Keeping a Stockpile and a Stocked Pantry
Couponers have long gotten a bad rap for stockpiles. . . depicted as hoarding ridiculous amounts of processed food that was acquired on the cheap. I have a stockpile in my pantry – but it’s foods we regularly eat and they are items I can turn into meals. A worthwhile stockpile is one that sustains you through the ad cycles when the sales aren’t great.
Stock the items you use regularly. Let’s take pasta for an example. If you eat pasta regularly and you buy it every week at the store, you’ll pay anywhere from $0.75 a package to $2.50, depending on the current price/ad. Pasta goes on super sale about every two months at most stores – that’s when I stock up, when I can get it for $0.75 a box. That’s when I’ll buy enough to last us until the next sale – maybe 5-8 boxes at a time. This small stockpile means I’m paying $3.75 for five boxes instead of being forced to paying $2 for one box, when it’s full price.
Foods I like to have in my stockpile/pantry:
- Flour, sugar, brown sugar, powdered sugar, salt
- Canned items – pickled beets, asparagus, pear butter, applesauce,
- Steel cut oats
- Lentils, dried beans
- Rice – brown rice, sushi rice, jasmine rice, wild rice, arborio
- Chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, raisins
- Pasta – spaghetti, orzo, lasagna, farfalla, egg noodles
- Condiments/Seasonings – BBQ, rice vinegar, soy sauce, steak sauce, Worcestershire, ketchup, mustard, hot sauce, dijon, apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, onion soup mix, chicken bouillon, pickles
- Canned goods – diced tomatoes, tomato paste, diced tomatoes with chilis, corn, green beans, black beans, garbanzo beans, kidney beans, white beans, coconut milk, water chestnuts
- Semi-prepared foods – Pasta sauces, curry pastes, Indian Butter chicken paste, Suddenly Salad, Annie’s Mac & Cheese, pre-packaged rice packs, canned soups
- Salsa. This is an entire food group for my husband who likes chips and salsa as a snack. Salsa is also great condiment and ingredient for crockpot meals.
- Canned or packed chicken, canned tuna, canned clams
- Chicken broth
- Peanut butter and jelly
- Snack foods – protein bars, granola bars, Pop-Tarts, chips, pretzels, apple sauce packs
- Baking cocoa, chocolate chips
For these items, that I know I use often, I have a “stock-up price” in my mind. This comes from years of tracking sales and prices. You can start tracking your favorite foods now. This stock-up price has changed over the years, for example, I used to get pasta for $0.49/box. . . now I stock up if it’s $1.
Your stockpile will look different than mine. You want to buy things that your family eats! Over time you’ll get a hang of which foods you use from your stockpile more often – and which ones sit for too long.
A stockpile doesn’t have to be in a pantry. I’ve had a stockpile since my kids were babies – and it’s always looked a little different. We currently have a large pantry area – but over the years I’ve had Ikea shelves/bins in the kitchen, storage shelves under a stairway, a metal shelf in a garage, even storage under a couch when we lived in an Airstream for a year! A stockpile can be anywhere you have a little space to store your items – a closet, in cabinets, garage – get creative and if you don’t have a lot of extra space, that’s okay, even just a small stockpile will help!
Start small, stockpile as you can! I didn’t build this stockpile overnight. It requires weeks of watching sales and stocking up on items when they are on sale – so don’t try and run out and stock your pantry all at once.
Turning deals into meals. I could have a whole shelf of gatorade that I got for cheap . . . or boxes of crackers that were on sale. . . but I try to focus on staple ingredients that go into healthy meals.
Pantry meals are a great way to stretch the budget. My pantry stockpile allows me to pull together any number of things in my pantry to make dinner on the fly. Pantry meals come in handy when you are low on fresh ingredients or when money is extra tight.
Think ahead. NOW is the time to be thinking about your holiday meals and entertaining. Do you always make green bean casserole for Thanksgiving? Watch for green beans on sale over the next month – often the time to get the best prices is BEFORE the holidays are around the corner. This also helps spread out the higher cost of these bigger meals.
Convenience. The other benefit to having a well-stocked pantry is it can limit the times you need to run to the store. Gas prices are no joke. . . and I’m already busy enough, so I try to do one big grocery shopping trip a week. I am not the person who goes to the grocery store every day to pick up 1 or 2 things. Studies show that the MORE TIME you spend in the stores. . .THE MORE YOU SPEND. The pantry allows me to improvise when needed and I rarely need to stop for last minute ingredients.
Flexibility in meal planning. By having a good assortment of basics in my pantry, I can be more flexible in menu planning. I always try to buy manager markdowns and clearanced foods – by having a wide variety of items in my pantry, I can have more flexibility in the meals we can make.
Keep it organized. Having your pantry organized by food type makes it easy for you to see what you have. Overbuying items because you can’t find them – or you forgot you have them, doesn’t save you money. Keep older items in the back – so you use the fresh stuff first. I try to do a big clean-out of the pantry every spring and fall – like twice a year – to wipe down shelves, check expirations dates, donate items we haven’t eaten and to do an inventory of what we might need.
On-the-go foods. To help us avoid eating out, going through a drive-thru or buying hot lunch at school, I always try to have a good stock of on-the-go foods in the pantry. We try to have granola bars, KIND bars, protein bars, applesauce cups, snack chips. . . .these can be grabbed quickly before or after a practice.
We also have fruit cart in the kitchen for grab-and-go fruits as well. . . I find having this in the kitchen, instead of tucked away in the pantry means my kids grab from this first. I stock the top level of the cart once a week with fruit and it’s usually bare just in time for my next weekly grocery trip.
EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS. A well-stocked pantry can ALSO help you prepare for unexpected natural disasters, power outages or emergencies. I have peace of mind that if my family had to shelter in place for awhile that we’d have enough food for weeks. . . if not, months! It’s good to have a mix of pre-packaged meals and proteins – like canned chicken or tuna, peanut butter, etc. . . just in case we wouldn’t be able to cook on our gas stove.
Don’t OVERDO IT. While having a stockpile has many advantages, it’s important to not to overdo it! You want to balance a stockpile with excessive hoarding. You want to avoid food waste. You’ll want to regular rotate your stockpile, monitor your expiration dates and if space is an issue – you don’t want the storage of the stockpile to be a burden on your family.
Meals we often make from our pantry:
Pasta salad – When Suddenly Salad is $0.99/box, I stock-up. My kids LOVE it . . .and we always supplement the pasta salad with things like hardboiled eggs, chicken, garbanzo beans, salami, black olives, cheese cubes, celery, carrots, peas – whatever we happen to have!
Pasta with marinara or pesto – When basil is in season and on sale, I’ll make up a bunch of pesto and freeze it. Jarred pasta sauce or pesto can get to $0.75-$1 a jar and we stock up so we can whip up a quick pasta dish.
Oatmeal for breakfast – Steel cut oats are a great breakfast from the pantry. Add boxed almond milk (shelf-stable) and things like chia seeds, pumpkin seeds or raisins for extra flavor.
Quinoa chili – I love this Quinoa chili in the crockpot. . . it can come together really easily with pantry items and we often leave out the chicken if we don’t have any.
Indian Butter chicken paste – ONE OF OUR FAVORITES! I buy this on Amazon and we make this up with anything we have around the house. You can add potatoes, garbanzo beans, peas, chicken, carrots, coconut milk. . . we serve this over rice. My kids go crazy for this! They often add sour cream to mellow the spice level.
Soups – With broth/bouillon, water, rice, vegetables, noodles. . . you can easily get a soup going with items from your pantry.
Tuna fish sandwiches – Easy to mix up if you have bread (save at the Franz Outlet!), celery, mayo, pickles, mustard.
These are just a few examples of how we make meals primarily from pantry items. Most often our meals are a combination of fresh foods, frozen foods and pantry items. I’ll share more about the type of foods I try to keep in my freezer in a later post.
Here’s a photo of my stockpile back in 2010 – it was on four thin shelves in a small closet under my stairs. We made it work. 🙂
Do you have questions about stockpiling?
PLEASE READ . . . Feeding My Family Series “Fine Print” – This series is meant as a guide to help you turn deals into meals. Every family has its own budget, dietary needs, diet choices and preferences. Manager markdowns vary by store, day and time – there is no guarantee that you’ll find similar markdowns at your local store, but it gives you an idea of what to look for. I will not tolerate any shaming or derogatory comments about my purchases or those of other people sharing their savings. Take the tips that will work for you and if something doesn’t align with your family needs – keep scrolling, without comment. If you have recipes or money saving tips, please share!