The Pantry Principle

“That can’t be food just for one week, can it?” said the couple in the grocery line behind me.

I’m used to curious looks and odd questions when I grocery shop. By the time I unload, pay for, bag and reload my groceries I’m bound to be pushing one cart and pulling another behind me.

Grocery shopping with me can be embarrassing. I grew up with six brothers and sisters, and we routinely took two loaded carts to the check out. I only have three children, but I learned my shopping habits from my mom. I never leave the store without one person commenting on how much I buy at one time.

With the economic crises of the last few weeks, though, people are beginning to look at me with admiration instead of confusion. The guy at the check-out this week said, “That’s smart. In these time, you never know when you’re going to be able to come back to the store.”

I shop on the pantry principle. I stock my pantry and my chest freezer with the non-perishable and frozen foods that I consistently use, and then I restock them as we use them or as those products go on sale.

My Three Points to Keeping A Well-Stocked Pantry:

Make a list of 25-30 menu items your family likes to eat and keep at least a few of each of the products to make these on hand in your pantry, your freezer or your fridge.

Shop non-perishables once per month. Shop every 10-14 days for perishables like fresh fruits and vegetables and dairy products, but only buy those things.

Repurchase what you use. We keep a clipboard in our pantry. When someone takes something off the shelf, he or she writes it down on the clipboard. That list is the start of my grocery list for the next big stock-up.

Back at the store this week I asked my daughter to grab two packages of salt from the bottom shelf. She said, “Why mom? We have tons of salt in our food storage.” The lady in the aisles looked at me to hear my response.

“When we use it, we have to buy more, so we’ll always have it in the pantry,” I said. I’m afraid I’m rubbing off the next generation.

20 pantry items I can’t do without . . .

  1. oatmeal
  2. pasta
  3. cocoa powder
  4. sugar – white, brown, powdered
  5. olive oil, canola oil, Crisco butter-flavored shortening
  6. lentils and dried beans
  7. rice
  8. diced tomatoes and tomato sauce
  9. canned fruit – pineapple chunks, mandarin oranges, applesauce
  10. peanut butter
  11. powdered milk for baking
  12. Frosted Shredded Wheat
  13. yeast and other leavening
  14. flour and wheat
  15. salt
  16. crackers – saltines, Wheat Thins, graham crackers
  17. condiments – salsa, ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise
  18. cleaners – vinegar, dish soap, bleach
  19. paper products – napkins, paper towels, toilet paper
  20. aluminum foil, plastic wrap, trash bags


  1. Erin
    Oct 20, 2008

    I love this idea! I have never had it explained like this, and I plan on starting it. And thanks for the list of 20 items too.

  2. L Jensen
    Oct 20, 2008

    What a good feeling I have, seeing the seeds of preparation in full bloom. Thank you for sharing your ideas. Experience has shown that being prepared does give a sense of security.

    You are making the system work even better than it did when you were taught. I like the clipboard in the pantry.

    Keep up the good work it will continue to pay off.


  3. Hannah
    Oct 20, 2008

    Great article, thanks a lot! I love that you included your list of food, too. Those are all great basics that everyone should keep in their pantries at all times!

    Thanks again!
    Hannah @

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