A well-stocked pantry is the secret to eating well while staying within your food budget. With the right ingredients on hand you can make inexpensive, delicious home cooked meals without running to the grocery store every day. Here are 5 tips that will help you stock your cupboards while saving money:
1. Use Your Favorite Recipes to Make a Pantry Stocking Plan.
Before you stock up, make a list of all the meals and snacks that your family likes to eat the most. Write down ingredients that show up again and again in your favorite recipes. Versatile foods that can be used in lots of recipes will be your best buy. Turn that list into a plan for which foods to buy. This simple trick will reduce waste and help you spend your food budget dollars where they will count the most.
2. Buy in bulk.
As a general rule, the more you buy the more you save. Buying in bulk requires an up front investment—but if you choose versatile foods that will remain fresh in your pantry for a long time you will save a whole lot of money in the long run. A list of useful foods that can be bought in bulk at a great discount includes:
- Grits (or polenta)
- Cooking oil
- Dried beans and peas
- Dehydrated vegetables
- Dried fruits
To stay within your monthly food budget while stocking up—buy bulk amounts of only one or two ingredients a month until your pantry is fully stocked. Use your pantry stocking plan to choose which ingredients to buy first.
3. Store All of Your Pantry Foods in Airtight Containers.
If properly stored, certain foods will last for years in your pantry. That means you can stock up in bulk without worrying about throwing away spoiled food (and avoid wasting money). Many staples will stay fresh for years when stored in airtight containers in a cool, dry location. For example, when stored properly:
- White rice will keep for a minimum of 4 to 5 years.
- Dry, uncooked macaroni and pasta will store for up to 3 years.
- Dried veggies and fruits will store for up to 2 years (and even longer in vacuum sealed bags).
4. Devote Half Your Pantry Space to Dried Vegetables and Fruits
Fresh produce can be expensive, especially when out of season, and it spoils quickly. But most recipes require vegetables. Doctors and nutritional experts have long recommended that we eat fruits and veggies on a daily basis. According to the website choosemyplate.gov the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends that fruits and vegetables make up at least a half of each meal. Dried fruits and vegetables are the solution to meeting your daily nutritional requirements while saving money.
Dehydrated vegetables and freeze dried fruits can be substituted for fresh in any recipe. They can be bought in bulk and last for years. Plus, they save a lot of space. One cup of our dried mixed peppers rehydrates to a full two and a half cups. A jumbo jug of our mixed peppers only takes up a small amount of space but contains 256 servings.
5. Beans, Beans, Beans
Beans are money saving pantry essentials. This nutrient rich source of protein can cheaply take the place of meat in many dishes: soups, stews, casseroles, chili, beans and rice, quesadillas, veggie burgers, and lots more. Best of all you can buy dried beans in bulk and they will store for 2 to 3 years.
Stocking your pantry with dried beans instead of canned can save you money. A 15 oz. can of black beans often contains up to 40% water. That means that 15 oz. container may only contain only about 9 oz. of beans. In comparison, a little over 4 oz. of dried beans will rehydrate into that same amount. Compare the cost of buying a bulk (25lbs.) supply of our black beans with the cost of buying that amount of canned beans. Remember that one cup of dried beans will rehydrate into a full two cups of cooked beans—so you’ll get twice the volume out of that box.
Hopefully some of these pantry tips will help you save money and eat well for a long time to come. If you have any other tips for saving money when stocking your pantry—please comment below. We would love to hear your thoughts.