Friday, July 15, 2011

Meal Planning Part 1: Stocking the Pantry

This is the first post of a 3-part series in which I will attempt to share some insights on how to plan meals.  Planning for meals is a way to be more frugal, efficient and organized about something that takes place every day in your home.  When I started thinking about doing a post on meal planning, I realized that there are some background topics that go into my meal planning, so I wanted to be sure to include those.  Hope you enjoy this series and maybe even learn something along the way.

Stocking the Pantry

Several years ago I clipped a page from a Better Homes and Gardens magazine that inspired me for the day when I would have a pantry. When we moved into this house, I pulled it out and got started.  Here are some pictures of my inspiration:

I liked the idea of zones in the pantry, so I try to stick to those zones and it truly does help me in keeping organized and being able to find what I'm looking for in a hurry.  You'll see photos of my zones below.  Everyone's pantry will obviously look different, as we all have different tastes, family sizes, and eating lifestyles.  My pantry lists are items that I always keep on hand, and having these enables me to cook and bake from scratch.  

1. Baking Supplies:
flour (all-purpose)
brown sugar
cocoa powder
powdered sugar
 chocolate chips
butter Crisco sticks
corn meal
Shortening (although you can store this in the fridge as well)
Chocolate baking squares (unsweetened)
Unflavored gelatin
Vegetable oil
Corn Syrup

With these ingredients you have what is necessary to make anything from biscuits to elaborate cakes, even at the last minute.  I store all of the smaller baking supplies in a basket in my pantry, so that they are contained and I can easily find what I'm looking for and know what needs to be replaced.

Baking Supplies Basket (needs some replenishing!)

 The larger quantities of these staples I have stored in airtight containers.

2. Canned and Bottled Goods

Diced Tomatoes
Crushed Tomatoes
Tomato Paste
Salad Dressing
Olive Oil
Vinegar (balsamic, red wine, white)
Cooking Wine

Some of these items are obviously stored in the refrigerator once opened, but it's always great to have extras in your pantry in case you run out.  My last kitchen only had 2 cabinets where I could store food, so I wasn't able to do as much 'stocking up' on these types of items.  I did, however, always keep tabs on what was running low in my fridge. 

3.  Dry Goods

Pasta (all varieties)
Dried Beans
Peanut Butter

Our evening meals usually consist of  a meat, a starchy side, and a vegetable.  Since I always have various types of pasta, rice, and grits in my pantry, it's easy to create different side dishes.  Risotto, Macaroni & Cheese, Noodles with Butter and Seasonings, Cheese Grits, Rice Pilaf are just some examples.

There you have it!  That's how my pantry is stocked.  One day I hope to have stylish containers for all of my goods (I'm currently saving up jars to make more of my chalkboard jars) but for now, this system works just fine!  

Here are some photos of some amazingly organized stocked pantries.  Click on the links to read about some awesome pantry transformations.  Hope you feel inspired!
House of Smiths 
Home Stories A to Z
Decor Chick


  1. I love this post! I'm terrible at stocking up and usually end up having to buy the ingredients that I need each week. This is so dumb, and I realize that, but I didn't know how to know what all I should always have on hand. So this is SO helpful! Sadly we don't have a huge pantry, so I won't be able to go to town stocking up, but this will give me a good start!

  2. We actually don't have a pantry at our sad I know. When we changed out our cabinets we did get one of those taller cabinets with drawers that roll out...but still not a lot of space! Those are some great tips b/c I need to get better of having staples on hand!

  3. Thanks for this post. I am feeling totally inspired! (and hungry)

  4. An inspiring and interesting post. I love a well stocked and organized pantry.....excellent post.

  5. This is very helpful, Lauren. I like your lists and the way you have things organized, especially the little baskets. Our pantry is in desperate need of reorganizing, so this is going to be so helpful! I love the turn tables in the corner of that one pantry. And I've been looking for a nice container for my vanilla whey- do you know where that came from? :)


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