Before I get into it you should know that when I talk about a pantry I am not referring to a place. To me, a pantry is a store of food and household items. It doesn't matter where it is kept. You do not need a large ceiling-to-floor cupboard or a walk in closet. Hide it in the laundry room or under the beds if that is where you have the space. Your pantry can be hidden throughout your entire house.
To create a pantry, you need to know what foods you cook with and the average price of those foods. It also helps to be aware of the sale cycle in your area. If you normally pay attention to prices and you are pretty good at remembering them, you probably already know that item sales go in cycles of about three months. If you're not really paying attention to prices, you may want to keep track of them in a book for awhile. It is hard to spot a deal if you do not know the every day price.
When an item goes on sale, that's the time to buy it. How much you buy depends on the savings offered, your budget, the expiration date, and how much you use. Always check the expiration and best before dates. Items will often go on sale as they reach their recommended shelf life. Your goal is to buy enough to last until the next sale or even more if you can.
There are a number of reasons a stocked pantry is beneficial. With a stocked pantry, you have more options for meals. You are ready if you get unexpected company. You are prepared for bad weather and poor travelling conditions. It saves money because you are buying items at a lower price. And the larger your pantry, the less you have to buy as prices increase (we know they won't be going down). You're not going to wake up one day and decide to stop eating, so why wouldn't you want to make your grocery money go as far as it can?
If you are on a tight budget, start with one or two items and work your way up to a full pantry. Eventually you will be able to buy most of your items on sale and shop from your pantry for your menu. This is the ultimate goal.
Use this method in combination with flyer sales and coupons to make your dollar stretch a little more. When you get to the point where you can shop sales only (mostly), you can stock even more as a hedge against inflation. Be sure to rotate your stock and watch the expiration dates.
I found the easiest way to make my master shopping list was to write out the meals we eat on a regular basis and then list the ingredients for those meals. I refer back to the meal list for menu planning and when I make my shopping list. My meal list does not include the meals made once a year or meals I plan to make someday. Only the tried and true meals are included in this list.
Your mission (should you choose to accept it) is to make a list of all the meals you normally make. Roasts, casseroles, meat and potatoes, rice dishes, pasta, stews, soups, stir fry dishes, sandwiches and more. If it is a meal at your house, include it on the list. If you already have a list of backup meals, use the same page and add to it. Don't worry about categories or themes. Keep the list out on your table or somewhere accessible because you will continue to think of meals to add to the list long after you think you have them all (if you're like me anyway).
Tomorrow I'm going to share some secrets about purchasing food. Not all of them will apply to everyone but I bet there's one or two that you can use.
See the whole series:
Menus and Meals
Locally Grown and Special Deals
Let's Plan Supper!
Breakfast and Lunch
Snackin and Munchin
Meal Plans: Putting It All Together (free printables)
Shopping and Prepping