Building a basic pantry stockpile

It is extremely annoying to be making a menu plan, go to the pantry and find out I am out of all the basics. It throws my budget out of whack. Then I go grocery shopping for the ingredients and find that the store wants me to pay a dollar and fifty cents for a can of Cream of Mushroom soup when I saw it on sale for sixty-five cents last week.

Compile a list

I made a list of the recipes that I make all the time. Whenever I go shopping I watch for the basic ingredients that I use the most (cream of mushroom soup for casseroles, pasta sauce and noodles for Italian food, etc). I keep a list of my most used ingredients taped to my pantry door so I can quickly see if I am running low on a staple. I personally like to build my menu plan every two weeks off of what I have in my stockpile. At the end of each month I have a no-shop week where everything we eat only comes from what we have. I am not throwing out food that way and it keeps the items in my stockpile constantly rotating. It’s kind of nasty to never go through the pantry and find a 10 year old can of pasta sauce in the back somewhere.

Stock up on only what you need

My parents are rather cautious, my father insists that they always have a 20lb bag of rice on hand, just in case. He doesn’t even like rice, so my mother ends up giving most of it away to my sisters and I once it is opened. Don’t buy something just because it is on sale, and don’t buy it just in case. Only buy something you know you will use, otherwise you will fill your usable space with food that will sit there for possibly years before you find something to use it in. Wouldn’t you rather have 10 cans of diced tomatoes you can make chili and Mexican rice with, rather than 10 cans of pumpkin puree that won’t be used until next Thanksgiving?

Don’t stock up on junk food

Nobody needs 4 packages of Grasshopper cookies, no matter how good of a deal they are on (my sister disagrees with me on this emphatically). If you are using the excuse of stockpiling so you can justify buying more junk food to keep in the house, then you are doing it wrong. I’m talking to you, people who buy 5 bags of chips for their “stockpile” and eat all 5 bags that week, that’s not stockpiling, that’s just bad eating.

Stock your freezer

You don’t have to have a pantry to stockpile, your freezer is just as good. If you have a garden, or find a good deal on green beans at the market, you can easily blanch and freeze fresh vegetables. Just make sure that you don’t go overboard, leave room for a few loaves of bread and meat. Here is a great list of things you probably didn’t know you could freeze.

learn the best times to shop

Watch out for deals on meat (if you eat it) especially. Meat takes up almost half of my grocery budget. The best time to find deals is early in the morning. They mark down meat often on the day before the best-by-date. I go shopping early in the morning just for that reason, it is much easier on the budget to pick up ground beef for $1.85 a pound rather than pick it up last minute for double that. I asked the meat department at my local grocery store when they mark down their meat. I have a list of local grocery stores and their times for marking down, it’s a great way to make that budget stretch to stockpile.


A great way to save is to make a Grocery Price Book, it’s an ongoing journal type that you record the best prices for things in. So there’s not more wondering if a certain store has a better price. It’s also a great way to track sales, most grocery stores have a 8-12 week rotation on sales, so you can mark down when they have sales and track when your favorite brands go on sale next.

Even if you don’t want to make a price book, before going shopping, browse the circulars for your local grocery stores. Everything is online now so it’s a quick trip to a website to see who has the best deals. In my city, there is a discount food store where all the grocery stores take their dented or extra products. I make sure to stop there first to see what I need from my grocery/stockpile list before heading to the grocery store.

dry goods are my bff

My family loves beans, rice, pasta, and many other dishes that are easily made from dried goods. I switched to dried beans a few years ago once I realized that a pound of dried beans makes around 4 cups (over three cans worth) of beans once they are cooked (you can freeze the remaining cooked beans to use later). I like to buy five pound bags of brown rice and I personally keep four or five packages of pasta in my stockpile,

Don’t go overboard

It is wonderful to have extras in your pantry of often used items, but it isn’t worth it if it takes you over your budget. If you are like me and use a cash-only budget, it’s nice when I come in under the budget and I can set that money aside for emergencies. If I would consistently go over the budget to stock-up, then it is really not saving me money. Pretty soon I would end up with a pantry that is so overstocked that I cannot keep track of what I have.

I always keep my pantry stocked as much as possible with the space I have, I even took in a tall cabinet when a member of my family was throwing it out so I can see everything in my pantry at eye level instead of cramming it wherever I can find room in my other cupboards.

It is so nice to be able to open the pantry when I am making a menu plan and have most of the ingredients already on hand. No matter what I cook, it is easy to be able to stockpile on deals once I know what I regularly use and can look for sales. In the long run it is so much cheaper as well, I might have a larger grocery bill when I find a deal but I have smaller bills when I don’t have to buy those items later at the regular price.

Do you stockpile? What are the best ways you have found to build your stockpile without spending a fortune?