Have you often wondered what you need in your food pantry to be properly prepared? Sometimes it’s hard to get started. It can be overwhelming sometimes, I know. This is one question people ask me whenever I’m asked to speak on food storage or how to stock a pantry.
I’m really lucky because my mom taught me how to stock a food pantry. Her example also taught me how to cook from scratch.
I remember years ago thinking, what can I fix for dinner tonight? Breakfast is easy, lunch is a snap. But dinner takes a little more thought regarding how to pull everything together.
My husband and I purchase ready-made salads every 10 days. That’s how long the salads last, according to the packaging.
Now, you may wonder why am I buying salads when I can make salads. Here’s the deal, in the summer when my garden is growing fabulous vegetables I can make my own salads.
But in the winter I calculated the price of these bagged salads with the dressing, nuts, etc. that you add before serving, it’s cheaper than if I bought all the stuff separately.
Plus, there is no waste. I understand many restaurants serve chopped salads from a bag, so I thought, why not? Unless you are eating at a 5-star restaurant, there’s a good chance they are serving bagged salads because they are a time saver.
I watch for them to go on sale, and life is good at dinner time with less time and money spent to prepare meals.
I can make something from my pantry to go with a fresh salad and dinner is ready in no time. Let’s get started, so you know what you need in your pantry.
What You Need in Your Food Pantry:
- White bread flour
- Peanut butter
- Jams and jelly
- Powdered eggs
- Instant milk
- Dehydrated onions
- Lemon juice
- Chicken broth
- Olive oil/Coconut oil
- Dehydrated or fresh potatoes
- Pasta: who loves spaghetti?
- Tomato paste or flakes
- Baking soda
- Baking powder
- Cream of tartar
- Canned meat
- Dehydrated carrots & celery
- Salsa and green chilies
What You Need In Your Pantry:
You can buy dried beans in a bag, or purchase ready-to-use canned beans. You can make soups, hummus, side dishes, or chili, and you have great protein for nutrition at the same time.
I can make a meal with beans and my favorite spices then add some tortillas and salsa. I don’t think the variety of beans is really important, whether pinto, black or others. Try them all and see what your family prefers.
White rice has a longer shelf life than brown rice, so I store very little brown rice. I can use rice to stretch so many frugal meals, love it! It’s fairly inexpensive, even in smaller bags. I love buying 25-50 pound bags of jasmine rice and filling my 5-gallon buckets with Gamma Lids attached.
We also have white rice in #10 cans. The shelf life is 30 years (unopened) because it is commercially packed compared to the bagged rice from supermarkets.
Mylar bags are a personal preference for some, but I don’t use them. Brown rice lasts about 6 months from the grocery store because it has a higher fat content than white rice. You can store brown rice in the refrigerator for 2-3 months longer if kept in an airtight container.
Some people make their own creamed soup from scratch. I buy Campbell’s cream of chicken by the case.
I can make just about any casserole or soup with it. I watch for the case lot sales in the fall. Be sure and check the expiration dates. Soups are particularly great when it’s cold outside, or when a family member isn’t feeling well. Again, try different brands and different varieties based on price, flavor, and how you plan to put them to use.
White Bread Flour:
If you can make bread you can barter and survive. Trust me, people love hot bread right out of the oven. You can make muffins, pancakes, waffles, cookies, cakes, and so much more with flour of any kind. Some people prefer all-purpose flour.
Over the years and with many different recipes, I’ve found bread flour to be the best solution for my baking needs. I call my bread recipe the no-fail approach to delicious bread. Many of my readers have reported super results.
Please remember, if you buy 25-50 pound bags, as I do, it is only good for 12-18 months. Please be safe, mold spores can develop in flour. Be safe, not sorry.
I purchase the brand SAF Yeast for my bread and biscuits. Period. I have not had good luck with other yeast brands. I store in the refrigerator the amount of yeast I will use for a month. Having fresh ingredients, particularly yeast, makes all the difference.
The rest of the packages I store in my freezer. They have lasted three years or more for me in the freezer if unopened. If you can’t find it where you live, you can buy it online: Saf Instant Yeast, 1 Pound Pouch
Need I say more. Crackers are great with chili, soups, and topped with your favorite chicken salad made with mayonnaise. We enjoy it with sliced cheese too. What a wonderful snack treat.
Sometimes my husband and I have peanut butter and jam sandwiches for lunch. I make homemade whole wheat bread which is a bonus for my budget. We tend to buy our peanut butter and jam jars on the smaller side so the contents stay as fresh as possible. We don’t refrigerate the peanut butter, but once opened, the jam for sure gets put in the fridge.
Jams and jelly:
We can use them for sandwiches, biscuits, rolls, and bread.
For baking only, it’s nice to have a can of powdered eggs in the pantry if you run out of eggs. Of course, fresh eggs may be better flavor and texture-wise. But if you have an ice storm you can still make cookies and stay off the icy roads if your egg cartons are empty.
This is a bonus for every family. I store my opened #10 can of instant milk in the refrigerator so it’s ready in a flash if I run out of milk. It’s good for two years after opening. Check the date on the instant milk you buy because every manufacturer is different when it comes to shelf life.
Popcorn is a great tummy filler and comfort food in a bad storm. Add some melted butter to popped corn with a smidge of salt and you have a great treat for everyone! You can add other spices as well and flavor the popcorn to your preference.
When it comes to a really special treat, I’ll make some homemade caramel corn, boy is it delicious!
I personally rarely buy fresh onions, except maybe in the summer if my garden hasn’t produced enough yet. I love knowing I can add a scoop of dehydrated onions to taco meat, soups, chili, casseroles, and omelets. There’s the added benefit of not having to peel, cut or chop them. Love it!
I do buy lemon juice for the refrigerator, but I also buy these packets I use every day and for emergencies: True Lemon Bulk Pack, 500 Count
Can you smell the chocolate cake baking or relish the taste of hot chocolate right now? There’s nothing like a hot cup of chocolate on a cold day.
Now you can buy a HUGE jar of garlic like my daughter, Heidi, and store it in the refrigerator. Buy some fresh garlic, or buy air-dried minced garlic and it is so awesome to add flavor to almost any dish! I love that I can store it in my pantry, no refrigeration is necessary.
These are great for snacks, muffins, bread pudding, etc. Think of raisins as another fruit to add to your meal planning.
Be sure and keep your pantry full of your favorite spices. I can’t get by without vanilla, chili powder, and cinnamon. You know the ones you need based on the types of meals you generally prepare. I’ve always told my readers to buy and store only those food items their families will actually eat.
I can make my own tortillas with the stuff on this list, except my corn tortillas. Keep a few tortillas on your pantry shelves (check the expiration dates) and a few in the freezer. If you feel so inclined, learn to make tortillas. They taste yummy and fresh!
If I have some leftovers from cooking a chicken I’ll freeze it, but I prefer to use: Better Than Bouillon Chicken Base 8 oz. Of course, you’ll need water to generate the broth for a recipe.
If I see a good buy on canned or boxed chicken broth I will pick up a few for the pantry. You can always boil a carcass too.
Olive Oil/Coconut Oil:
We can make so many things with oil. We need it for cooking, baking, and salad making.
Dehydrated or Fresh Potatoes:
We can mash, fry, or bake potatoes. I love dehydrated potatoes to add to soups and chowders, no peeling or chopping. I can add them right from the can to my soups. Mark found some instant potatoes recently that only cost $1.00 a package, what a bargain and they taste great.
Who loves spaghetti? Oh, and mac and cheese. Everyone needs pasta in a pantry to provide a great deal of flexibility to meal preparation. Don’t forget to make some salads with the pasta in your pantry, what a refreshing change of pace.
Tomato paste or flakes:
You can make soups, spaghetti, chili, stews, etc. Tomatoes, in general, are so useful in so many recipes, and they’re good for you too.
It’s all about flavor and using it for baking.
I have to have sugar to make my white bread, cinnamon rolls, cookies, cakes, and to put on certain cereals. I know we all need to watch our sugar intake, but so many foods need a little sugar to make them taste just the way you want. I’ve tried sugar substitutes and have some in my pantry, but real white granulated sugar is such a good food storage item.
You can make bread with honey, peanut butter with honey sandwiches, cookies, and all kinds of other baked goods. I only buy honey from Cox’s Honey because it’s pure, raw honey. Honey is a natural food and is so good for you. Give it a try in place of sugar next time.
I need it for baking muffins, cookies, etc. Baking soda is generally used as a leavening agent and used as a base. When mixed with an acidic ingredient, like a citrus juice, it comes to life.
I need it for baking, muffins, biscuits, etc. It’s also a leavening agent but is generally used when the recipe doesn’t call for any acid ingredients.
Cream of Tartar:
I know this is a spice, but I need it to make my biscuits and play dough for kids.
If you pressure can your own that’s awesome! I buy mine at Costco. I like chicken and tuna with water. I stock up big time when they go on sale. During the summer, Mark and I often make chicken salads and also chicken salad sandwiches. So delightful.
If you can grind wheat and make bread that is awesome too. You can also make hot cereal with just wheat and water to make a wholesome meal.
Here is how I make hot whole wheat cereal: 1 cup washed whole wheat berries, 3 cups water, 1/4 teaspoon salt (optional). Place all the ingredients in a slow cooker at night for 12 hours and you will have hot cereal in the morning.
Drain off excess water and store unused wheat in the refrigerator. Add a little milk and honey when serving, if desired. You can double or triple the recipe if your slow cooker will hold it. You can add the cooked wheat to many meals, as you do with rice or quinoa.
Dehydrated Carrots and Celery:
These are always in my food pantry. I can throw them in soups and stews. Take the time to re-hydrate and you can use them in salads too.
Salsa and Green Chilies:
I can eat salsa on just about everything, just saying. Plus, green chilies are good in casseroles since they add such a unique flavor.
Store as much as your budget allows. We need water to survive and to make most meals out of our food pantry stash.
Cans of fruit, freeze-dried fruit (longer shelf life), or dehydrate your own for a shorter shelf-life option.
Store canned, freeze-dried or dehydrated. We’ve been told for years to make sure we eat lots of fruits and veggies. I think fresh is always better, but having some in cans or bottles on the pantry shelf adds so much confidence that you are ready for emergencies and disasters of all kinds.
Typically lasts about 2-3 years, depending on the type you buy, whether it’s steel-cut, old-fashioned, or instant (quick). Always store these in airtight containers in a cool dark place.
We can always use a thickener, right?
Please start stalking what you need in your food pantry, one can at a time. You can do it, I promise. If you follow my recipes you can learn to cook from scratch. It’s easier than you may think.
If you were lucky enough to have had someone teach you to cook from scratch, please pass on that awesome skill to friends and family. May God bless this world. Linda
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