Well, hello there!

My name is Rachael, and I’m a BIG believer in keeping a well-stocked pantry! You probably guessed that last part since I’m writing about pantry staples…Add in lists and you have some of my favorite things! Pantry staples list, anyone?

This has been a PASSION of mine for a long time! My grandparents were kids during the depression and I remember that every time I visited them, I’d see racks of home canned produce in the garage and a pantry that meant my grandma could whip up cookies or a pot pie in a moment’s notice. Just by scrounging through her pantry and freezer, we could put together a hearty, filling, family meal. There was something about that made me feel so warm and cozy!

My grandma’s pantry was like a magical treasure chest, full of every ingredient we might need for any special recipe.

I want to help you have a pantry like my grandma’s! There are lots of reasons to keep a well-stocked pantry besides cute cookie baking memories, and I go into detail about those below! To do this, I created a guide called “The Well-Stocked Pantry.”

free printable pantry staples list

What’s in the FREE pantry staples list?

I wrote this guide with the hope to answer the most common questions about stocking a pantry. I stared into my fridge, freezer, and pantry for a few days, thinking about what items I always have on hand and if they are universal enough for other home cooks.

There are 4 parts to this guide:

  1. An overview of WHY keeping a well-stocked pantry is important
  2. Key tips on WHERE to shop (including my favorite stores)
  3. Tips on HOW to store bulk foods safely
  4. And of course, an easy one-page ultimate pantry staples list!
real food shopping list

Is this like a pantry inventory list?

Yes! You can totally use this guide to figure out what you already have in your pantry and what to add. Each time you go shopping, add a couple more basics or add a bunch at once if your budget can handle it.


Use this guide as your weekly shopping checklist. If you’re a nerd (ahem, or a teacher like me), you might even want to laminate it for weekly use! You can just highlight what’s low or use the checkboxes. Add anything special to the box in the bottom corner. This is a great place for any processed food or special ingredients!

In a hurry? I can get the file to you in a matter of moments! Be sure to print it out before your next shopping run! You can start stocking your pantry by adding a single extra bottle of vinegar or a bag of frozen berries.

Just add your info in the box below and I’ll send the guide over to you right away!

My 4 Main Reasons for Keeping a Well-Stocked Pantry (and 1 really important one right now)

Be ready to bake or cook anything!

I still feel a sense of charm about pantries. As someone who LOVES to bake and cook, I truly enjoy having access to pretty much every basic ingredient I need for any recipe! Unless a recipe calls for something really specific, I can whip up a wide variety of sweet or savory meals any time. It really lets my creativity roam!

Okay, this is just the fun, homey part of keeping a pantry. This is not all about making sweet family memories assembling a late-night batch of brownies!

Eat healthier

So beyond having all the basic ingredients you need for a wide variety of cooking and baking, my list has VERY few processed foods. In fact, you’ll notice the only processed foods I have (besides condiments, if you count those) are:

  1. An emergency frozen pizza
  2. Vanilla ice cream

We really try to limit our intake of processed food. You’ll notice this on our free pantry staples list! By having only real food ingredients in our pantry, we eat avoid lots of preservatives, additives, and chemicals. This is a healthier way to eat!

You’ll notice we don’t even have bread on the list! We prefer to eat lower carb foods so although we do have flour and sugar on our list, we tend to bake any breads or desserts we want. We don’t eat these regularly, so we don’t mind putting in a little time to make them with love. I kept a space on my printable pantry list to help you add on anything you eat that I don’t, so your list can be reflective of your preferences!

real food pantry staples list

Save time planning meals

When you know exactly what foods you have on hand all the time, you’ll spend less time doing the pantry stare down trying to figure out what to make. We’ll talk more about super quick pantry meals in the future!

Related Post: Where to Stock Up on Pantry Staples Even During a Pandemic

Save money shopping

You’ll also save money shopping because you’ll only be shopping to replace whatever you used up from the pantry staples list and any fresh produce, meat, or dairy. You’ll notice that I often keep frozen meat in my freezer, so I only buy meat occasionally and usually just defrost whatever I need that day. Literally, my grocery shopping is pantry staples, dairy, and fresh produce. My fridge is pretty much just eggs, yogurt, water kefir, LEFTOVERS, and tons of produce!

Get in and out of the store fast

This means shopping is quick, too! You’ll have a short list of items to replenish. I’m pretty fast in the store – I know where my items are, I know what I want, and I get them quickly. I like to challenge myself to ONLY buy what’s on my list and to make it out of even Costco in 20 minutes!

Get our free pantry staples list by adding your name and email below. It’ll be in your inbox lickety split!

pantry staples list

A well-stocked pantry is like a mini emergency fund.

I’m a big budgeting nerd and I used to work as a credit counselor. I spent HOURS listening to people share the hardest and most uncomfortable stories of their lives. I was struck by how many people were set down a path of cascading debt simply from overlapping issues.

Almost every single one of us has dealt with a situation like this one. This one comes right from my own life a few years ago.

The Scenario

You’re working full-time or close to full-time, but not really making enough to live.

You’re living pretty much paycheck to paycheck, but you’ve been squirreling away about $50 per paycheck in savings for the last couple of months. You have about $150 saved up after you finally paid off that emergency dental bill.

You had a stomach bug for a couple of days and although you needed the money, you had to stay home and miss out on the hours.

You’re driving to work at 4:45 in the morning and don’t realize they did road construction the night before. There is a giant rut in the road. You check your tire when you get to work and it looks all puffy and bloated. You google that…it doesn’t look good.

The tire store tells you that you need a replacement and that your other tires are already in bad shape). They try to get you to replace all 4 tires even at the lowest rates, but you know you just can’t. They tell you it’s better to replace just two then to start the process of getting them all replaced.

You pay that bill with all of your savings and pretty much all of your grocery budget since now your paycheck dropped down from being sick.

You live off rice and beans for the month, praying that nothing else happens! It’s a long, frustrating month.

I am glad that I didn’t say yes to all the tires and open a credit card, because then I would have had a hard time paying that bill off each month. And we know that once you miss one credit card bill, the late payments start climbing and it is way too easy to get out of control. Whew!

Anyway, this is not a rant about credit cards. Or about shoddy road work. It’s about why it’s SO important to build in ways to flex your budget.

Build your pantry when times are good.

Stocking Your Pantry on a Budget

You can definitely live off a tight budget and stock your pantry. As you’ll see, my pantry checklist is long, but not fancy at all. You can scale it up or down as much as you can afford. Focus on the simplest and most versatile ingredients first, and then add in the others as you can. I’ve done it and so have many others.

Consider adding to your pantry with extra money that comes in like birthday money or tax returns, etc. I’m a big fan of using birthday money to stock up on meat! It’s so expensive, but I can save a little money buying ground beef in bulk and parceling it out into 1 pound bags. Yes, I’m 100% saying you should use birthday money for ground beef! Or if you get an Amazon card, order dried beans! These are my favorite ones and they’re from Washington just like me!

I always aim to have enough food in my pantry and freezer that we could survive for a month.

We are not preppers so if you’re into giant 5 gallon buckets of freeze dried corn, that’s all you. We just like the security of knowing if one of us lost our jobs, our food supply would not be an immediate concern.

Especially if you are still working and have money coming in right now, I recommend building your pantry strategically by following my pantry staples list.

If there are things you know you love to make, add those ingredients to the list. Fill in any gaps in your pantry stash!

What do you do when your pantry is fully stocked?

Use it! When my pantry is fully stocked and my income is stable, we often do pantry challenges where we eat only from the pantry from a couple of weeks. This is a great way to reduce the grocery budget temporarily too when financing a larger purchase. For example, we just learned I need a bunch of brake work and we have $400 worth of medical bills all due at the same time! Naturally, I do not have an extra $800 in my budget right now. We are able to cover some of these expenses by dropping our grocery budget this month and simply eating from the pantry. The amount we need to take out of our emergency fund is way less than before, which is such a relief right now!

By having a fully stocked pantry, I have control over my monthly grocery budget even when everything else may be going haywire. It’s an added layer of financial protection in addition to a great way to eat healthier, save money, and stress less in the kitchen!

Where do I go from here?

Wow, that’s a lot of information, but honestly, this is just the start! I’m going to teach you everything I can about eating from scratch, growing my own food, and building resilience into my life and budget. This is a huge passion of mine and I really hope this information is just as useful for you as it is for me!

Whenever you’re ready for the free pantry staples list, just add your info in the box below! And please remember to let me know what you think. I’m just one person with specific eating preferences. Maybe I like weird stuff! I want to adapt this guide to be helpful for as many people as possible. Please tell if there’s anything missing from the list and anything too Rachael-specific!

You can contact me anytime through our Connect page, Instagram, or Facebook. I’m right here with you!

Know someone who would love this? Please share it with them using the buttons below!