Here’s how to shop your pantry to save money and streamline meal planning!
I’ve mentioned shopping your pantry before, but maybe you’re still scratching your head. It’s easy to do once you get a good pantry stock and a good routine. But it can take some time to get started.
If you’re still not seeing how this can work, it’s probably because your current pantry doesn’t have a lot of ingredients in it that you could pull together to make a meal. On top of that, maybe your grocery budget is tight and you can’t imagine buying food you *might* cook with.
So I wanted to spend a little more time explaining how this works.
How to Get Started Shopping Your Pantry
I’m going to break this down for you, step-by-step.
- Start by writing down a list of your family’s favorite meals and snacks.
- Then compare the meals you’ve written down and start a list of the most common ingredients.
- Write those ingredients down in order of how much you use them. So if rice is the most common ingredient, for example, that will be at the top of the list.
This Most Common Ingredients list will be a good guide for when you shop to stock your pantry.
Shopping your pantry is easy if you have a generous grocery budget. If that’s your situation, start at the top of your Most Common Ingredients list and stock what you can with your budget. Be careful to estimate how much you’ll actually use so you’re not overbuying.
Shopping Your Pantry When Your Budget is Tight
If you have a tight budget with no wiggle room to start stocking up on basic staples AND continue to buy your regular weekly groceries, you’re going to have to get a bit creative and adventurous.
- First, take stock of what you have and make your meal plan with Backward Planning.
- Shop your current pantry and use everything up, even if it doesn’t seem like you have a lot that ‘goes together’. You can use the ‘ingredient search’ function at allrecipes.com if you need some help. And if you don’t have an ingredient, you’ll need to use your creativity! You might be having some rather unusual meals for a couple weeks.
- Then cut your grocery budget WAY back and only purchase weekly essentials and perishables, like milk, eggs, etc. And I mean absolute bare bones here. Now use the rest of your normal grocery budget to shop for pantry essentials using sales, coupons, rebates, etc. Focus on your Most Common Ingredients list from before.
Now you can start with Backward Meal Planning for the next week. Shop your pantry first and try to use as much of your current stock as you can. If you need to, keep using ‘creative & adventurous’ meals and bare bones grocery shopping so you can continue to stock your pantry. Each week your meals will get more ‘normal’ as you have more to shop from in your pantry.
I’ll be honest, it took me a few months to really get into a good groove with this method. But during that time, my very tight and strict grocery budget was on the mark.
Couponing is great and can save you money. But honing this skill – shopping your pantry to shape your meal plan – is hands down my favorite way to really save money on groceries.