What To Stock In A Pantry – Where To Start

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Let’s face it, figuring out what to stock in a pantry can be daunting at first, especially if you are starting from scratch. There’s actually quite a bit to think about and yes it is overwhelming! So let me help you! Chances are, you have some staples already on the shelves and you probably have good ideas for what you like to eat or some goals for what you want to cook in the kitchen.

In this post, I will be discussing ways to streamline the process of stocking a pantry, breaking it down for you in simple steps so that you don’t have to sit in the middle of your kitchen with a blank stare (for who knows how long), thinking, “where oh where do I start?!”

So, depending on what stage you are in, you can browse the topics below for some inspiration.

Think Of A Few Meal Ideas

Start with a simple task…

Create a short list of a few meals that you eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Are you a bacon, eggs, toast kind of person or hot cereal? Maybe bagels and cream cheese? How about lunch? Do you pack a lunch or eat at home? Soups or sandwiches? Peanut butter and jelly? Dinner might be pasta, or meat and potatoes, or maybe tacos.

Don’t get too hung up on choosing meals. It’s just a helpful to get an idea of what is practical for you to stock in your pantry. Like if you think tomato sauce is disgusting and you break out in hives when you see a tomato, then of course you won’t be listing this popular staple!! Right? You got this!!

Categorize And Conquer

Whether or not you like to organize, creating a well-thought-out master shopping list will be worth the time! Using the list of meals you just created, begin to categorize food items and add on ingredients needed to create your meals.

For example, if I had eggs and toast on my breakfast list, then I would add cheese, sliced ham, butter, and jam because these are things I would like to include in order to cook the entire meal just the way I like it!

Go thru each meal like this listing the ingredients and then begin to compile a list that combines common ingredients. Your list will be your greatest tool to prepare for a smooth, less hectic shopping trip! Hint: I use categories that are similar to sections in the grocery stores.

Some helpful categories include:

  • dairy – milk, yogurt, butter
  • deli – cheese and lunch meat
  • produce (veggies and fruits)
  • bread
  • grains
  • sauces and condiments
  • herbs and spices
  • meat
  • cooking oils
  • baking ingredients – flour, sugar, etc.
  • freezer items
  • cereals
  • snacks
  • beverages

Pantry Staples And Stocking Up

Buying a bunch of staples for your pantry at once can stress your budget and could end up being a waste!

Try this strategy first:

If you concentrate on shopping for week’s worth of meal plans, you’ll slowly start to stock up staples that will last a number of meals.

Choosing simple meals will help get you started with basic staples (mustard, mayo, salsa, peanut butter- you get it!) Don’t go crazy buying random ingredients that may sit in you pantry for years! ugghhh….

Use lists (I included one below) as guides to help you formulate your personalized list. But don’t think you need to get each and every item on the list.

Common pantry lists will include a number of dry foods like rice, quinoa, oats, barley, pasta, lentils, and beans. I don’t know about you but the last time I had barley  I was a kid, so obviously I’m not going to put that as a top priority. However, down the road when I want to try new recipes or experiment with different foods, I just might purchase barley.

So you see, not that hard, right?

Organize Your Space

This is your kitchen! Your space! And you should set it up however makes sense and flows well for YOU!

Depending on your space, there will be different options. For instance, I like all my baking ingredients on one shelf. And I try to keep can food on one shelf in categories that make sense to me. My pantry is deep and the shelves are a good height so I use layering shelves to create more functional space and far less wasted space. Baskets and bins can also come in handy to create nice separations on shelves.

Dry goods that come in bags such as rice, oats, flour, and sugar, can be stored in glass jars with nice labels.

FYI… you don’t have to spend tons on new glass jars. Here are some ways to save if you are on a budget or would like to re- purpose materials.jars of food on shelves

  • get thrifty and save spaghetti sauce jars (and any other jars you can think of)
  • ask friends and family to save you jars
  • check out local thrift stores for cool containers

You can get creative and have a lot of different jars too, it can look really amazing!

Make sure you rotate your food. Having an easy system and keeping up with it each time you grocery shop will keep you from pulling everything out and trying to read those annoying minuscule date stamps… Yikes!

List Of Common Staples For Your Pantry and Fridge

Warning! Don’t panic! This is a pretty extensive list. It’s only meant for a guide to get you thinking of what you want to stock. Remember to just start with what you need for about a week’s worth of meals. Then let it grow as you need to incorporate more ingredients.

Canned Goods

  • black beans
  • refried beans
  • olives
  • green chilies
  • tomato paste
  • tomato sauce
  • diced tomatoes
  • olives
  • green chilies
  • enchilada sauce
  • tuna
  • peanut butter
  • jelly
  • beverages

Dried Foods

  • various pastas
  • egg noodles/ rice noodles
  • rice
  • couscous
  • dried beans
  • lentils
  • oats
  • cereals


  • crackers
  • chips
  • jerky
  • granola bars
  • nuts
  • seeds
  • dried fruits


  • flours
  • sugars
  • baking cocoa
  • baking soda
  • baking powder
  • chocolate chips
  • olive oil
  • coconut oil/ canola oil


  • ketchup
  • mustard
  • mayo
  • BBQ sauce
  • salad dressing
  • salsa
  • hot sauce
  • soy sauce

Fresh Veggies and Fruits

  • potatoes
  • onions
  • garlic
  • carrots
  • celery
  • apples
  • oranges
  • lettuce
  • tomato

Miscellaneous Fridge Items

  • milk
  • cheese
  • yogurt
  • butter
  • eggs
  • deli meat
  • bread
  • tortillas

So there you have it. I hope you are feeling inspired and ready to stock your pantry.

I’m sure I have a few biases about what I added to this list. If you have anything you really think I should add or any other tips on stocking your kitchen, please reach out in the comment section below. As always, I’d love to hear from you!

Hope to see you soon In The Kitchen With Me!

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4 thoughts on “What To Stock In A Pantry – Where To Start”

  1. We will be moving to our newly-built house in two weeks and I am already excited about what things to buy ☺. While I have already finished shopping for toiletries, I can’t say the same for my pantry. 

    I made a list of things to buy a week ago but afterward, I would have to make changes because, upon review, I find them to be too much. lol. My pantry area is not that big so I can afford to stock up for a week’s supply only. 

    I find your tips and tricks very practical, especially since I am thinking of buying several glass jars for sugars, flour, etc. I wouldn’t want to spend that much since we already spent a lot on house construction. 

    Organizing what to stock in your pantry into different categories is a smart way to have just the necessary food items you need. 

    By the way, do you have any tips about how to properly store veggies and fruits to keep them fresh for one week?

    • I’m glad you found my post helpful. It can be overwhelming to try to figure out how to fit everything in on a budget! As for veggies and fruits, I actually store apples, oranges, pears, potatoes and onions in my fridge. (Probably because my fridge has more space then my pantry.) But I also find that the fruit lasts really long!! If fruits especially bananas are going bad, stick them in the freezer and use them for smoothies. 

      Always keep lettuce and other veggies in a baggie or container (even in your veggie drawer) so that they don’t wilt as fast. Also when you buy carrots, celery, cucumbers, peppers and other veggies like that, it helps to wash and cut them up right away and store them in a container. Then they are ready to go, you can easily grab a healthy snack and you’re more likely to eat them before they spoil!

      Good luck with your move!


  2. Hi Allie,
    Your post has inspired me to become more “pantry organized”!
    Especially helpful was the tip you gave Alice to slice up veges and put them in a container in the fridge when you buy them. I find that I use them ( especially bell peppers) instead of finding them squishy in the bottom of the vegetable drawer.
    Thanks and I look forward to more helpful hints!

    • Thank you for your comment. It feels good to be inspired! I definitely waste less by washing my veggies and having them ready to eat! Glad you liked the article.


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