How to Stock a Pantry for the First Time

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Stocking a pantry from scratch can be a daunting task. If you want to know how to stock a pantry on a tight budget and what should be in your pantry always, stick around. I am going to tell you exactly how to stock a pantry for the first time.

Whether you’re a newlywed just buying your first home or restocking your pantry from a recent move or new kitchen renovation, you know that stocking a pantry can be expensive.

Plus, you have to start with an empty space. And staring at all that empty space can be just plain scary.

There are spices, condiments, canned foods, pastas, and all the baking basics, like flour, cornmeal, and baking soda. But which ones are really necessary? Where do you start?

It’s easy to get overwhelmed just thinking about that long list of pantry essentials.

But, stocking your pantry for the first time must be done if you plan on cooking at home.

Having a well-stocked pantry ensures you will be prepared to throw together a last-minute, family-friendly meal without having to make yet another trip to the grocery store.

I love being able to run into the grocery store and grab the meat for the main dish and fresh produce I need without having to actually shop for a full meal.

Having all the basic pantry staples is a great time and money saver.

After being married for over 13 years, and cooking for a man and three kids with big appetites, I know exactly what a well-stocked pantry looks like. (And I know how to get all those pantry staples on a budget.)

Are you ready to make that grocery shopping list? Get your pen and paper ready, ’cause we’re starting from scratch!

Stocking a pantry from scratch can be overwhelming. Learn how to stock a pantry on a tight budget and what should be in your pantry always.

Stocking a Pantry from Scratch

Stocking your pantry for the first time can actually be fun (if you like shopping). But before heading to the grocery store, you need a solid list so you can avoid being overwhelmed once you’re shopping.

I have been there. When my husband and I moved into our first home with our two kiddos, we started with nearly nothing. We were young parents, trying to get out from under our own parents’ roof.

I remember going to the grocery store for the first time. I actually had anxiety about having to fill all those cupboards.

I had no list and no idea what I was doing.

We ended up only getting enough for dinner that night and breakfast the next morning.

After that major fail, we decided to go back the next day. But I knew we needed to be more prepared. So I spent some time preparing a list of all the basics.

I even called my mom and asked her opinion on how to stock a pantry for the first time just to make sure I wasn’t forgetting anything.

How to Stock Your Pantry with the Basics

Here is a list of each main pantry food group – the things that should be in your pantry always.

Keep in mind that everyone’s cooking habits are different. If there is something on the list that you know you’ll never use, don’t buy it. This is just a guide. Do what works for you.


  • Rice
  • Pastas
  • Oats
  • Cornmeal
  • Cereal
  • Tortillas
  • Bread Crumbs

Nuts & Nut Butters

  • Peanuts
  • Almonds
  • Cashews
  • Pecans
  • Peanut Butter
  • Nutella

Canned Foods

  • Beans
  • Tomatoes
  • Tomato Sauce
  • Tomato Paste
  • Mixed Veggies
  • Evaporated Milk
  • Cream of Chicken Soup
  • Cream of Mushroom Soup
  • Beef and Chicken Broth
  • Canned Chicken & Fish

Spices, Herbs & Seasonings

  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Garlic Powder
  • Onion Powder
  • Parsley
  • Oregano
  • Paprika
  • Chili Powder
  • Basil
  • Cayenne
  • Cinnamon
  • Sage
  • Ground Ginger
  • Ground Nutmeg

Oils & Vinegars

  • Vegetable Oil
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Coconut Oil
  • White Vinegar
  • Red Wine Vinegar
  • Apple Cider Vinegar

Condiments & Sauces

  • Ketchup
  • Mustard
  • Jams/Jellies
  • Worcestershire Sauce
  • Soy Sauce
  • Hot Sauce

Baking Essentials

  • Self-rising Flour
  • All-purpose Flour
  • Bisquick
  • Baking Powder
  • Baking Soda
  • Corn Starch
  • White Sugar
  • Brown Sugar
  • Powdered Sugar
  • Vanilla Extract
  • Cooking Spray
  • Chocolate Chips


  • Potatoes
  • Onions
  • Garlic

Other Pantry Staples

  • Honey
  • Syrup
  • Salsa
  • Salad Dressing
  • Jarred Peppers
Stocking a pantry on a tight budget can be tough, especially if you are stocking a pantry from scratch. See the full list of pantry essentials and learn how to stock a pantry on a tight budget.

How to Stock a Pantry on a Tight Budget

As we’ve discussed, stocking a bare-bones pantry can be expensive. So how do you keep to a budget when your first time grocery shopping list is a mile long?

You follow these tips…

9 Tips to Stock Your Pantry for Cheap

After thirteen years keeping a fully stocked pantry, these are the things I’ve learned to do to stay on budget.

Buy in bulk.

Buying in bulk is one of the best ways to save on groceries. However, make sure it is something you use regularly. You don’t want to buy a 20 lb bag of potatoes (even if they are 50% off) if half of them are going to rot before you’re able to cook them.

Buy versatile foods.

Buying pantry staples that can be used in multiple dishes in a variety of ways is another great way to save. For instance, instead of buying seasonings that are mixed, like Season-All, purchase individual seasonings and mix them yourself to reach the desired taste.

Use foods that are filling.

Keeping your pantry stocked with foods that are filling will also keep costs down. These foods help you get full quicker and stay full longer. And this results in less you have to buy.

According to HealthLine, foods that are filling typically have the following characteristics: high in protein, high in fiber, high in volume, low in energy density. These are things like potatoes, eggs, oatmeal and nuts.

Keep items with a long shelf life.

As mentioned above, you don’t want 20 lbs of potatoes that are going to spoil before you use them.

Opting for canned fruits and veggies will help you save in the long run. It will also keep you from having to make so many trips to the grocery store. Canned green beans or corn are an easy side dish.

Shop the dollar store first.

Stop into your local dollar store before going to the big box store to save some cash. They buy surplus items from bigger brands at a steep discount, so they’re able to sale them for cheap.

When you visit your local dollar store, look for pantry essentials like: condiments and sauces, seasonings, nuts, baking mixes and whole grains.

Use shopping apps.

If you have never used Ibotta, you have missed out on so much cash back.

Grocery shopping is a must for every home. There is no way to avoid that expense. And if you have kids, it can feel like the grocery store is your second home. This is why you absolutely need Ibotta.

The best things about Ibotta:

  • It’s easy to use.
  • No clipping coupons. (Just take a pic of your receipt.)
  • You can get cash back for non name brands, too.

Sign up for Ibotta here and get $10 just for signing up!

Check local sales papers first.

In our town, we have four large grocery stores to chose from. By checking the sales paper first, I am able to map out where I shop for each thing.

On Sundays, I spend 30 minutes or so checking the sales paper, and making my shopping list. Then, I hit the stores with my list. Having a list ensures I don’t get side tracked and buy $100 worth of stuff I don’t need.

Shop online.

Did you know you can shop for groceries online? There are more and more options for shopping online popping up every day. However, I am an Amazon Prime junkie. (I cannot live without my free two-day shipping.)

Now, Amazon has Amazon Prime Pantry. This isn’t where I would purchase all my pantry essentials, but if you know how to use it, you can save some good money on some basics.

They offer digital coupons and great sales, like the Buy 5, Save $6.

Right now, you can sign up for a 30-day Free Trial and get free shipping on all orders over $10.

Try it for a month FREE to see if the savings will be worth it to you.

Download store apps.

The larger grocery store chains are coming out with their own shopping apps. These apps typically allow you to create your shopping list, check the current week’s sales, and offer digital coupons.

My local favorite is Kroger. The digital coupons save me so much money on top of their sales.

They even send me “Best Customer Coupons” through the app, which are store coupons. I have gotten free items numerous times, like peanut butter, cereal and bottled water.

It’s easy to use. Just open the app and “clip” the coupons to your savings card. When you check out, give the cashier your card and it automatically adds the coupons to your purchase. Simple.

Stocking your pantry for the first time doesn’t have to be so scary.

Use the list of pantry essentials above as a basis for your first shopping list. And use the 9 money-saving tips to get all your pantry staples on a budget.

If you’re new to grocery shopping altogether, just know that it is going to take some time to get accustomed to making your list, knowing what your essentials are and making that trip to the store.

The more time you take to prepare, the better your shopping experience will be.

If you have any tips to save money on pantry staples, tell us in the comments. Or, if there are any essentials you think I missed, fill me in. I love hearing from my readers!

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Learn how to stock a pantry for the first time, what should be in your pantry always and how to save money stocking a pantry from scratch.
Learn how to stock a pantry for the first time. Included is a great list of pantry essentials that should be in your pantry always. There are also 9 money saving tips for stocking your pantry.


    • Jillian
    • Jillian

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