Do you know your essential pantry staples in the kitchen? Six months ago I would have had a vague sense of what those were, but wouldn’t be able to confidently list them out for you. For the past six months though, I’ve been meal planning and paying close attention to my family’s preferences, habits, and our budget and can now say that I know what our pantry staples are.
Meal Planning Series
This is the fourth of a series on meal planning, be sure to check out the other posts too!
Meal Planning for Beginners: Step One
Meal Planning for Beginners: Step Two, Simple Weekly Menu Plan
Meal Planning for Beginners: Step Three, Groceries and Shopping
Meal Planning for Beginners: Step Four, Essential Pantry Staples (you are here!)
How to Know Your Essential Pantry Staples
When we think of pantry staples, the immediate things that come to mind are: eggs, milk, and bread. Those are definitely on my list, but there are many more items I’ve come to recognize as essential for our well stocked kitchen.
Step One: Writing down your meals
I’ve been able to figure out our families’ pantry essentials through weekly meal planning. Our meal planning is very simple because it’s heavily influenced by what the kids prefer and will eat. It’s also very predictable. There are meals that we eat every week and we’re perfectly happy with that at this stage of our lives. The simple act of writing those meals down, instead of fighting the predictability of it, has saved us time and money.The simple act of writing our #meals down has saved us time and money. #mealplanning #pantrystaples Click To Tweet
Step Two: Start a Price List
When we started to seriously budget this year, I started a “price list” of sorts in my Google Drive from the three different stores that I usually shop at. It doesn’t have to be fancy or terribly organized. It just has to be written down outside of your brain.
As I occasionally update the list with receipts in hand, it shows me the items that I buy over and over again on a weekly or monthly basis. I also keep a static grocery list on my phone in the Reminders app which was also a way for me to start my pantry staples list.
Step Three: Know Your Staple Recipes
I have several staple recipes that I use throughout the month that I know will “add” to the popularity of “what’s for dinner.” For example, I might plan a bean soup for dinner one night, which is not the absolute favorite of the children, but is instantly more agreeable to them with homemade drop biscuits. In order to make those, I know I need to have flour, butter, and milk on hand.
When my kids are home, like during Spring Break, I like to do a lot of baking for breakfast when the schedule allows and make sure they have homemade snacks. Flour and oatmeal are top pantry staples in our house for breakfasts and snacks. When we have homemade treats in the house the kids feel well fed, even when we’re at the end of the month and meal planning from the pantry.
If you’re like me and have never really written down your pantry staples before, I encourage you to take some time in the next month and work through these three steps.
- Observe and write down the things you notice, or have known all along, but never written down. Write down those meals that you have every week (for us, they are spaghetti/pasta, tacos, and some kind of soup).
- Next, take the last few grocery receipts or shopping lists and start a list of items you buy all the time.
- While you’re writing these lists, jot down the recipes that the ingredients are for – recipes that you know your family enjoys or things that you enjoy making and having around the house.
I’ll be sharing my pantry staples list in a future blog post. Everyone’s pantry staples will be different because our diets and lifestyles are so varied, but I think you’ll see a lot of common items that many of us will have in our pantries.
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Do you have a written out pantry staples list? Any other tips and tricks to figuring them out? I’d love to know in the comments!
I’ll be sharing this post at these fun link-ups.
Daisy @ Simplicity Relished says
This is wonderful, Angela! I think it’s especially important to have a running list of staples when you’re being intentional not to eat out all the time. Our staples consist of rice, beans, eggs, milk and our weekly produce from our community-supported agriculture. Oh, and wild canned sardines!
Hi Daisy! Yes absolutely. Thanks for sharing your staples! What do you eat with wild canned sardines?
Christy King says
We also make sure to have a bag of pasta and large can of tomatoes (scratch spaghetti sauce is easy!) so we always have something quick to make for dinner if our plans change.
Yes! That’s top on our list of pantry staples Christy. Pasta with red sauce is a go to around here as well.
Thanks for these helpful tips! I know that we used to waste a lot more food before we made a list of what we had. Every once in a while we do a freezer and pantry week to only eat items from our “inventory”. I love your idea of a price list in Google drive!
Hi Raquel! We’re trying that too ever since we started budgeting. We usually do it towards the end of the month to try and stay “on budget”. It’s fun to try and be creative…although my kids would probably say otherwise! 🙂
Lisa @ This Pilgrim Life says
I love the flexibility that having all my pantry staples in the kitchen gives me. I know that if I have at least most of the essentials on hand, there are a lot of recipes I can make.
I also love how knowing your pantry staples makes grocery shopping easier! And with multiple kids in tow, easier is definitely better 😉
It’s true Lisa! Having a list of pantry staples and shopping at the same stores makes grocery shopping much easier! I’m always so flustered in new stores with the unfamiliar layout – it takes me twice as long – but I’m beyond the multiple kids in tow stage so it’s not quite as flustering! Thanks for reading and commenting – I appreciate it!
Our staples include refried beans, spanish rice (I admit I use Uncle Ben’s in the microwave bag – my DD loves it), canned or frozen corn (for soups, mexican dishes, etc.) and chicken breasts. I have not sat down to make an actual list, but that is a great idea!
Hi Sue! No shame in using Uncle Bens – some days you need something quick and easy that’s a hit with the kids. We usually buy a few boxes of Annie’s mac and cheese when it’s on sale to have on hand for an easy lunch or dinner! Making a list really does help – let me know if you try it and if it makes a difference for you.
Great tips! I love knowing our pantry is stocked with our essentials because it means we don’t have an excuse to eat out- there’s never no food in the house.
Our staple is pasta, tomatoes (chopped and puree) and a few basic spices to make an instant sauce. Along with some frozen meatballs, there is always a go-to meal option. Trying not to eat out is a challenge we’ve taken on so we need to add to this staple list for sure. Thanks for the suggestions. #MMBH
These are great tips! I love making sure we have a well-stocked pantry to make our meals. We have so many go-to options for quick meals our staple list is probably about 10-20 items. It is so important to know what we have in our pantry in order to save on our groceries! Thanks for sharing with us again this week at Merry Monday!
Great tips. It is very difficult for me to list 3 items as essentials as Indian cooking involves lot of ingredients. But we always make sure we have yogurt and milk. Thank you for sharing it with us at #HomeMattersParty. We would love to have you again next week.
Erlene A says
Great tips. I have a few things that I always keep in the pantry for those “just in case” moments. For the most part, I make a weekly meal plan and list the ingredients that I need for the week and do a shopping list.
Marsha Blog says
These are great tips! Many thanks for sharing. It’s so useful.