How To Stock A Pantry On A Budget Less Than $50

Learning how to stock a pantry on a budget can be tricky. When money is tight, the last thing you want to do is spend money on extra things to create a frugal pantry. But, learning how to build up your pantry will actually save you money in the long run — and it’s about how to afford food when times are tight! Here’s how to get begin stocking a pantry for less than $50!

looking down on a table of canned and dried food

How To Stock A Pantry On A Budget

How do you stock a pantry on a budget?

  • Think about what kind of meals you may be making.
  • Take note of your current pantry items so you don’t duplicate them.
  • Shop the sales (including BOGO and 10 for $10).
  • Only buy things you know your family will eat. It doesn’t matter how great the deal is if you’ll be throwing it away in a few weeks because everyone hates it!
  • Buy in bulk.
  • Go generic / off-label when you can.
  • Stick to dried and canned food (for the first pantry phase).

How To Build Up Your Pantry On $50/Month

There are some basics that all pantries should have (unless you have dietary restrictions, then you’ll have to adjust the list for those). And, by adding around $50/month to your pantry stock, you can quickly build a nice reserve of food.

Here’s how to build up your pantry, starting with basic pantry staples for families like:

  • Dried Pasta
  • Dried Beans
  • Rice or Quinoa (or Other Grains)
  • Canned Meat
  • Broth / Bouillon
  • Oats
  • Canned Vegetables
  • Canned Fruit
  • Flour
  • Cornmeal
  • Sugar
  • Cooking Oil
  • Pasta Sauces

Let’s go into more detail on the items we would start with on our How To Stock a Pantry On a Budget list. It will give you a better understanding of why we recommended these for pantry staples!

For this pantry list, we’re going to cover longer term food storage items (canned, bottled, dried food, etc.) and not freezer, refrigerator, or fresh fruits and vegetables. We’re also going to assume that you have spices, so we’ve left those off.

 
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This is a great beginner pantry list if you’re wondering:

  • What to stock a pantry with for saving money
  • How to stock a pantry for the first time
  • How to stock a pantry for an emergency

You’ll build on this list monthly (or weekly, or as your budget allows) by adding more items.

TIP: Allow your pantry storage to build up for a few months before you start using it. Otherwise, you’re just basically grocery shopping and then using / re-buying.

Remember: the goal of stocking a pantry is so you have extra food you can rely on to stretch your money or for emergency purposes!

A NOTE ABOUT THE PRICES LISTED: We used 2020 first quarter pricing from Amazon Fresh. When generic/off-brand was available, we used those as examples.

Stock Pantry List

Pantry Item List #1: Pasta

Dried pasta is a must-have pantry item:

  • Pasta is easy to cook
  • You can get a variety of different pasta to meet dietary needs (whole wheat, gluten-free, egg-free, etc.)
  • It makes cheap meals
  • Pasta is filling
  • Pasta makes great fillers to stretch meat dishes
  • It’s easy to mix with other items for a large variety of meal ideas
  • It stores for a long time before you need to use it

To start, we would include these in our pantry:

  • Dried spaghetti – ($1.30/16 oz) – 2
  • Egg noodles ($1.29/12 oz) – 2
  • Elbow macaroni noodles ($1.25/16 oz) – 2

Egg noodles are great because they are super cheap and can be used with just sauce or with meats or in a variety of different casseroles or dishes.

The same with elbow macaroni noodles. They can be used for macaroni, chili, soups, and more!

Pantry Item List #2: Canned Tomatoes

Many people recommend storing pasta sauces for your pantry list. While it’s fine to store those, I find canned tomatoes to be cheaper and more versatile option.

With a pasta sauce, you’re stuck using it for pasta (or maybe pizza sauce). With canned tomatoes, you can use them for soups, chili, pasta sauces, other sauces, casseroles, pizza and more. (And, it’s easy to convert canned tomatoes to pasta sauce with a few seasoning or vegetables.)

  • Diced tomatoes ($1.09/28 oz) – 2
  • Crushed tomatoes ($1.00/28 oz) – 2
  • Tomato paste ($ .76/6 oz) – 2

Pantry Item List #3: Rice, Quinoa, or Grains

Rice (or grains) are another must-have pantry item for the same reasons as pasta: it stores well (for long periods), it’s cheap, and it’s both filling (for our tummy) and makes a great filler to stretch meat recipes.

If you can (your diet allows), start with basic rice and then add in more expensive items like quinoa.

  • White rice ($1.94/32 oz) – 1

Pantry Item List #4: Dried Beans

I know this is going to sound like a broken record, but dried beans are also an important pantry staple for the same reasons as rice and pasta: price, long-term shelf stable, great fillers for recipes, and they make us feel full.

We recommend different beans to add variety to soups, casseroles and recipes.

  • Red kidney beans ($1.67/1 lb) – 1
  • Black beans ($1.48/16 oz) – 1
  • Pinto beans ($1.47/16 oz) – 1

Pantry Item List #5: Bouillon

Using broth or bouillon adds a lot of dimension and flavor to your dishes.

Many pantry lists recommend you store broth (like the kind you get in a carton). However, for long-term storage, I prefer bouillon (cubes or granule packets) because the dried bouillon lasts longer and it’s easier to store (takes up less room).

  • Chicken bouillon ($1.00/1.5 oz) – 1
  • Beef bouillon ($1.59/2.6 oz) – 1

Pantry Item List #6: Canned Fruits and Vegetables

Getting some fresh-tasting, healthy food pantry items is important. Canned fruits can often be expensive, so you’ll want to add these slowly to your pantry stocking list.

Clearly, you can choose any combination of fruits and vegetables for your pantry.

TIP: Always choose pantry items that have multiple purposes. For example, green beans can be eaten alone, but also used in soups and casseroles.

Here are some examples of fruit and vegetable pantry items to have on hand:

  • Green beans ($ .89/15 oz) – 3
  • Peas and Carrots ($ .75/15 oz) – 3
  • Corn ($ .98/15 oz) – 3
  • Pineapple chunks ($1.39/20 oz) – 1
  • Peaches ($1.76/15 oz) – 1

Pantry Item List #7: Baking Goods

Baking goods are one of those things that people sometimes forget when stocking a pantry because they think, “Oh, I’m not going to be making cakes, so…”

Remember, along with sweet treats like cookies, cupcakes, and cakes, baked goods are also bread, cornbread, tortillas, biscuits and so many more items that you can save money by making from scratch.

Be sure to stock your food storage with, at a minimum, these baking items to start:

  • All purpose flour ($1.19/lb) – 1
  • Cornmeal ($2.08/24 oz) – 1
  • Sugar ($2.69/4 lb) – 1
  • Baking Soda ($ .89/lb) – 1
  • Baking Powder ($1.99/8 oz) – 1

Pantry Item List #8: Oats

Oats are another great pantry item because you can use them for breakfast or dinner and they have several purposes — eating alone, binding agents for dishes (think: meatloaf), baking and more!

  • Oats ($1.69/18 oz) – 1

Pantry Item List #9: Canned Meats

Can I be honest? I’m not a fan of canned meats like chicken or tuna in the can. However, we always have some in our pantry stock for “just in case.” You can easily use them in soups, salads, casseroles and more!

Canned meats are also more expensive canned items, so you’ll probably add these canned pantry items slower than other items or buy them at a bulk store to get more for your money.

  • Chicken breast ($2.22/10 oz) – 1
  • Tuna ($1.98/12 oz) – 1

Food Pantry Item List

If you want to see the pantry items to have on hand list all in one place, here’s what it looks like.

Remember, you’ll add to this list (and expand it) as your budget allows (hopefully at least monthly!).

This list will give you a start (and you can even build full meals off of just what is listed here!)

  • Dried spaghetti – ($1.30/16 oz) – 2
  • Egg noodles ($1.29/12 oz) – 2
  • Elbow macaroni noodles ($1.25/16 oz) – 2
  • Diced tomatoes ($1.09/28 oz) – 2
  • Crushed tomatoes ($1.00/28 oz) – 2
  • Tomato paste ($ .76/6 oz) – 2
  • White rice ($1.94/32 oz) – 1
  • Red kidney beans ($1.67/1 lb) – 1
  • Black beans ($1.48/16 oz) – 1
  • Pinto beans ($1.47/16 oz) – 1
  • Chicken bouillon ($1.00/1.5 oz) – 1
  • Beef bouillon ($1.59/2.6 oz) – 1
  • Green beans ($ .89/15 oz) – 3
  • Peas and Carrots ($ .75/15 oz) – 3
  • Corn ($ .98/15 oz) – 3
  • Pineapple chunks ($1.39/20 oz) – 1
  • Peaches ($1.76/15 oz) – 1
  • All purpose flour ($1.19/lb) – 1
  • Cornmeal ($2.08/24 oz) – 1
  • Sugar ($2.69/4 lb) – 1
  • Baking Soda ($ .89/lb) – 1
  • Baking Powder ($1.99/8 oz) – 1
  • Oats ($1.69/18 oz) – 1
  • Canned Chicken breast ($2.22/10 oz) – 1
  • Canned Tuna ($1.98/12 oz) – 1

TOTAL: $48.27

HOW TO STOCK A PANTRY ON A BUDGET LESS THAN $50 text overlay over dried food and canned food spread across a table

How To Stock a Pantry On a Budget Is Easier Than You Think

Julia

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