or will not eat. 

If this is your first time to think about keeping a stocked pantry, my guess is you may feel overwhelmed about where to start or doing it all, but don’t let it paralyze you. Start by making a list of the foods your family regularly eats and pick up extras of those things the next time you go grocery shopping. Do not feel like you have to purchase extra of all the things all at once. Rather, each time you go to the grocery store, choose one or two extra things to purchase and slowly work down your list. In time, you will find that you have built up a stocked pantry and you are well on your way to feeling prepared to care for your family.

To download my free stocked pantry checklist, go here. If you want to take stock of what you already have on hand, check out this guide.

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