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What’s in my Pantry?
How I Stock and Organize my Space…
I continually strive to keep things streamlined and organized & running smoothly in our little world!! Part of keeping myself organized is a very well stocked pantry (fridge and freezer, too).
By maintaining a good inventory of our favorites along with a well organized space, it helps me make almost any meal in a snap.
Because I have 2 young kids plus babysit, my items are usually pretty kid friendly and set up so they can help grab items or get their own snacks.
I joke that I bought our home because of the pantry space! (Honestly, there may be a lot of truth to that statement 😉) Trust me, I know not everyone has the storage space that my home has, but my hope is that you can get some ideas for better meal planning and some tips or tricks for organizing!
Let’s explore what I consider pantry MUST haves and why I always keep these on hand……
Basic Baking Supplies – Flour, Granulated Sugar, Powdered Sugar, Brown Sugar, baking soda, baking powder, cocoa powder, vanilla & almond extract, plus a few flavors of baking chips. I am a SERIOUS baker and probably stock more than a typical person! I keep one or two extra bags of flour and sugar available. I use cheap Walmart storage containers but am looking for something with better snapping lids! Keeping these baking supplies lets me whip up my favorite chocolate chip cookies ANYTIME!
MUST haves for baking needs:
- Cake Mixes (at least one chocolate and one white or yellow ALWAYS)
- Betty Crocker Cookie Mixes – I am almost always a from scratch baker, but these make great cookie/brookie bars and are especially great for last minute ‘need a dish to pass’ events. They really are good quality and typically only need an egg, water, and oil/butter! You can even pick them up at the Dollar Tree or on sale for about a buck.
- Pie Filling – any flavor. So handy for making special pancakes or french toast, topping for cheesecake and this EASY ‘fancy’ coffee cake.
- Almond Bark or Quality Melting Chocolate – it seems many recipes call for this and it makes yummy gnaches, dipped pretzels and other desserts
- Instant Pudding – a few boxes of vanilla & chocolate. A tasty filling for pies and cakes plus a staple in this crazy good Chocolate Lasagna!
- Marshmallows – Always necessary for bon fires, but I use them in rice crispy treats regularly plus a few other favorite recipes.
- Nuts – A few cans of almonds and pecans are handy for so many things from sweet breakfast treats to savory salads and dinners. Once I open a can, I store them in the fridge or freezer for longest shelf life.
- Evaporated Milk & Sweetened Condensed Milk – a mandatory for lots of baked sweet treats. I keep one can of each as a must have item. Plus, evaporated milk is a substitute item in casseroles and dinner staples if I run out of milk and can’t make it to the store that day!
Canned Goods – The typical mix of fruits and veggies. Usually a few cans of corn, carrots, green beans, pineapple, peaches, and mandarin oranges. Plus a few cans of beans – black, pinto, refried, Bushes baked beans and kidney/red beans. I don’t keep a set number or variety, just so there are always enough on hand to make a few favorite meals. One of my most made potluck/family meal items are these Ranch Beans. At least 4 cans of diced or crushed tomatoes for chili and homemade spaghetti. Also 2 or 3 cans of cream soups for casseroles and slow cooker dinners.
Breakfast/Snacks – You will notice I have a row of plastic bins stocked with essentials. Whether it is smoothies, oatmeal, running out the door in a hurry, or fast snacks I am ready! These bins HERE from Target are sturdy and nice quality. They fit well on the shelves and keep things looking tidy. I keep a lot of breakfast items so the kids get a variety and can help decide what you like/want each day. Typically one kid gets to choose breakfast each day during the week so everyone gets to feel involved and part of the decision making. I do my best to please each kid so every one feels included and doesn’t always have to eat one person’s favorite. It is easy to fall into a habit of just giving them cereal, but having oatmeal and dried fruit always in the pantry makes breakfast just as simple as pouring cereal in a bowl!
- Pancake Mix & Syrup – Try these Banana Pancakes!
- Regular, plain old fashioned Oatmeal. We add dried fruit, apples, cinnamon, peaches and honey to ours.
- Peanut Butter – usually 2 or 3 jars minimum. Between PBJ sandwiches, toast, and baking we use at least a jar a week.
Whats in the bins:
- Carnation Instant Breakfast Shakes. Blend with milk, banana, berries and ice for a smoothie
- Instant Oatmeal Packets &/or Bowls
- Small single serve bowls &/or boxes of Cereal. These are usually road trip snacks. No mess/no fuss
- Granola for yogurt parfaits – toss on top of fruit and yogurt for a filling breakfast
- Dried Fruit (raisins, craisins, berries, etc.)
- Granola & Cereal Bars – a rotated variety of quick grab snacks for on the go. We don’t use these habitually as meals, but if we have a lot of fresh fruit to use up, I will let the kids grab a bar to go with it for a fast breakfast or serve with a yogurt cup.
- Fruit Snacks/Fruit Leathers
- Mixed Nuts/Trail Mix Packets
- Single Serve chips & crackers. I would rather pay a few cents more per serving for these single serve bags knowing we don’t have open large bags of snacks that can easily go unused and stale. Plus, the portion sizes are perfect for my kids and make lunch packing easy!
Fruit Cups – For school lunches we use a lot of these! Between coupons and sales, the 4 or 6 single serve cups are generally cheaper than a single can of fruit. PLUS, it is good portion control and self serve for the kids. I also keep applesauce pouches and small single serve raisin or craisin boxes. The 2-Tier Utility Storage Bin Organizers are from Target and found HERE.
Dinner Staples – Below is a list of my always stocked items. I keep sauce packets and quick fix items available to help build my meals. At this point in our busy lives, they are convenient and help me still make mostly homemade meals every night! Since my meal plans for the week revolve around re-purposing at least one meal a week, for a second new meal, items like instant mashed potatoes and rice turn leftover chicken into creamy rice soup or mashed potato bowls.
- Bread Crumbs
- Instant Mashed Potatoes – Make mashed potato bowls with left over pork or chicken. Recipe HERE
- Bisquik or other Biscuit Mix
- Long Grain Rice
- Spaghetti Noodles + a few boxes of short cut noodles (elbow, penne, etc.)
- Pasta Sauce & Alfredo Sauce (at least 3 jars of red sauce and 1 Alfredo) My kids LIVE for pasta. It is a weekly menu item for us. Any way, shape, or form keeps them happy! Our current go to fav is THIS Chicken Bacon Ranch Pasta. Lasagna, baked mac & cheese, and of course spaghetti are always ready to go when you stock these items. I love when Prego is included in Meijer’s Buy 5/Save $5 or 10/$10 sales! I can’t resist stocking up!
- Corn Bread Mix – goes great with soups or bake over taco meat for tamale casserole
- Tortilla Shells/Chips – ONE word – NACHOS – a leftover makeover dream! Chili, BBQ pulled pork, sloppy joes, pizza toppings, and of course taco meat all make amazing nacho dishes!
- Au Juice, Gravy and Onion Soup Mixes. A must for crockpot roasts!
- Prepared Jarred Gravy
- Taco Seasoning
- A few boxes of Mac & Cheese and Rice side dish packets. The blue box is ever present with kids! Whether it is lunch or a side with burgers or THIS BBQ Kielbasa. Just a few of each for dinner options.
- Soup Pouches – chicken noodle is our favorite & gets made often with leftover chicken
- Extra bottle or 2 of Ranch, Ketchup, BBQ, Soy Sauce, Vinegar, and Mayo.
- If you open a bag or box of an item you are not using the entire package, store it in a clear plastic container. I HATE accidentally spilling an open bag all over the place (been there, done that A LOT!) If it is rice or similar item, tape the directions on the outside of the container so you remember the ratios, directions and cooking times.
- Store open items in plain sight so they are used first. We have made it a general rule that no new snacks are opened until the prior is gone. Limits waste and keep indecisiveness at a minimum!
- Write the expiration dates of items with a marker on the lids so at a glance you know what is the oldest on the shelf.
- Keep a list in the ‘notes’ section of your phone of items you are running low on. If you use up an item, add it to your list right away. Most of us don’t shop without our phones so you always have your list!
- Items like crackers and chips rotate often in sale cycles, especially around all major holidays. Don’t buy tons of them just because it is a good sale. They have short shelf life and go stale quickly. You will find them again soon at about the same price to refresh your stock. For example; Ritz, Townhouse, and Club crackers go on sale at major grocers with Buy 5 Save $5 Sales. Grab 2 boxes during the sale and get cheaper filler items instead of 5 boxes of crackers. We know the sales come around every few months and you get get fresh new stock rather than holding 5 boxes in storage!
See how I stock my fridge, too!