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How to Shop from Your Pantry

by Diane

It’s spring time here so it’s the perfect time to shop from the pantry and not just to spring clean it but save money, too.

I’m a big believer in maintaining a well stocked pantry. Keeping plenty of supplies on hand enables you to better manage your grocery budget by buying when products are on sale, avoiding impulse shopping when you have to race off to the store to buy just one thing and come back with 10 and… it’s a great practical addition to your Emergency Fund.

What’s the best way to shop from your pantry?

As you know from my post An Anarchist’s Guide to Meal Planning, I’m not big on planning the finer details of a menu. Shopping from my pantry is no different. I look at the core ingredients on hand. What meat is in the freezer? What vegetables are in either the freezer, refrigerator or pantry? What starches are available: flour, pasta, rice, potatoes. And, what extras are there for flavour, like herbs and spices, curry pastes, peanut butter, cheese?

Once you know what you’ve got, start brainstorming ways of putting them together to make a tasty meal. You can be as strict on this as you like or need to be. Sometimes, you’ll need to get an extra ingredient or two to add to the items from your existing stores. Try to stick to fresh milk and fruit and vegetables. It defeats the purpose of shopping from your pantry if you’re still spending the same amount at the store. The idea is to clean out your pantry and save a few dollars while you’re at it.

shop from your pantry

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What are the benefits of shopping from your pantry?

Apart from saving money by seriously reducing your grocery shopping for a week or two, shopping from your pantry gives you a chance to:

  • See what’s hiding in the dark corners
  • Check use by and best before dates
  • Rotate the stock to ensure the next pack or tin to be used has the shortest shelf life left
  • Stocktake so you know what you need and when you’re likely to need it
  • And… what to stop buying for a while.

Once you start looking closely at your pantry, you might get a few surprises like I did. I expected to see at least six tins of tuna but found just one. I also expected to find a lot more pureed tomatoes and a lot less Thai green curry paste and rice noodles. Not hard to see what we’ll be eating a lot of in the near future!

Can you challenge yourself to spend only $20 on groceries for the next week?

It’s impractical to think you can go for more than a week without replenishing fresh foods like milk and vegetables, especially if you have children. So, why not try to restrict yourself to spending just a fraction of your usual grocery spend for the time you’re shopping from your pantry? Whatever you don’t spend can go into your stockpile fund so you have the means to take advantage of great deals as they become available.

What does our shopping from the pantry meal plan look like?

There are plenty of chick peas (dry) so we’ll definitely be enjoying falafel and hummus.

Tasty falafel a great way to use chick peas

Falafel made with chick peas. Source: http://www.vegrecipesofindia.com/

Not to mention putting the tinned (canned) peaches to good use with simple yet delicious desserts like these peach cobbler bars from Sophistimom.

peach dessert - cobbler bars

Peach cobbler bars Source: Sophistimom

Plus, the cooked chicken in the freezer will be put to good use in a chicken pot pie or maybe if I’m feeling adventurous, a Chicken Pot Pie Crescent Braid (with homemade pastry).

a new 'crescent braid' twist on chicken pot pie

Chicken Pot Pie Crescent Braid. Source: http://www.wineandglue.com/

Shopping from your pantry for a week or two is a great challenge for your ingenuity. You’ll soon discover, simple ingredients and a little imagination go a long way toward creating a nourishing and tasty menu.

Once the pantry spring clean is complete, I’ll be rearranging my kitchen. That job has to be a lot easier with less stuff to shuffle around! I’ll share the specifics of that particular adventure in the near future.

How’s your pantry looking? Could you benefit from a shop from your pantry challenge, too? 

Image: Unsplash

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10 comments

Jaime February 13, 2016 - 6:51 am

I am totally behind this idea! I keep a running freezer inventory year round, but now I’m trying to keep a running pantry inventory too – all on Excel – updating each week. Deleting what I know we’ve used and adding things I’ve bought using my grocery receipts.

I highly recommend including expiration date info in your inventory – by doing that I’ve caught on to the fact that I had some times that need to be worked into meal plans sooner than later!

I’ve been really focused on it the last few weeks as I’m gearing up to have this March be $0 on groceries month – our first attempt at this!

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Diane February 15, 2016 - 12:24 pm

Wow. Zero $ on groceries for the month. Now *that’s* a 30 day challenge worth considering. Good luck!

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Michael @ NTPNW September 8, 2015 - 11:13 am

At our home we always run down our food supply before we buy more. It’s our way of not letting food go to waste and saves us from wasting.

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Diane September 8, 2015 - 11:33 am

Food waste is bad on many levels. Managing a well stocked pantry is a process and if you’re not paying attention you can waste a lot of food and money!

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Small Steps of Sustainability September 4, 2015 - 9:24 am

Great article. I needed this as a little kick in the backside to motivate me to go through my pantry. Save money and not waste food, sounds like a win, win!

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Diane September 6, 2015 - 1:20 pm

Definitely win/win!

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Michelle September 4, 2015 - 1:52 am

I did this recently and it was great to empty my pantry and make use of what I already had. Saved a good amount of money too!

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Diane September 6, 2015 - 1:23 pm

I guess there’s no point having too much sitting in your pantry when you’re off in the RV. 🙂

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Saving Sanely September 3, 2015 - 9:23 pm

I need to get back into this! With all of the rushing craziness of summer, I have been lax on my meal plans and a big part of that is using up what I have on hand! It’ll be back to the drawing board this month to get my budget back with one of our biggest expenses. Thanks for the extra push to get back on track!

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Diane September 6, 2015 - 1:25 pm

I hear ya! I’ve been a bit all over the place lately, too. Hence the decision run my own pantry ‘stocktake sale’! Hope life’s settling down a bit now.

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