A well-stocked pantry can be the difference between mealtime crisis and a stress-free family dinner. No one cook’s pantry will look the same as another, but you can determine what should be in your pantry by what you use often. We break down our list into Pantry, Refrigerated, and Freezer Items in the Busy Mom Menu and Frugal Mom Menu because keeping the freezer and refrigerator well-stocked is just as important as keeping a stocked pantry. We do not suggest that you go out out and purchase everything you see on these lists. Purchase only what you use and stock up over time as you begin using the menus. A good primer on stocking your pantry is Saving Time and Money With Stashes.
Many perishable items that you might think you can’t stock can actually be frozen until you need them. Lunch meat, cheese, pepperoni slices, and even milk can be frozen until needed. Many of us are used to thinking this way about fresh meat, but don’t apply the same reasoning to other perishable items. Once you get in the habit of keeping a stocked kitchen, you will find that your grocery bill decreases. It is not because you are buying less, but because you are paying less. If your pantry isn’t stocked, you have to pay whatever the current price is for basic items, but with a stocked pantry you simply refresh your supply when you find the items on sale.
Discount grocers are a wonderful place to stock your pantry. Discount grocers are outlet type stores that sell overstocked items, dented cans, or out of date items (most of which, like cereal, are so preservative-filled that they will never go bad) for a discount. Many discount grocers can accept food stamps, but most will not accept coupons. Check with each store for their policy.
Small chain stores like Aldi and Sharp Shopper offer good deals on select items, and there are many similar stores with a handful of locations across the country. Save-A-Lot is a chain that has over a thousand locations, although it does not offer discounts quite as deep as Aldi and Sharp Shopper. Dollar stores often carry groceries as well, but you have to price check carefully. Some items are a good deal and others may actually be cheaper elsewhere.