How to stock a pantry on a budget

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In this article, we are going to cover everything that you need to know about stocking your pantry on a budget.
It’s more important than ever to prepare for any emergency and secure your financial future in this day and age.

If you are new to food storage or already have a stocked pantry and just want to learn how to save money on groceries, then this is for you.

A Pinterest image color brown titled how to stock your pantry without spending too much money

How to stock a pantry for the first time without spending too much money?

1- Set a weekly budget

Setting a weekly budget is very important, so you know exactly how much to spend each week. This method will help you not to overspend and use all your money all at once.

Please read this post, so you can know how to set a weekly budget. It ties very well with building your food storage. 

2- Create a menu plan or a meal plan!

Meal planning lets you visually prepare what you like to eat and cook. You write down what you’re going to eat for breakfast, lunch, snacks, and dinner for the week or the month; then you set your budget around the prices that each meal costs, so that makes you stay within your finances. 

Meal planning is the best way to stock up a pantry on a budget. 

Please read this post on how I meal plan for my family of seven. 

3- Make a shopping list

A shopping list helps you to stay within your budget. It enables you to know what you really need, so you will not spend too much time at the grocery store wondering what you need to buy. The more time you spend at the store, the more money you will pay.

4- Do not buy everything at once

The longer you live in one place, the more the amount of food you have will grow, so do not purchase everything at once. You have to gradually stock up your pantry so you will not get burned out or unnecessarily waste money. And as your pantry grows gradually overtime, you will organically gain an individualized understanding of what works best for you, what your food budget will be, and what kinds of food need to be included in your pantry.

5- Order your groceries online

Ordering your groceries online can save you tons of money and save you time.

The best thing about ordering your groceries online is that it makes it so easy to stay within your budget, it saves you from impulse buying, and makes it easy to see and remove things from your cart if you have too much. It’s hard to do that when you are at the store in person. And you can track your spending and what you’ve bought by looking at your previous purchases. I really like that part!

A picture of a shopping cart to help you eat healthy on a tigh budget

6- Shop at cheaper stores

Shop at stores like Walmart, Winco, Aldi, Fry’s, or a Dollar store. Whatever cheaper stores that are near you. 

I shop at Fry’s a lot; that’s where I usually get the best deal on food, but I also shop at Walmart, and there is a 99 cent only store nearby that sells very affordable fruits and vegetables.

7- Only buy food that you enjoy and regularly eat

Buying what you know you like will keep you from wasting food and wasting money. Think about your favorite meal. If you do not like lentils or canned fish, then do not buy them. Just because things are cheap doesn’t mean that you need to buy them. 

Before my family moved across the country, we had a pantry that was full of food. But it had so much food that my family didn’t like… so much of the food in our food storage ended up expiring, and we had to throw them away. 

8- Buy store brands

Store brands are cheaper than brand-name products. But my advice for this is to not purchase a lot at first, only buy one or two to see if you like it. This way, you will not waste your money, and you’ll only have what you love to eat in your pantry. 

9- Only shop once a week

Shopping once a week and sticking to one or two stores where things are affordable will help you save tons of money. Not only will this prevent you from impulse buying, but it will save you on gas and time.

Rather than running to the store for one thing, substitute a missing ingredient for something else. If you don’t have enough ingredients to create a specific recipe, then make a different recipe. Leave that recipe for when you have all the ingredients.

Hence, only go when it’s an emergency, such as needing baby formulas, diapers, or medicine.

Shopping only once a week might be difficult at first, but if there’s a will there’s a way.


A gif of a woman pushing a shopping cart impulse buying

10- Only buy what’s on sale and in season 

You can save so much money and can stock up your pantry fast when you buy what’s on sale and in season.

When things are on sale, buy 2-3 extras, so you have them when they were cheap, and you wouldn’t have paid full price next time you need them. Also, you are slowly stocking your pantry without going over budget.

When fruits and vegetables are in season: buy some, then freeze the rest so you can save them for later. 

canned soup on sale for 99 cents to stock up the pantry

11- Buy food that will last for a long time

Food like grains, flour, canned food, and dry spices can last a long time. You must have those in your pantry in case you ever need to dip into your emergency food storage. Make sure to check the expiration date when you plan to store food for an extended period.

12- Buy in bulk but be careful

Buying in bulk can save you a lot of money, especially if you buy dried foods or non-perishable food items. But if you don’t have a big family, you might want to consider this because you will end up losing money and wasting food. 

You need to know what is worth buying in bulk or a large quantities.

As time goes on, you will learn more about what will work for you and your family. 

I don’t buy all of our food at a wholesale store like Costco because if I do, then I’ll end up going over budget, and I will not even get everything that I need. So I stick to my local grocery store. 

Here are the lists of food that I get from Costco that help me save money:

  • cereals (only when they are on sale)
  • Rice
  • Cheese
  • Yogurt (If you have a large family)
  • Frozen Chicken breast
  • Lunchmeat
  • Peanut butter
  • Bananas


  • Toilet papers
  • Paper towels
  • Pet food
  • Cleaning supplies 

How to stock your fridge and freezer?

1- Buy price reduced meat

Stores will lower the price of the meat when it is closer to its expiration date. There is nothing wrong with meat that is close to its expiration date; you just need to cook it immediately or freeze them. The store needs to make ways for new products, so they sell the meat for very cheap. It’s the perfect way to stock up your freezer with meat. 

Stores will put yellow stickers on meat that is discounted, so be sure to look for the yellow stickers. 

Note: wholesale stores do not do this; only regular grocery stores do. 

Scroll down bellow for the lists of must-haves for the fridge and freezer. This is just an example. You can adjust this to what you like and your type of diet.

an image of a price reduced steak to help you eat healthy on a tight budget
an image of a price reduced meat to help you know how to eat healthy on a tight budget
an image of a price reduced pork to stock up the pantry

2- Buy price reduced fruits and bread: 

Yes, stores reduce the price of fruits and bread when they are not up to the grocery store’s standards anymore. There is nothing wrong with them; sometimes, they’re bruised or look a little old. But they still taste very good.
When the fruit and vegetables are not super pretty to be on the shelves anymore, the store sells them for very cheap. 

You have to use and eat these fruits fast, though… maybe use them for smoothies, or you can just freeze them, too.

Price reduced fruits to help you eat healthy on a tight budget
A picture of a price reduced bread to help you eat healthy on a tight budget

3- Buy what’s in season

When fruit and vegetables are in season, they’re cheap, so remember to always buy 2-3 extras for later use. 

4- To stock up on dairies: Always make a goal to not pay full price on an item. Read the store ads. You can just go to the store’s website, no need for a newspaper. Compare prices, buy store brands, use store coupons, and only buy what you need because dairies do not keep long. Or store some in the freezer. 

an image of sour cream on sale to stock up the fridge

How to stock a pantry for any emergency and how to have food storage? 

An image of a pantry full of food

Stocking your pantry for any emergency is very important. Suppose you experience a job loss, sickness, COVID-19, lockdowns, the death of a loved one, natural disasters, or any other type of emergency that you can think of. You will be able to support yourself and your family first and helps others. One of the best ways to do so will be through having enough food to feed them until a resolution presents itself.

Here are the easiest ways to emergency prep and what you need to remember:

  • You must have a food supply (three months and long term), a water supply, and a financial reserve. 
  • Store the water in sturdy, leak-proof, breakage-resistant containers. Consider using plastic bottles commonly used for juices or soda. Keep water containers away from heat sources and direct sunlight.
  • You have to prepare for short-term needs and long-term needs. Remember that for long-term needs, you must gradually build your food supply. Please do not buy them all at once; stick to your budget.
  • Only buy what you like and eat regularly. If you do not like lentils or canned fish, and you know you will never eat them, then do not buy them. Excess food will end up taking up your space and wasting your money.  
  • Buy food that will last for a long time such as grains, flour, canned food, and dry spices. 
  • You must also have toilet papers, paper towels, and cleaning supplies. 
  • Financial reserve or emergency saving is to support you financially with what you need. Lowering your weekly budget will help you put money into your emergency saving.

How much food do I need in my pantry?

Take the amount of food you would need to purchase to feed your family for a day and multiply that by 7. That is how much food you would need for a one-week supply. Once you have a week’s supply, you can gradually expand it to a month, and eventually three months and more.

For longer-term needs, and where permitted, gradually build a supply of food that will last a long time and that you can use to stay alive, such as wheat, rice, and beans. A portion of these items may be rotated in your three-month supply. 

You can read more about food storage in this article from the Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter-Day Saints.

Remember only to buy what you and your family like and eat and build your food storage gradually.

How much does it cost?

Depending on where you live and how you purchase your groceries, costs may vary. Please read my suggestions above to see how you can buy the food for cheap.

It is crucial that you gradually increase your food, not go to extremes. For instance, it’s not prudent to go into debt to purchase everything all at once.

Gradually develop your food storage to diffuse the overall cost so it will not become a financial burden.

What are must-have essentials for stocking a pantry?

You can adjust this chart according to your taste and your diet. 

Dry Goods


– Boxed dinner

– Rice

– Grains

– Breakfast cereal

– Flour

– Sugar

– Salt


Canned Goods

– Canned meat

– Beans

– Broth or Stocks

– Soups

– Fruits

– Vegetables

– Tomatoes, chilies, salsas, pasta sauce

– Olives


– Barbecue sauce

– Dressing



-Jelly and Jam


– Olive oil


Cooking + Baking essentials


– Sugar: granulated and powdered. White or  brown

– Salt

– Garlic salt, black pepper

– Oil

– Baking soda, baking powder, yeast




-Salt and pepper

-Dried herbs


-Ground chilies: paprika, cayenne

-Curry powder

Pantry Liquids

– Water

-Meat and vegetable broths or stocks




-Green leaf vegetables



-Cheese, yogurt, sour cream


– Fruits




-Frozen vegetables and frozen fruits

– Fish

-Ice cream

-Frozen snacks

-Frozen meals

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Ashly Delapaz

Great post! Very well thought out. I am always looking for those yellow stickers at the grocery store. It’s an extra bonus when it’s something that I can freeze 🙂


What a helpful article, lots of great tips and advice, thank you for sharing.

What a great article with really useful tips. Since I bake, I love to buy my flours in bulk and store them in the pantry so they are always on hand when I want bread, cakes, or a breakfast muffin. You don’t mention it, but I would add dry beans and dry whole grains like barley, kamut, and triticale are all great staples, too.


Your article is very helpful, l was just talking with my friend how expensive is becoming the food.

Alyssa Hixenbaugh

Excellent tips on stocking the pantry! I do my best to keep things cost effective, but also be prepared. I like finding new ideas. 🙂

Esmé Slabbert

Great post and thank you so much for sharing at SIPB and being part of our community. You have done an awesome job with this post as it’s very detailed and well thought out. I have RT your post and will also share it on my blog FB page.


Love this post so informative. I’m just starting to stock my emergency pantry so this article is very helpful. Thanks!

Giangi Townsend

Great post and fantastic suggestions. With the price of food rising fast, not as many peoples returning to work, all your points can be a huge impact when you are feeding your family.

Leah Buehler

My fridge is empty so it’s time to go grocery shopping. These tips are a great reminder to stay on budget! Thank you!


This is a very helpful article. Shopping bills for a family of four can quickly get out of hand. Thanks for the tips

Stacy Boswell

I do some of the things listed like shopping in season and buying some things in bulk; which I do think help. But I do need to improve in other areas like having a budget and meal planning. I think budgeting and meal planning would help reduce the cost and then I wouldn’t just buy random things I see. Thank you for such a great article with lots of helpful tips!


great list you have here and practical too!


Wow! These are fantastic tips! I actually had no idea shopping online could save you money, but it makes so much sense! I will definitely be bookmarking this page for future reference. Thanks for sharing!


Meal-planning has been an absolute lifesaver for us– we hardly ever waste food (or money!) and love sitting down together on Sunday nights and planning/prepping what we’d like for the week. We also eat a LOT of rice and beans with veggies, which is a cheap and super satisfying meal. Thanks for all the tips!

Alyssa Valentin

I love a good food pantry! thanks for sharing!


Great effort! I’m sure you must have done a lot of hard work to bring this detailed, well-written article in front of us. Thanks for sharing.

Emily Flint

I love this post, so many great suggestions and ideas. I always tell my self to have a stockpile for emergencies but never do it. This post is making me change my mind!

Some great tips here; it’s always a good idea to plan ahead of a shopping trip!

Gregory Halpen

WOW! I love this. On a fixed income, this will come in handy. Thank you!

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