5 Ways to Stock Your Pantry on a Budget

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. We participate in other affiliate programs as well. For more details, please see our disclosure policy.

Buying food you love on sale and storing it for when you want it is a great way to build your pantry and save money.

This post was originally published on August 13, 2013.

5 Ways to Stock Your Pantry on a Budget

I love a stocked pantry. I really do. It may be that my dad — and my gramma before him — loved to stock their cupboards with groceries. Food is a comfort for our family. Having choices, having reserves, well that goes along with the comfort factor.

I’m quite content when my cupboards are full of yummy, healthy options to feed my family. Yet, I want to build that pantry in a budget-friendly manner. If I can stretch our dollar, we get the best of both worlds: full bellies and a balanced budget.

Here are some quick tips on how to stock your pantry on a budget.

1. Know your likes and dislikes.

Be honest with yourself about what you really like. Don’t stock up on things that your family would really rather not eat. I’m not talking about “it’s not my favorite”. I’m talking about “we really can’t stand this”.

Lentils is one of those things for our family. Gasp. I know. I’ve tried. But, the texture is just a little too, I dunno, gritty for our tastes. So, I know not to buy them. Black beans on the other hand fly off the shelf. So, I know to stock up on those when I see a good sale.

Stocking our pantry with food we like at a great price saves us money.

expiration date

2. Look at expiration dates.

While “best by” dates are a little ambiguous, it makes no sense to stock up on foods that will “expire” in a few weeks. Check near the back of the grocery shelves. You may find the exact same thing with a later date. If you find a great sale, buy extras, but make sure their dates are far enough out there to give you time to enjoy it. And be sure to rotate your stock as you use it.

Stocking our pantry with food that will stay fresh until we use it up saves us money.

3. Watch the sales and store markdowns.

So, I might not have “needed” ten packs of pepperoni last week. But, at $2 a package, it was a steal. That’s about half the regular price. I bought ten, stretching my money twice as far. They store well in the freezer, so I’ve got ten weeks of pizza night taken care of.

Likewise, I found canned organic pumpkin awhile back for only 50 cents a can, about 1/4 of the regular price. Since the “best by” dates were several years away, I bought a lot. It wasn’t hard to store them and I got a lot of pumpkin for my pennies.

clearance pumpkin

Watch the sales and store markdowns for things that you know you will use (before the expiration date, of course), and stock up — budget and storage space permitting.

Stocking our pantry with favorite items on sale saves us money.

4. Clip coupons.

Once upon a time, coupons were my life. My heart would race a little faster when the new printable coupons were released or when I saw the Sunday paper, rife with glossy ads. While my obsession has calmed down a bit, I’ve not kissed the coupon goodbye completely.


What I’ve discovered is that store coupons, loaded to my card, are pretty easy to use — same goes for the coupons that Ralphs sends me every couple weeks. (It’s a pretty smart strategy of theirs, since it’s one of my favorite stores.) Whether you clip all your coupons, browse the digital coupons, or simply keep an eye open for FREE product deals from brands, coupons can help you stretch your budget.

Taking advantage of store or manufacturer coupons, especially when coupled with a sale, can save us money.

5. Buy in bulk.

Not all bulk purchases are a great deal, but they often are. The unit price of spices, rice, beans, or oats often goes down as the package size goes up. If you know it’s something you like (see point #1), that it’s not going to go bad before you buy it (#2), that it’s a good deal (#3), well, then go for it. Stock up!

(Just be sure to store it appropriately so that it doesn’t go stale or get infested by bugs or rodents.)

If you don’t have the space, consider splitting your purchase with friends — then more than one of you can benefit from the bulk pricing.

Stocking our pantry with bulk items saves us money.

How do YOU build your pantry?

About Jessica Fisher

I believe anyone can prepare delicious meals—no matter their budget.

Subscribe to Good Cheap Eats
Read Newer Post
Read Older Post


  1. What a great deal on organic pumpkin puree! I stock my pantry around the seasonal sales – buying lots of pumpkin and canned veggies in November, chocolate chips in December, and stock my freezer in January. Like you, I’m always watching for good deals year round!

  2. Kjane says

    Yep, with you on beans. I buy canned when I can get them for fifty cents or less on sale and I also freeze dried beans I’ve cooked. We use them many ways, adding to salads, chili, beans and rice (our “What’s for dinner when nothing is planned” meal) etc. Can’t have too many beans.

  3. I love a stocked pantry! My dream is to eventually have enough space (and be settled without moving long enough) to properly build one with all of our staples. That, and a chest freezer. 🙂

  4. CeCee says

    I think you should definitely add a price book to this list. I go grocery shopping once a week or so and write down the per unit price of my twenty most commonly bought items (eggs, milk, chicken breast, bacon, etc) and was able to find out what the rock bottom price was (without relying on memory). Know I know when the BEST time to stock up is!

    • Jessica says

      You know, a price book has never worked for me. I tried it 18 years ago and kept trying, but it was just so cumbersome. I just keep mental track in my head. Do you have a good record keeping system?

    • June Combs says

      I agree ~ its one way I feel like I save a little plus if its an expensive item like a nice cut of beef at Christmas I can put in the freezer and we get a treat in a few weeks.

      • June Combs says

        Sorry Cece that comment was for Kristen!

    • June Combs says

      Hi Cece ~ where does your price book say to buy paper products they confuse me on the best price??? Thanks june

  5. Elizabeth says

    This quote, right here: “Stocking our pantry with food we like at a great price saves us money.”

    I’m putting in some serious time in learning how to meal plan and make budget friendly and tasty meals right now. Instead of buying the “I should buy/stock up on this…” items, I’m paying attention to what I actually want to buy in bulk, or large quantities to save money. It just depends on what you really like and enjoy eating. Great advice as always, Jessica 🙂

  6. Sandra Price says

    Is there any website where you can buy printable coupons? Most of the things we buy are always those kind and I have no printer.

    • Jessica says

      I’m not sure about printables — or how legitimate they would be. Printers are pretty cheap. I bet you could find one used at the thrift store. If you really do use a lot of that kind, it might be worth investing in a printer.

    • A laser printer that prints 7000 pages (black ink only) saves me a lot for printing coupons. It’s more upfront, but the cost of ink is SO much less.

    • Melissa says

      eBay… You aren’t buying the coupon presay but budding on the time it took to get the coupons and the envelope it comes in. Selling coupons is illegal so that is how they get around it. If I know a sale is coming up for something we use a ton of ill go bid on some on eBay

    • Kirstin says

      Using the computers at my local library system is free, and using the printer costs 15 cents a page. That might be an option.

    • Sandi says

      See if there is a Freecycle group near you (https://www.freecycle.org) because people often have printers they give away for free.

  7. Not really the pantry…but this time of year I stock up on produce at farm stands. I buy a peck or more at a time, blanch and freeze. I like to have tons of fruit in the winter when the prices go up! I also make large batches of granola bars, breakfast bars, and whole grain muffins for the freezer so I am not tempted to buy them at the store. That saves me a lot of money with 4 kids.

    • Jessica says

      Such great techniques!

    • Kate says

      My freezer isn’t big enough to freeze lots of stuff so I have taken up the art of canning. My freezer pooped out on time and I lost everythin! So canning is a great option, my pantry is full and no fear of “freezer failure”! Please follow the instructions to the letter, nothing like making your family sick or worse from bad food. You can’t always tell it’s bad until it’s to late!

  8. Melissa says

    I do all of these things, just the other day a local store that is remodeling had a huge clearance rack with 9 boxes of powdered milk normally over $9 a box I got them for $2.35 each and bought every one. They are good until 2015 and we use it for all our cooking and baking, homemade instant oatmeal mix and my special hot cocoa recipe, my kids like it better than regular milk they call it magic milk. We don’t often drink plain milk so for us powdered is a better option with less waste.
    I’m working on my 1 year food supply (not a doomsday Prepper btw just conscious of hard economic times ahead and I consider it insurance). Recently I was able to stock about 2 months worth of meat for out family of 5 for about $200. Lots of variety too.
    A garden!!! Learn how to can its really not hard!!! I avoided it for years because I figured it would be too difficult and I didn’t want to buy a bunch of special pots and supplies. I use my stick pot and a large pasta pot and I spent $4.99 on a kit with a lid lifter, jar tongs and a head space tool. We had a small garden this year but I managed to get 15 qts of pasta sauce, 23 half pints of pizza sauce, 5 pints of salsa, 6 qts of stewed tomatoes for chili starter, enough eggplant for 3 lasagnas, peppers to use in the sauce and salsa, and enough zucchini for 20 loaves of zucchini bread. I also was given about 7 lbs of cuckes, numerous different squashes a bushel of plums and half a bushel of apples. So I was able to can 15 half pints of plum butter and freeze enough plums to make twice that much more if I want, I made crockpot apple butter and got 20 pints canned. Half the stuff we planted didn’t even grow!
    Next year we are planning a much larger garden and several different veggies in containers or grown upside down. We are planting 5 fruit trees and several berry bushes. These serve as food and landscaping.

    • June Combs says

      You are amazing! I’ve had that plan for years but not the determination! Good job!!!

  9. Cherie says

    number one was my downfall for years, I bought things that were cheap – I wound up tossing them unused many years later after they ate up my space.

    Now I’m glad to say that I’ve got a really good stock up of things we use regularly, For us it’s canned tomatoes and other tomato products, chocolate for baking, peanut butter [certainly not at the fish household LOL], flours of various kinds, coffee, pasta of all sorts, canned tuna, soap and hair care products bought cheap on amazon, in the freezer there’s always several months of mozzarella [in our heavily italian area it”s always on sale for less than half the normal price at easter and christmastime].

    • Once I started doing a pantry challenge a couple times a year, I found out what those lingering, bad purchases were and was able to weed them out. Good to hear that you know your to-stock items better now.

  10. June Combs says

    Hi Jessica ~ I love your post, I will follow it! What do you buy at Trader Joes and where do you buy paper products. The j

    • I buy almost everything at Trader Joe’s if I’m there. Paper products I get via Amazon.

  11. Heather H says

    putting up whats in the garden has saved me hundreds. But this year I put in a garden even though I don’t “need” a thing from in my jars. So this year some is going in the freezer but a lot I have given away. I would let it go fallow for the year but even than it takes work as I had half of it fallow last year (seed didn’t germinate) and I still had to till it over to keep the weeds knocked out.

    So far this year my garden has made: a salad for 75-100 homeless or low income people; kept a couple neighbors in fresh produce; so far 2 individuals put up pickles other than me and a few more to come; gave a meal to a family of 5.

    And I do have a pretty good pantry of bulk foods going. Although I was kinda bummed last week when I realized I was out of vegetable oil and almost out of olive oil as well

  12. Janet says

    With very limited space we do not stockpile much in the way of food. However, it is the non-food stuff that breaks our budget. I have really concentrated on trying to stock up on non-food items when they are at rock bottom prices; tooth paste, tooth brushes, toilet paper and laundry soap in particular.

    • SC Susie says

      I coupon heavily for non-food items and try to put the bulk of our budget towards healthier foods. With 2 teenage girls, mass food is not the issue but hair products & toiletries are!! :o) Our Trader Joe’s is about 45 minutes away so I typically make one trip per month there and suppliment with Aldi’s and Costco. The two latter stores are getting more and more organic selections that I am very pleased with.

Share Your Thoughts