How to start stocking your pantry

Posted by Erin McCarthy

What is a "pantry"?

Pantry is kind of an old fashioned word, no? It suggests that you need an entire small room devoted to food storage. And while we've all seen photos of those glamorous pantries online tucked neatly behind sliding barn doors, this is not the reality of the modern pantry (or the home cook, generally).

Pantry is a just a single word that has come to mean stored food. It's our frozen vegetables, our rice, and our onions. Some of it lives in our freezer, some in our cupboards, and some on our counters.

Why is stocking your pantry important?

Once you have a fully stocked pantry, you can make a full meal with just the ingredients you have on hand. It also makes your grocery shopping quite a bit cheaper in the long term. Think about a lasagna - if you need to buy olive oil and all your spices in addition to your pasta and vegetables, it's going to drive the price up quite a bit. I personally think this is why people perceive home cooking to be expensive - obviously that bottle of olive oil will last you quite a while and the cost of the oil used for just the lasagna is mere cents, but that's not the way most people perceive it when they're forking over the cash at the register.

Frankly, you're also more likely to eat healthier food. If you have nothing in your pantry, you have no choice but to go out to eat or grab fast food. When you have a stocked pantry, you can whip up paella, rice with veggies, or a curry in a flash.

How long does stocking a pantry take?

This totally depends on what you're comfortable with. If you want to, you can go out and buy everything your pantry needs in one fell swoop. It's much better though to do it a bit at a time on each weekly grocery trip. You'll learn which things you go through more quickly, which will need to be replaced more often, and which are seldom used.

How much will this cost?

See above - if you go buy everything at once, it's liable to be more expensive than if you buy what's needed for recipes as you go. Cost-wise, the good news here is that once you have a stocked pantry, your weekly grocery bills will go down substantially since you're only buying what you need fresh for the week. I can go to the grocery store and buy all the fresh fruits and veggies I need for the week and spend just $30 - really!

How much space will this take up?

You definitely don't need a whole room for this. If you live in a small apartment, you'll probably just keep the essentials on hand. You'd be surprised what you can fit even in a small kitchen though! You can use magnetized measuring cups and spoons on the fridge, magnets for knives on the wall, and even hang pots and pans from the ceiling. (Can you tell I have a small kitchen?)

I would recommend organizing by categories similar to these. Cooking is so much easier when you know exactly where everything is located and can easily grab it.

How to get started

You can get started today by sitting down and creating your first weekly menu plan. Once you have that, make a grocery list of everything you need.

Then, just keep doing that - you'll come to the point where you're just replacing pantry items and buying fresh ingredients sooner than you think.


Are you hesitant to start stocking your pantry, or is yours fully stocked? Anything we missed here? Let us know in the comments!

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