Stocking a Pantry With Staples and More

by kevinw1

Learn how to: stock your pantry without breaking the bank, decide what to store, find the money to stock up, and work out how much to buy so you'll eat it before it gets too old.

How to Start Stocking a Pantry

Shelves stocked with pantry staplesIf you go looking online, you'll find all kinds of lists telling you what you "should" have in your pantry. While you can use them as a useful starting point to decide what should be in your pantry, just using somebody else's list is a recipe for disappointment. What should be in your pantry depends on what you eat, how you cook, how much storage space you have, where you live, who lives with you, and a number of other factors.

So, where to start? How do you choose what to store, when you don't have the space or money for "everything"? One way to start is to simply buy and store one extra of everything you normally eat. So, when you run out of rice and would normally buy just one package, buy two: one for use, and one for the pantry. Then, when you finish the "in use" package, buy another, store it in the pantry, and move the one that has been stored in the pantry into use.

This method has a number of advantages:

  • You store foods you normally eat
  • You don't have to spend a lot of money all at once
  • You naturally rotate new foods into the pantry and older foods into use
  • You can build your "stock the pantry" project into your everyday shopping

This is a great way to get your pantry started. However, you may have some purposes for your pantry that this method won't address. If you are planning some serious food storage, or stocking a pantry as part of emergency preparedness, then you'll probably want to buy at least some items in bulk, to get a price break.

Pantry pictures

Old-fashioned pantry
Old-fashioned pantry
Licensed from
Home canning
Home canning
Licensed from
Modern working pantry
Modern working pantry
Personal photo (c) ...

How to Find the Money to Stock Your Pantry

One challenge that many of us face, when we want to begin buying in bulk or stocking up, is finding the money. Especially in economic hard times, squeezing the extra money out of the budget to buy 40lb of rice at once instead of a pound or two at time may be difficult. However, if you can find an extra $5 a week for about 3 months, you can stock a pantry: not instantly, but over time. Sharon Astyk has done a great job setting out this method, and you can find all the details here: 

Not Quite so Quickie Food Storage

Sharon has also written an excellent book about food storage and food security called "Independence Days: A Guide to Sustainable Food Storage & Preservation", which I highly recommend - link to is below, but you can also find it through your local bookstore.

And Kathy Harrison has a very good post about watching your pennies when stocking up on food: Watching your Pennies: How Much to Buy

Judging how much to buy of something requires some knowledge of how much of it you eat, and how long it will stay good in your storage conditions. For example, perhaps you eat brown rice once a week, and it takes a cup of dry rice to make enough for a meal for your family. Brown rice can only be stored for 6 months in normal packaging at room temperature before the oils in it start to go rancid (which you may or may not be able to taste, but which isn't good for you). 1 cup of rice weighs 200g or just under half a pound. So, in 6 months (26 weeks) you will use around 13lb of brown rice, and that's the most you should buy at once for pantry storage. If you can store it in the fridge or freezer, then you can keep it for longer and buy more at once.

"Independence Days" - food preservation and storage by Sharon Astyk

Independence Days: A Guide to Sustain...
New Society Publishers
$15.14  $68.99

The Modern Kitchen Pantry (Kindle eBook)

How to create, design and use your pantry
The Modern Kitchen Pantry: How to Design, Create and Use Your Pantry
Only $3.99
Updated: 12/07/2016, kevinw1
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kevinw1 on 07/02/2011

That's a really good question. A quick bit of digging turned up the info on oils and fats here:
The whole food storage FAQ at that location is very interesting, but it's focused on long term food storage, so their grain storage details are about whole unmilled grains, not flours.
There's a flour storage guide here which has recommended times for different flours and different storage conditions:

sheilamarie on 07/02/2011

Because of where we live, we have to buy in bulk. You've got me thinking about how long I can keep certain things before they go rancid. If you have more information about that, I'd love to know more details. Maybe an idea for another Wizzle?
Thanks for this one!

pkmcr on 07/02/2011

Really good advice for someone who wants to ensure their pantry is well stocked

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