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The well-stocked pantry: Essential Items You Must Have on Hand

Updated on September 7, 2013

Modern Housewife Meets the Traditional Pantry

In today’s economic times, the modern housewife would do well to learn to be frugal—a trait once greatly admired by the 1950’s housewife, but sometimes lost to the modern women of today. As food prices both in the grocery stores and in restaurants climb higher and higher, many housewives are finding themselves struggling to feed their families on budgets that seem to be getting tighter and tighter.

The well-stocked kitchen panty is the frugal housewife’s best friend. By keeping your pantry stocked you can buy items only when they are on-sale or even better when they are on-sale and you have coupon. You can try out new recipes on a whim, knowing you probably have all the ingredients already on-hand, and if you are missing an ingredient, you probably have a handy substitute. Best of all, if money is really tight, you can go without groceries for a week or two--depending on the scope of your inventory--knowing that you can get by with what you already have in the house.  

In my pantry, I have everything I need for baking, canning veggies, freezing meats, and making delicious, frugal, and healthy meals for my family. I rarely buy processed foods, opting instead to make most of our family favorites myself. We spend about $40 a week for two adults, and at least once a week we have people over for dinner. I can handle last minute menu changes, make quick and simple meals, or intricate fares that delight our senses. I have worked hard to create a well-stocked pantry and that pantry works hard for me!

Stocking Your Pantry

The first step in stocking your pantry is to find out what you have in it.  Spend one afternoon taking a full inventory of everything you currently have in your pantry, freezer and cupboards, making sure you note quantities. This includes meats, vegetables, baking supplies, condiments etc.  If you have it in your kitchen already, then it is something you will need to buy again. 

The second step is to identify any items that your know you need but don't currently have in-stock.  Make a list of meals that your family eats on a weekly or biweekly basis.  Add those ingredients to your pantry list.  Think about meals—don’t forget desserts—that you would like to cook your family.  Add those ingredients to your list.  You will be well on your way to stocking your pantry. 

Add to your pantry a little at a time.  Plan out your weekly meals for a few months, striving to add one new recipe each week or so.  That way you wont blow your budget or buy items and then forget about them before you ever get around to using it.   Are there anything processed food items that you would like you make yourself?  Perhaps you could buy potatoes to make mashed potatoes, and french fries or purchase plain rice and make your own rice dishes.  Make on swap at a time and before long you wont only be feeding your family for less, but you'll serving them much healthier foods.     

It may take several months to create a fully-stocked pantry, but with some patience and dedication, you will end up with a pantry that allows you to flex those creative cooking muscles and feed your family well. .   

Pantry essentials

Keep these basic pantry items in stock and you'll be able to make almost anything at a moment's notice! 

  • beans
  • chicken/beef/vegetable stock
  • noodles
  • stick butter
  • eggs
  • lemon juice
  • tomato paste
  • condensed or powdered milk
  • barley
  • salt/pepper
  • assorted frozen fruits and vegetables (I never buy canned for my family. Fresh, frozen or home-canned only!)
  • I always keep plenty of meat frozen in the deep freezer

  • all-purpose flour
  • corn flour
  • baking mix
  • sugar
  • brown sugar
  • powdered sugar
  • vegetable/canola oil
  • olive oil
  • powdered baker's chocolate
  • Spices: a standard 12-18 spice rack should do the trick
  • baking powder
  • baking soda
  • onions
  • garlic
  • potatoes
  • rice (both brown and white)


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    • modern housewife profile image

      Sarah 7 years ago from Indiana

      Yes, it is very expensive!! My Granny helped my out often. She would come over to teach me how to make pickles, for example. She would graciously buy the pantry items we needed, God bless her!

      Thanks for the comment! :)

    • Jamiehousehusband profile image

      Jamiehousehusband 7 years ago from Derbyshire, UK

      Hi like this - a friend of mine (22) is just setting up home and finding it very expensive to stock up - so will send her here! I've just looked in my pantry and would value contents at around £500 !! That's excluding fridge and freezer - I do love to cook though, thanks.