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Why to Have a Well-Stocked Pantry

Guest post by Heather at Fake-It Frugal

I’ve always loved to play Grocery Store. Ever since I was a little girl when my mom would give me empty cereal boxes and rinsed-out cans of vegetables, I’ve been stocking and re-stocking my shelves. Today, as a Home Economist in Training, I am taking that love of playing Grocery Store to the next level — in my basement.

My rules in keeping a Well-Stocked Pantry are:

  • Only purchase and store what you know your family will be consuming in the next six months, making sure to rotate older items to the front as you buy new to replace them.
  • When you find a good bargain, and if you can afford to do so, buy two or three of the same item.
  • Try to keep everything visible so that you know what you have.
  • Visit your pantry regularly, especially when you’re putting together your shopping list and when you’re planning your weekly meals.

My goal in keeping a Well-Stocked Pantry is threefold:

1. If the need arises for an emergency cake or snack for entertaining, you’re all set. There is no need to waste gas running to the grocery store for an unplanned run.

2. If you have a well stocked pantry and freezer, you’ll be able to make many more meals (if not all) at home instead of eating out, thus saving lots of money.

3. If your pantry and freezer are really well stocked to suit your family’s needs, there will be some weeks that the only thing you need to buy at the grocery store is fresh bread, eggs and milk. That translates to big savings since you can cut approximately one week’s worth of a grocery bill out of your monthly budget.

Heather Bea is a “Home Economist in Training” with a focus on frugal cooking and crafting. She’s the mother of one very sweet boy, Cameron and wife to a real and actual Economist, Justin. You can join her journey to find better and cheaper ways to do things that she’s been paying way too much money for in the past at Fake-It Frugal.

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  • Tammy says:

    I spy many Aldi items that I have, too! I love your “pantry” ~ it’s awesome!

  • Nan says:

    My husband just marvels that when he says “Honey, we’re out of lotion (substitute just about anything)”, I replay “no we’re not, we have plenty”.
    It’s also great when friends stop by I can pull out some crackers, chips or whatever without a problem.
    Keep up the good work!

  • Beckie says:

    Might I also add that this country is in a very bad situation. It’s no secret that the folks on the hill can’t agree on anything at the moment. My husband and I stock for the reasons mentioned in the article, but also because we don’t want to be a statistic. The average American only has 3 days of food in their home. If something serious were to happen in the economy, even if only for a short period of time, would you have enough food for your family to eat? I am not a fan of having to think this way, but it’s a very real possibility whether people chose to admit it or not. Food could either a) not be available or b) priced far too high for middle to lower class to afford.

    • Carrie says:

      Beckie, I so agree with this comment. I’ve just finished watching the news and I’m worried about an economic crisis worse than what we’ve seen so far. My first thought was about feeding my family!

    • Danielle B says:

      I’m opening up a huge can of worms, I just know it, but I’m going to go there anyway.
      If you’ve been listening to Glenn Beck for the past 3 years or even just the past 3 weeks, then none of this catches you by surprise. Just saying. So few believe that any kind of food crisis could hit the U.S.
      They say things like, “No, no, if we were really in a depression then where are the bread lines? Where are the homeless lining the streets? Where are the soup kitchen lines wrapping around the buildings?” We don’t see that anymore because of the Food Stamp (SNAP) program.

      Let me make this clear- I’m neither speaking for or against being on food stamps. That’s a personal decision. My point is that due to FS being available, we need to look at how that program is being swamped in just the last few months as an indicator of how bad things are really getting.
      There are now more then 45 million families on food stamps! Just last year it was 25 million! That’s almost double and we aren’t even finished with 2011! And so many of these are families who don’t want to be on FS, but feel they have no other option due to economic and personal finance reasons.
      I really hope others are paying attention, and that we’re encouraging one another through sites such as MSM to pay attention and get a buffer between yourself and the coming inflation, and God forbid it- food crisis. Now is the time to start preparing, not just to help shelter your own family, but so that those of us who are prepared can reach out and help others.
      Hopefully, we’re coming to the end of this recession/depression/crisis. If so, great. We can save money by eating off our stockpiles and sharing with our community. But if not, then we can survive by eating off our stockpiles and sharing with our community! We win both ways. 🙂

    • Kristen Trappett says:

      Totally agree, we are military and may not have a pay check for a while if the government doesn’t settle on an agreement, it is very comforting to know we don’t live pay check to paycheck with groceries!

    • Amanda L says:

      THIS, this right here is why I do food storage, you never know what’s going to happen, not just economy wise, but job loss, sickness, whatever.
      Nothing is a given, and at any time anything can happen to where you only have what you have to survive off of for who knows how long. It’s important to protect your family as much as possible, and for me, I look at my food storage as a type of food savings account, or food bank against uncontrollable future events that you just can’t plan for!

    • donna says:

      No one knows what tomorrow will bring these days. Better to be safe then sorry. Even a lay off makes it a great thing to have. I have mine because we live on a set amount of money. By stocking up I can wait till an item is on sale. Saves so much money. Also love the security it gives.

  • Erin says:

    I had a very well stocked pantry for the last few years, but as of late, the coupons have been terrible along with the deals. My pantry just isn’t the same! It’s only 1/3 stocked now, and I just don’t want to budge on my budget to get “deals” that I don’t really consider deals! 🙁

    • Danielle B says:

      I really understand what you mean.

      I’ve been just sitting out on most of the “deals” over the past six months because they just didn’t seem like deals compared to what I used to be able to get. But now, as my pantry and stockpile have become more and more depleted, I think I’m just going to have to accept that those days of crazy deals may be gone for right now.

      Personally, I’m going to have to adjust my mindset to work inside of what is happening economically. I may not get things for $0.25 or $.50 each anymore (just a general quote, there) but by still stacking coupons with good sales, I’m not paying the $2.00 or $5.00 per item that I would if I just went grocery shopping without a plan.

      I’ve had to recently accept that my little stockpile isn’t going to hold out forever. If I don’t get busy restocking at the prices that are “great” for this economy, in the time we’re in right now, then my stockpile will be completely depleted within just a few months time, and then I’m going to be starting over, paying even worse prices.

      One last thing I’ve come to accept over the past few months, is that most of the super processed items that used to be free or super cheap with coupons, just aren’t worth it. I can make yummier, healthier things from scratch instead, so I’m going to be stocking up on the staples like rice, beans, flour, etc. over the coming months.

      Yikes. Tough times, but we can make the best of them. 🙂

      • Danielle, you’ve got the right idea. If you can get your staples in bulk, you’ll save even more.

        I’m so grateful for a well-stocked pantry and a garden. We’re not shopping right now (no money to buy food the last several months), and it’s a real blessing to have food stored. Knowing the deals aren’t great right now is a small consolation as well 🙂 Still, I know that even the bulk prices are rising, and there is NOTHING I can do about it. I can just be grateful for the food we have. Right now I’m especially grateful for our garden, because we’re eating peaches and grapes from it every day.

        • Danielle B says:

          I just popped over to your site for a few minutes. I could spend HOURS on that site! (And plan to over the next few weeks!) I saw where you mentioned that you can’t afford a blog right now, but I really think you have some crazy good potential. Your pictures are beautiful, your writing is clear and concise, your spirit is warm and encouraging. Most importantly- you’re writing about something that is becoming increasingly vital for so many of us! 🙂 I hope you’ll consider starting a blog soon, because I’m not sure you can afford not to! ;-D

          • I do have a Facebook page for my site now, though 🙂

            And while making money blogging would be nice, I don’t know that my family can afford the time it would take. Right now I’ll stick with updating my website and facebook page 🙂

            Make sure to read my page “Eat for Less and Build Your Pantry at the Same Time” (it’s under the Shopping Wisely Tab). There’s also a pgae there entitled “When You Need Food” that talks about building your pantry while you are living on it, which is what we are doing now.

            Enjoy! I’m off to sew a new wardrobe for my oldest, a daughter, who has outgrown everything! Thankfully I have a supply of fabric, patterns, buttons and thread! I’ll be posting finished pictures on my site and on facebook.

          • Mary H. says:

            I agree! Your blog is awesomely inspiring!!!!

        • Danielle B says:

          I certainly understand the ttime constrants! Maybe one day though! 🙂

          • I still add new things to the site all the time! I’m working on a page right now on how we do birthdays here on next to nothing. I just took pictures last week of my son’s birthday to add to the page. So, keep checking back–or like my site on facebook if you want–for new additions!

        • Andrea Q says:

          So happy to have found you on Facebook!

        • Danielle B says:

          I liked you on Facebook via my husband’s account! Love it! 🙂

    • Jessica says:

      Ditto what you just said!

    • Diane says:

      Erin, don’t forget that Amazon has some amazing grocery deals thru their “Subscribe and Save” program. You get free shipping regardless of the amount and are not required to purchase anything other than your current order. I also feel like the deals have been pretty bad all summer with the coupons in the Sunday inserts for the most part terrible. I get most of my Qs online now.

  • Ally says:

    @erin- I agree, not many good deals. I think when school starts back we will see some deals on some kid items.

  • In addition, if you store powdered eggs and powdered milk, and the ingredients to make bread, you don’t even have to go to the store at all. This is especially helpful when you can’t afford to go shopping for a long period of time, due to job loss, emergency expenses, or being underemployed. We went over a year without any grocery shopping, so I like to have a year’s worth of food or more. You can see my pantry here.

    We’re not buying food right now, and I haven’t done a “normal” (our new normal of $150 a month for 8 people) shopping trip since April. Our income varies quite a bit, and every year it drops significantly, due to lower home prices (my husband’s line of work; houses that were worth $350,000 are now worth $80,000 or less here, so our income has decreased in like proportion). Having a well-stocked pantry keeps my family from starving. In addition, having a kitchen garden provides us with fresh food; I even added 32 quarts of peaches to my pantry this week, all from one peach tree!

  • Jessica says:

    I know the why, but what about the how? Any tips for storage when you have five people in a 2 bedroom house?

    • Mary H. says:

      I was told one time to think about the valuable real estate. In large cities, when they want to build more, they build UP. So look around you. Is there a spot in your house somewhere that you could put a shelf like the one above? Don’t let any space go to waste. (My grocery storage area is under my stairs leading to the basement. My mother-in-law calls it my commissary. lol My toiletries storage is under my mstbth vanity. All extra meds are in a plastic bin in the linen closet.)

      • Jessica says:

        I wish… My under-beds and closets are packed, no stairs at all, only 1 bathroom with about 2 cubic feet of under-vanity space, linen closet drawers are full of toiletry stockpile, and the garage averages about 110 in the summer…

        I think it’s time for a bigger house but we can barely afford the one we have now.

        • Mary H. says:

          We need a bigger house too since our unexpected, but happy surprise. lol Like Heather below did in her small apartment, use space as it is not intended is another big tip I’ve learned.

          (Tried to leave a comment on your blog, but wouldn’t let me for some reason.)

        • Koree says:

          Mine is ghetto in my 700 sq. feet of space. I just fill a clear storage bin. If it doesn’t fit there I can’t add anymore to the stockpile. Of course it’s just lil ole me so I don’t need much. I heard some suggest the tops of the fridge??

        • Catherine says:

          We have a similar problem. There are 7 of us in a single-wide mobile home (about 900 square feet) and there is only one closet in the whole house. To cope, we use bookshelves and armoires that go nearly to the ceiling. We’ve made some difficult decisions about what to keep and what to pass on. Just asking the question “Have we used it in the past year?” is no longer good enough. Now we ask “Do we have anything else that could perform a similar function?” and “Would life really be unthinkable without it?” I recently donated a couple hundred pounds of stuff that didn’t make the cut. We also put risers under my husband’s and my bed (the kids all sleep in bunk beds, so risers wouldn’t work) so we could fit taller boxes and our emergency water (gallon jugs).

        • Donna C says:

          I know this comment is really old, but I would like to offer a few suggestions. Some people take the books off their book shelves, stack cans in a single layer, and put the books back. Same for behind (or under) furniture like the couch.

      • Danielle B says:

        I would suggest looking around on Erika Shupe’s blog, Large Families on Purpose. She has a family of 11 in an 1100 sq.ft. home. She has a whole section where she explains how they completely decluttered their home, and some really neat ideas for how to rearrange things to get the most mileage out of each square foot.

        My family of 5 lives in a 2 bedroom townhome too, with a little less then 900 sq.ft., so I do really feel for your situation. Erika’s blog has helped me brainstorm some new ideas though, and maybe it will help you too! 🙂

      • Laura says:

        I also feel your pain since we are in the same situation – 5 people in a 890 sq ft 2 bed/2 bath condo (plus a 1 car garage that we HAVE to park a car in). I utilize our small storage closet off our patio – I recently purchased 2 Sterilite utility cabinets from and use those. 1 cabinet is for food and 1 is for household items. Those have transformed my stockpiling ability. I wish I could do more but am thankful that I can do that much. When they are full, then I have to stop stockpiling. Also, somebody mentioned making use of vertical space and I heartily agree!

    • Koree says:

      They make rolling storage that slides under the bed. I used one in college.

      • Betsy says:

        I added open shelving to one wall of my kitchen. It’s a 1950s, 3/1 house with 5 of us, not that big. I have 3 kitchen drawers! But, the shelving helps. I keep everything pretty on there, and I use hidden storage (my few cabinets) for uglier stuff. I also try to make sure that stuff has dual purpose. Our TV sits on a dresser, so I can use those drawers for storage. My night stand holds real stuff, not just junk. And, the back of some of my closet doors have those over the door shoe organizers to hold various things. We have a shelf way above the freezer and above the washer/dryer, as well as another on the wall, in our utility room. It’s a tightly packed room that my kids aren’t even allowed in. LOL.

        • Kristine says:

          I can relate to your post so much. We rent a 1950s townhome, three bedrooms, about 875 square feet. Our kitchen has one drawer and three cabinets. I use one cabinet for dishes, one for food, and one for spices/baking supplies. Whatever won’t fit in the cabinets goes on a couple of sturdy metal shelves that I bought for our kitchen when we first moved in (like the shelves in the photo above). I also have a couple of plastic containers with drawers for silverware and towels. We have over-the-door shoe organizers on some of our doors, too, and over-the-door towel hooks in our one bathroom. We also have stuff stored under all of our beds, and our utility room is tightly packed, too. So we really have no space to stock up on extra food and household supplies. I really miss the freezer that we used to have in our garage when we rented a bigger house, but we have no garage now and no basement. It’s tough sometimes living in such a small place, but I guess the good thing is that it’s less space to clean.

      • Also, 16 buckets will fit under a twin-sized bed. You can make them low (3 gallon size) or higher (5-6 gallon size). If you’re storing bulk items like rice, beans, wheat, and sugar, the buckets can stay sealed until you need them.

    • Meredith says:

      I remember reading someone else’s idea of putting shelving around the top of their laundry room and using that for extra storage. I don’t know if you have a laundry or mudroom that has insulation (I understand the HOT summer (and even COLD winter) months – we also don’t store anything in any space that is un-regulated temperature-wise) – but maybe that would be an option? I know you probably don’t want shelving like that in the main living spaces/bedrooms, but anywhere else, even the bathroom – just for wrapped bathroom tissue, boxes of tissues, etc. that would still look neat and tidy might work. HTH!

    • Danielle B says:

      I would suggest looking around on Erika Shupe’s blog, Large Families on Purpose. She has a family of 11 in an 1100 sq.ft. home. She has a whole section where she explains how they completely decluttered their home, and some really neat ideas for how to rearrange things to get the most mileage out of each square foot.

      My family of 5 lives in a 2 bedroom townhome too, with a little less then 900 sq.ft., so I do really feel for your situation. Erika’s blog has helped me brainstorm some new ideas though, and maybe it will help you too!

  • Monica says:

    I don’t have the space for something like this! It’s way too hot out here in the desert to store things in the garage. All I have is my pantry. =(

    • Danielle B says:

      Maybe you could create an area in the garage to store all your paper products, cleaning products, anything in bedroom closets that is just “stored” in bedroom closets, etc. and then use that cleared space to store food items?
      Another idea is something I’m currently using. I bought a set of four bedpost raisers from Wal-Mart for about $10 a few months ago. (It’s a black block that you set the foot of each of your bedrails in and it raises the bed up. This wouldn’t work for some depending on what type of bed you have.) Then I use under-the-bed storage boxes with wheels on the bottom to store various canned food, boxes, etc. Just an idea! HTH! 🙂

      • Crystal says:

        That what I was thinking. If you have any room in the garage and you have anything in the house that could be put in the hot garage (maybe the stuff under your bed?), you could free up that space for some extra pantry storage!

    • We’re in the desert, too.

      We decided food was more important than parking the car in the garage; we built a walk-in-pantry with insulated walls and a window a/c unit on one indoor wall. We did it on the outside wall at our last house, and the 120º temperatures were too much on the outside one; it frosted over. However, on an inside wall, it’s fine, and it can be removed in the event of selling your house. The garage door stays put; you just don’t open it.

      Turns out we were right about the food being more important when we lived off that food for a few years.

      • Monica says:

        Hmm… half the garage is a gym and the other is used to park 1 of our 3 cars. I use a small space on top of our outside fridge for paper and plastic stuff in the garage. I should really consider re-organizing and using my closet space too! Thanks for your ideas! =)

  • AngelicMama says:

    As the wife of an autoworker, you NEVER know when a layoff will arise, sometimes they are expected, most times they are not! Having a well stocked pantry is a key for us. Not just non perishable/frozen foods but cleaning/personal care/baby/first aid/etc products!

    I get made fun of a LOT because I coupon like a mad woman and I always am stocking up. My opinion, better to be safe then sorry, because one day he could be making $34 CDN an hour and the next, nothing! We need to be prepared! Love this post!!!

    • Carrie says:

      I’m sorry you get made fun of 🙁 It’s so frustrating when people don’t understand a frugal lifestyle!

    • shoppingfool says:

      I am with you. My spouse is a mechanic and the pay is so flucuating and scary that my stockpile is a must. I’ve been made fun of as well, but no longer care, because when it all comes down, my family is well taken care of and I no longer have to fear the slow times.

  • Great post! I love my stockpile and keep a similar one…luckily it all fits in my pantry!

  • Linda H. says:

    I have the same problem as Monica. The only space I have for something like this would be the garage but in the desert (AZ) the only thing that would survive out there for very long is the paper products and I already have plenty of space for that kind of stuff in the hall closet that is already doubling as cleaning storage.

    • Andrea says:

      Could you move the paper products and some household products (that wouldn’t be affected by the heat) out to the garage so you can have more space in the house for the food items that can’t be in the heat?

    • sarah says:

      Can you move the paper and cleaning products to the garage and use the hall closet for food?

      • Linda H. says:

        The paper products, yes, but not the cleaning products or at least not all of them. Have you ever seen a can of Air-freshener or liquid fabric softener blow up? Well, I’ve never seen it in progress but I’ve had to clean up the mess afterwards! o.O

        But, paper products, I suppose I could keep a smaller amount of TP and move the kleenex & paper towels to the garage and then maybe use some fabric bins to hide the various canned stuff. Not sure I like the idea of pasta & various baking products near all my linens. There is the chance of bugs, either from disuse or even by contamination from when I bought the stuff .. rare but happens.

        Thanks =D

        • shoppingfool says:

          Plastic containers can be your best friend for this. I kept a large portion of my shelf stable items in an outer lockable closet. To avoid pest problems, I bought cheap plastic containers with snap lids from Walmart or Dollar General and labeled and filled them. They stacked making it neat and kept everything dry and sealed.

    • Monica says:

      I’m in Palm Springs! Paper/plastic that’s all that can go outside.

    • Andrea Q says:

      We lived in Las Vegas for four years. During the cooler months, my stockpile was larger, because I could keep it in the garage.

  • Heather says:

    Thank you so much for publishing my Well Stocked Pantry! I confess that it has grown a bit bigger since this post!

    For those who are asking, I keep this stockpile in the basement. We are fortunate enough to have the storage space now, but prior to this, when we lived in a 400 sq ft (crazy small!) apartment, I used a linen closet – I just kept my towels and sheets under the sink!

    Heather @ Fake-It Frugal

  • Amanda says:

    I just started stockpiling 3-4 months ago. Last week, my husband lost his job, so money is going to be really tight until he can find a new one. Thank God we have our stockpile so we won’t be spending unnecessary money! Just another reason to keep a stocked pantry!

  • Mmmm.. emergency cake.. I think I need an emergency cake right now!!!


  • Anna Lewis says:

    Great post. In our church (I’m Mormon) we’re asked to keep a year’s supply of food in case of emergency so that picture reminded me a lot of my parent’s basement. 🙂 We live in a small apartment so we are still struggling to find room. You can request a free pamphlet about starting your own food storage here:

  • Sam says:

    I’m slowly restocking my stock pile, I have to tell you, I had a good 4 months+ (and could have lasted longer) right before I broke my wrist and was out of work for 7 weeks.. We’re still playing catch up and now that I’m recieving full paychecks and after this week we’ll be all caught up, I’ll be able to restock (and my husband will NEVER complain again, since we didn’t have to worry about food until the very end).. In otherwords, Stock piles rock!

  • Meredith says:

    Well said! I keep a list of what I know I’ll use for 6 months of meals so I don’t have the problem of under or overstocking on pantry deals. (I have three menus of meals that each last a month that I repeat twice.) (I know some prefer to plan meals by the grocery ads or just cook on a whim – I’m not the best cook, and this way I can make things I know will be edible 😉 and much of it is based on things I am able to get on sale regularly anyways.) I also try to keep an eye on how many personal care items we go through (rolls of bathroom tissue, boxes of tissues, deoderant, etc.) and stock up just enough on those things as well.

    • susan says:

      Would you mind sharing your 6 months of meals. I’m not a very good cook either and would love to have a months worth of meals that are easy to make that I could rotate 🙂

      • Meredith says:

        Sure – you’d have to Google/search on the titles to find similar recipes b/c I don’t think I could fit all the instructions on here 😉 (some are actually Crystal’s recipes, some are throw-together things that don’t need a recipe). My husband is allergic to soy, peanuts, beans & most legumes so if our menu looks meat heavy that’s why. I’m sure there’s LOTS of places you could add them in/ substitute them for some/all of the meat. B/c it’s just us & a newly-turned 5 yo, I’m often able to freeze half of what I’ve made & just use that the next month instead of making from scratch again, which helps our budget. My husband usually has a cold sandwich too on soup nights to fill him up more. Some recipes are on more than one list, & we don’t eat them in this order. 🙂 I am able to stock our pantry & freezer in advance knowing what ingredients I’ll use over the course of 3-6 months. Good luck!
        Recipe “Group” A – Texas Ranch Chicken, Chicken Quesadillas, Marinated Grilled Shrimp, Chili Pie w/Cheesy Potato Topping, Spaghetti w/Meat Sauce, Chicken w/Zucchini & Pasta, Amazing Greek Pasta, Chicken Breasts w/Balsamic Vinegar & Garlic, Simple Lemon Herb Chicken, Freezer Vegetable Soup, Rosy Potato Soup, Best Cream Of Broccoli Soup, Carrot/Potato Soup, Chicken Spaghetti, Burrito Pie, Delicious Chicken Casserole, Easy Enchilada Casserole, Baked Salmon (my husband makes this & switches up how he makes it), BBQ Pulled Pork or Chicken Sandwiches, Marie’s Easy Slow Cooker Pot Roast, Quick Chick, Hedgehogs, Picadillo (I’m not sure what this’ll bring up for you in Google; my husband is Cuban & this is seasoned ground beef, tomato (not pasta) sauce, onion, garlic, raisins & green olives served w/rice), Pineapple Chicken, Ground Beef Tacos, Chicken w/Onions & Adobo (again, another Cuban thing. Adobo is a kind of seasoning salt & he cooks thin sliced chicken & onions w/it & served w/rice; not to be confused w/some sort of canned chiles that also have the name adobo on the can) – I am missing one recipe on this list; we’ve decided we don’t really care for a soup I had been making; gotta find a replacement!
        Recipe “Group” B – Baked BBQ Chicken, Marinated Grilled Shrimp, Cabbage Sloppy Joes, Brats, Chili on Baked Potatoes, Chicken Tetrazini, Penne Primavera, Mexican-Style Goulash, Hearty Pasta Tomato Soup, Lasagna Soup, Fresh Pea Soup (I use a bag of frozen shelled sweet peas), Carrot/Potato Soup, Absolute Best Potato Casserole, Pizza Bubble, Fiesta Chicken & Rice, Company Casserole, Chicken Spaghetti, Quick Chick, French Dip Sandwiches, Slow Cooker Beef Stroganoff I, Marie’s Easy Slow Cooker Pot Roast, Crockpot Broccoli Beef, Beef Hot Dogs, Breakfast for Supper, Ground Beef Tacos, Chicken w/Onions & Adobo
        Recipe “Group” C – Spaghetti w/Meat Sauce, Marinated Grilled Shrimp, Chicken w/Garlic, Basil & Parsley, Chili on Baked Potatoes, Fish Sticks, Potato Pierogies w/Cheddar & Leeks, Cheeseburger Macaroni, Pasta w/Alfredo Sauce & Broccoli, Angel Hair Pasta Chicken, Freezer Vegetable Soup, Split Pea Soup, Best Cream of Broccoli Soup, Bachelor’s Vegetable Soup, Broccoli Chicken Casserole I, Burrito Pie, Potato Lasagna (potatoes in place of noodles), Easy Meatloaf, Chicken Parmesan, Au Gratin Potatoes & Ham, Quick Chick, Hedgehogs, Picadillo, Breakfast for Supper, Ropa Vieja (another Cuban recipe) w/rice, Chicken w/Onions & Adobo, Hot Dogs

    • Meredith,
      I’m with Susan, I’d love to see your list of meals if you are willing to share. One thing I struggle with is meal planning and often find myself in a rut making the same meals over and over again. I’m always looking for quick, easy and tasty meals to add to my arsenal!

  • Heather says:

    Another reason to have a well-stocked pantry? Insurance! More than once, pantry and freezer have been a HUGE help in getting us through a financial rough spot. They also come in handy when you know you will need to be able to not do much shopping for a bit…like now, for us. We have a new baby due in a few weeks, and I’m to the point where hiking through stores with my two preschoolers is not exactly my favorite thing. And I know I’m not going to want to do so the first few weeks after the baby comes, either. For many of the items that belong in your pantry, you will be better off going through a bulk-type co-op, like than messing around with the grocery store, anyway. Prices and quality are generally both better.

  • chelsea says:

    I would love to set something like this up in our basement, but I’d have to padlock it with steel doors to keep my kids out. I already have trouble keeping them out of the upstairs pantry! They see shelving, they think “climb!” 🙂

  • Annaruth says:

    Love it! When ever I hear those dreaded words, ” Babe, do we have anymore…,” I love saying, just check the shelf of deals! It makes it even better knowing I spent very litte money on it!

  • Denise says:

    Our well stocked pantry has been a great blessing to us. Recently I went 5 wks w/out shopping except for milk, butter, etc bc our truck needed $700 worth of work. My husband was so thankful, as he was already stressed about the repairs. It is a great thing to do, if you can find a way. One thing I do is call local health food stores – if you order, they happily sell in bulk, and for big discounts, usually. I get 50# of quick oats at mine for 27.99, a great deal, considering the lg. canisters in Wal-Mart are now $3.42. Flour, yeast, sugar, molasses, barley, all kinds of things. My store has an order sheet they can give you, and every year at tax return time we pick 5-6 things to order to get us nearly thru the year.

    • Kate says:

      I used to work at a health food store – ours gave a 10% bulk discount. Another thing to consider is that they might be able to order cheaper versions of things – for instance, they might only carry organic brown rice in the store, but might be able to order a 25 lb bag of non-organic brown rice for a lower price. It’s worth asking.

  • Just want to add one thing. It’s OK to buy something that you don’t consume. I buy things that we won’t consume if its FREE (drugstore game) or almost free. 3 Weeks back, I donated all the items that I’m not consuming to a local food bank. They were overwhelmed. The satisfaction I got was much bigger than getting 50 of my favorite things for FREE. Happy couponing 🙂

  • Lisa says:

    A really good post, but wanted to add that the opportunity to GIVE is another really important reason to have a great stockpile!!

  • AnneJisca says:

    We used to live in a very small place too, but I always had a well-stocked item. I agree: build UP! Is there extra wall space in your kitchen? Put a shelf up! (above sink, doorway, etc) Put your prettier dishes on the shelf, and it opens up some cupboard space to stock up! There’s almost always space, get creative. 🙂

  • Lena P says:

    Can someone advise me on where to get these shelves? And of course I would like to pay as little as possible. I have been seing this exact shelves in every small neighbourhood store. They look like they can last for centuries and sturdy. Please help me. 🙂

    Crystal, may be you could make a separate post for shelving/container solution, since we all couponers seem to need this kind of advice. 🙂

    • Rachel says:

      I’d like more info on this, too! I wouldn’t mind putting up some shelving in my basement so that I can spread my stockpile out a little better, so I can see/manage things, but I don’t really want to spend more on shelving than I actually spent on the stockpile!

    • We have Gorilla shelves that we bought at Sam’s Club. They can handle the weight of LOTS of cans of food, and hundreds of canning jars, and 6 gallon buckets of beasn, oats, sugar, wheat, rice, etc.

    • Amy says:

      I found my shelves at Aldi. If there’s one near one, check now and then. I see them every so often.

    • Mary H. says:

      My local Kmart has them on sale this week for $34.99, reg. price $39.99

    • Heather says:

      Actually, it’s a funny story about those shelves! Target was selling the 3 tiered shelving for $12 each and the 5 tiered shelving for $35 each…I figured out that the 3 tiered shelving could easily be stacked, so I ended up buying up all of their 3 tier shelves and saved $52, PLUS I got 4 extra shelves out of the deal!

      Cheers! Heather @ Fake-It Frugal

    • shoppingfool says:

      Big Lots was great for the large shelves.

    • Angie says:

      We received our shelves for free when a local store was remodeling. We simply asked for the shelves and they were happy to get rid of them. These shelves are super sturdy.

  • Brooke says:

    I love your pantry! I would like to get a better pantry system going but I dont know how to put together meals just by looking at what I have on hand. Seems like I am always missing something to complete a meal. Also, have you found a great way to organize your pantry? I need help on both subjects!

  • Meredith says:

    I just don’t eat this much processed food. One if there were some magical pantry that stored veggies and fruits for that long, I’d be set. With what miniamal processed food we do keep, it’s stuff that isn’t coupon worthy and always the same price. So a months worth is good enough.

    • Courtney says:

      We don’t eat much processed food either, but we’ve been able to amass a large stockpile of healthy foods at low prices just by keeping a close eye on sales. Our pantry is full of things like rice, beans, oats, wheat, baking supplies, canned veggies & fruits, dried fruits, canned tuna & salmon, olive oil, pasta, etc. – all of it purchased at rock bottom sale prices.

      • Meredith says:

        Sounds like our pantry minus the meat! I buy at rock bottom prices too. I just don’t have something as full as above. I wish that ther was a magical potion to keep frsh fruits and veggies fresh for months without freezing!

      • beth b says:

        Same here. Our co-op sells 5lb bags of various bulk items and I buy all my beans that way. It’s more expensive than the big box store but a ton cheaper than canned. My husband makes fun of me because I have A Thing about having stores of dried beans and canned tomatoes on hand. My next goal is to start grinding my own flour and keep bulk wheatberries

        Does anyone buy brown rice in bulk? Our grocery store only carries big bags of white. Maybe I should call our co-op and see what they can do for me.

        My parents gardened and preserved so much of our food it instilled the idea of stocking up for the winter. This time of year my stores are running low but I’ll build them up the next few months.

        • Kate says:

          I buy brown rice in bulk from a local health food store. Ask at your co-op if you could buy a full 25lb or 50lb bag. Most small stores are happy to special order something for you that they might not carry regularly – and give a slight discount. They probably already get the bigger bags and then re-package things for resale. You could also ask about buying your beans that way while you’re at it to see if you could get them a bit cheaper – can’t hurt to ask!

    • Cara Ivey says:

      Instead of pantry, I’d go for big freezer!! My family eats mainly a whole foods diet, I try to make EVERYTHING from scratch. When I see fruit for sale (I recently bought TONS of Mangos), I ripen them to perfection, dice em up and freeze them. I know it’s not as good as fresh fruits and vegetables, but it’s a good feeling to have a plentiful supply of fruit and veggies for those tight budget weeks! Also, stocking up on lean meats and fish is a great reason to get a freezer! I don’t have one yet, and my freezer is packed FULL!! I have to add extra shelves in it just to keep it all organized. Can’t wait to get a big ole freezer!

      • Kristine says:

        I would go for a freezer, too. We used to have a big freezer in our garage, but then we had to downsize to a small townhome (with no garage), so we don’t have room for a freezer anymore. I really miss it.

      • Spendwisemom says:

        I think it is good to have a freezer as well as a pantry stocked up. If the electricity went out, and you ended up losing the stuff in the freezer, you would still have the food in the pantry. I would compare it to an investment portfolio in a way. It is good to diversify and have different investments and it is good to have different kinds of food to store. For example, you can have frozen blueberries, dehydrated blueberries and freeze dried blueberries.

  • Michelle says:

    Home Depot has those sort of shelves, they aren’t cheap but they can hold 500lbs+/shelf. Getting the shelves that can support some weight is very important if you are going to use them to stockpile anything. I’ve had to go investigate the “crash” in the night and find my cheapo plastic shelves broke and not everything is on the ground (with about 1/2 of it broke or damaged somehow).

    I keep all my paper goods out in the garage and those under the bed rolling storage containers are great. You can also get small lifts to put under the feet of your bed(s) that lifts them just enough to get a real storage container under them. I used them in college. You don’t even notice the height difference but it makes a huge difference in storage space.

    Having a well stocked pantry can make the difference between things being an inconvenience and an emergency. I’ve been stuck at home due to blizzards, and sick kids, before and because I keep a stocked house it wasn’t an issue. After the last time I went the extra step to get dried milk and dried eggs. With a couple dried basics you can really cook out of the cabinets for quite some time without “having” to go shopping. I’m not LDS but I do believe in some of their food storage principles.

  • elizabeth says:

    I have been on bedrest since the 10th week of my ciurrent pregnancy. Praise God for my stockpile. My DH has been great about grocery runs/take-out meals, etc. But it is not the same as my previous weekly trips to the store. Having rice, pasta, sauces, canned soups, meats etc in bulk has been a nice help, particularly with lunches now that the kids are home from school. I am now at the point where my stockpile has pretty much dwindled down. I still have a lot of rice, some dry beans and tomatoes, but that’s about it. I will definitely need to get a list together and add a lot more “convenience” and snacky type foods for this season in our lives. My mom used to complain about the stockpile that was “taking over my house” but I told her the other day, that this is exactly the reason why I have it!!

    • Meredith says:

      Bless your heart. I’m at 37 weeks and have been on bed rest since sometime after 13 weeks – it is a challenge to say the least. Our stockpile and menu planning (thank you for always encouraging it Crystal!!) has gotten us through. Now it’s safe for me to be up and around since this point is considered full term; I am hopeful you have friends and family who can drop a supper off to you even once a month – it helps more than anyone knows and can really lift your spirits. Good luck!!

    • Danielle B says:

      Bless your heart. I can’t imagine being on bed rest from the 10th week on. Sometimes I think my life is hard and then God always has a way to give me a good dose of “reality”. Hopefully you’re getting very close to the big date? My family will be lifting you up in prayer.

    • Oh my goodness! What a blessing that you had your stockpile to fall back on, what great planning on your part! Hang in there, I hope things get easier for you!

  • Michelle says:

    Recently I was looking through an outdated “handyman” type book and saw an idea where they added space to a closet by putting shoe storage under the floor. They just stylishly made a door that you open up to storage space between the floor joist. Obviouly you can’t do this in an apartment but that is really thinking outside the box. I have also seen where people will open a section of wall and put shelves between the studs to store canned goods. Then they use a section of wall paneling to conceal it so it just looks like a wall. Just look around at every spot there is space, even tiny space, and think “could I fill that with something other than air?” =)

  • So funny you posted this, I was just thinking about doing a post on the same subject! We have been building up our pantry over the last year. Now that we are expecting our next child in January I’ve moved it up the priority list. I want to make sure we are well-stocked for my maternity leave so it is one less thing we’ll have to worry about 🙂

  • Mel says:

    I enjoyed this post and the photo has inspired me to organize my stockpile a little better. I’m a bit jealous of your perfect stacks and rows!! I’m going to work on that RIGHT NOW…… ; )

  • panic9899 says:

    I agree so much in stock piling. This week was a tough one with only 8.00 in the bank.. but with the stockpile i have our family of 6 ate for the whole week.

  • Becca W says:

    I read most of the posts, and was thinking there are some really great ideas! My biggest problems are having storage space that’s easy to pack up and move, and not overstocking so much that we can’t use it all before we move! (The companies that move us do not allow things like glass or plastic bottles with oil, vinegar, shampoo, conditioner, lotions, toothpaste, candles, etc… or anything that might get messy! Some of the packers have gone so far as to say we couldn’t take any of our opened dry goods and spices. I don’t mind giving friends some of the extra stuff we have when it’s time to go, but I hate feeling like I wasted our money on stuff we were not able to use or transport!)

    Thanks Danielle (I think!) for the link to the Large Families on Purpose site! ( Will have to check it out. Maybe that would help us get started decluttering for our next move in March/April!!!

    • Danielle B says:


      I love Erika’s site. And the whole reason they learned to declutter was because they were trying to move and sale their home. I thought I had decluttered as much as I possibly could in my home and then I saw her home. Over the next week I was able to let go of almost 4 more bags of “stuff” from our home! It was amazing.
      I hope it helps!

  • Bob says:

    We use an old TV armoire (the deep kind with slide-back doors) out in the garage for our stockpile of groceries so the little “creatures” can’t easily get in. Since a lot of people have gone to flat screen tv’s, these old cabinets are readily available for cheap.

    I used the stockpile this year to load my brother up on three boxes of stuff (one for food, one for toiletries, and one for cleaning supplies) since he just moved to this country.

  • Good stuff! We take a different take. We have a gluten free stocked pantry. I also highly recommend powdered eggs and milk. With those items you can make almost anything…including those cake mixes. We prefer to stock more natural and or organic items. It works for us… 😉

  • Mable says:

    Does anyone have husbands who don’t want a stockpile of food? Mine doesn’t. I have to admit he has a point. I had a small stockpile last year of a few food items that rarely went on sale where I lived, and I had a health issue which necessitated a diet change so I had to throw a few of them away. (He didn’t like these food items). Sort of negated the savings.
    This also recently happened with a few toiletry items in cardboard containers- we had a mold issue and they were up against the moldy side of a piece of furniture and I decided it just wasn’t worth it and tossed them. The savings were negated in this instance as well. If you live in an area prone to mold I would also rethink the under the bed storage- you might need the air circulation under the mattresses.

    • Mable, We have quite a large “stock pile” although it’s more like food storage…kinda the same thing, but I stock everything not just sale items. My husband doesn’t like it so much, but we have been in positions where it really ‘saved’ us. So he does see the benefit, but he hates that it takes up so much room.

    • Kate says:

      I’ve also lost a few things – 10 lb of organic mozzarella, for instance, and that was really upsetting when I had to pitch it. We are also constantly trying to narrow down my husband’s food allergies, and I recently thought I’d made a great score by buying a case of the cookies he liked for a great price, but when we got them we realized that they were making him sick. Sigh. In the long run, however, I’d say my savings have more than offset any losses.

  • It’s funny that so many people think that building a stockpile takes so much work. To me it takes a lot more work to always have to run out to the store for things. A well stocked pantry is such a blessing. It also enables you to give to others in a way you might not have otherwise been able to.

  • Kristen Trappett says:

    I love the part about not having too much!!! Watching extreme couponing last week I just get floored!! Who needs over 100 deoderants or over 300 toilet paper rolls, I mean really!! I love reading and seeing stories (and pictures) like yours a modest 1 family supported food storage, well organized and obviously doable!! Thanks for helping me see I am not the only one for having a practical well stocked pantry.

    • Andrea Q says:

      Between the six of us and four bathrooms, we use about 1 roll of toilet paper a day. I keep about 30 rolls on hand, but even 300 is not that much if you’ve got a big family that home a lot (and a lot of girls). 🙂

  • cathi carpenter says:

    So well said…you touched on all the things that I tell my friends when they think I’m “nuts”…well “nuts” or not… it’s good to be able to whip up muffins for my son and his friend…we babysat her a couple of times this past month…she was here right around bfast, so it was nice to be able to serve a guest and not SCRAMBLE to do it…’s nice that on nights I’m running around like a fool with two jobs, my sons activities, my hubby working o.t…’s good to be able to, at the VERY least, throw together tuna cassarole or pasta marinara….

    Again, thanks for touching on the IMPORTANT points of this…! 🙂

  • Spendwisemom says:

    Great post. It is nice not to have to go to the store every time you need something. You just need to run down to the basement! I do buy a lot of fresh produce. I make my own bread so I don’t have to ever go to the store for that. We freeze milk when it is on a good sale, but we regularly need eggs.

  • Elizabeth says:

    This is impressive…if this is how you eat. I have no choice but to run to the market, grocery store, etc every 4 or 5 days because my family eats so many fruits and vegetables; we don’t buy 2 weeks of fruit and vegetables at one time (some items would spoil and not taste as fresh). Coupons are not as abundant for “whole foods” AND whole foods can’t be kept in the pantry. As for a “stock pile” in the freezer, that can become a challenge in an energy “crisis”. Aside from rice and pasta, our pantry looks nothing like this.

  • Winona says:

    A well stocked pantry like this also means that there is no lack of rations in case of a natural disaster or emergency. You know they always say you need to be prepared for at least 3 days (if not longer) for every person and pet in your household. I think this pantry is perfect for that.

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