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Beginner's Guide to Starting a Food Pantry

By Edited Nov 16, 2015 0 0

The main reason I want a food pantry is my belief that food prices will skyrocket, as they generally follow oil prices. The food industry is very dependent on oil to make plastic containers and food tray inserts (cookies, TV dinners, boxed chocolates, etc.) as well as increased transportation costs from the food plant to the grocery store. And with many of the food and processing plants being in other countries instead of our own, we are at the mercy of any dock strikes, truck strikes or social upheaval in those countries.

The second reason is to save money. I had a plan to build our food storage without spending any more than $10 extra on groceries every week. And you know what? My larder is building up fast.

Only stock up on foods that your family enjoys eating. With careful shopping, you do not need a lot of money to build up a nice size pantry.

Setting Up The Pantry:

1. Make a list of the foods you want in your home storage. I used the following categories:

  • a. fruits (breakfast, canned pie filling, applesauce, fruit juice, etc.),
  • b. vegetables (leafy green, variety of beans, potatoes, tomatoes, etc.)
  • c. pasta (spaghetti, macaroni noodles, lasagna noodles, etc.)
  • d. rice (brown, white, flavored rice-a-roni types, yellow, black beans & rice, etc.)
  • e. bread products (bagels, sandwich bread, English muffins, etc.),
  • f. baking supplies (flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, vanilla extract, spices etc.)
  • g. meat and seafood (canned ham, frozen meats, canned tuna, chili, etc,)
  • h. condiments (catsup, mustard, salt and pepper, pickles, relish, etc.)
  • i. cereal and breakfast foods (oatmeal, boxed cereals, breakfast bars, pancake mix, etc.)
  • j. Dairy (butter freezes well and so does milk if you remove a little from the top for expansion), grated cheese, eggs (only freeze what you will use for baking), etc.
  • k. Beverages (tea bags, coffee, juice, water, lemonade, etc.)
  • l. Other foods (mixed nuts, peanut butter, popcorn, olive oil, etc.)
  • m. Cooking supplies (aluminum foil, wax paper, plastic wrap, zipper bags, parchment paper, etc.)

2.  Separate your foods by storage categories:

  • freezer,
  • canned goods,
  • glass jars,
  • boxed foods and
  • plastic bags.

Canned goods need a metal storage rack while boxes and bags should do fine on a cheap plastic shelf unit. However, if you don't have the money for either of these, there is another solution.

Store canned goods around your home, in low places since they are heavy --- in a box in the hall closet, under the bed, inside the end tables, under the sofa and chairs  (with a floor length duster), and similar nooks and crannies.

Bags of food fit very nicely inside of a wicker hamper. Bag them in large zipper bags to prevent any spilled food.

I found a chest freezer on clearance for under $100. It holds 200 lbs. of food. This gives me the opportunity to buy food when they have the BOGO sales - meats, vegetables, fruit, cakes and pastries, breads and rolls, and anything else that freezes well.


Stocking the Pantry:

I could only afford $10 a week for food storage but I did quite well with my strategy.

1. Check the sale papers, including places other than grocery stores that sell food (pharmacy, dollar store, department store, ethnic stores, flea market or farmers market, gas stations with mini marts, etc.)

2. Try to match up a manufacturer's coupon with each item on your list. Additionally, if the store has issued its own coupon, many times they will accept both toward the purchase since the bar codes are different.

3. Make note of any register rewards such as those offered at Rite Aid and CVS. Their coupons are for cash off of your next purchase and usually on anything except prescriptions or tobacco. For example, I recently bought some Betty Crocker brownie mix on sale for $1.99. I had a coupon that lowered the price to $1.49 and then received a register reward for $1.00. Final cost: 49 cents.

4. Make your shopping list and visit whatever stores are necessary to get the best deal. I have purchased 10 lb. bags of rice for under $3, name brand canned goods for 40 cents, and routinely buy meat at half-price. By the way, I do not visit scratch and dent stores because I do not feel confident in being able to find pinhole air pockets in damaged cans.

5. Don't overlook the gas station. Many times they have the best prices on milk, bread and eggs. So the next time the weatherman gives a winter storm warning, and the crowds are horrible at the grocery stores, just stop by your neighborhood gas station for milk, bread and eggs.



Keep track of what you have on hand, as well as its expiration date. While some people go to the trouble of keeping an inventory list, I use the old school method. When you bring fresh food into the house, push the older food to the front of the shelf, and then stock the new stuff at the back. It might take a few extra minutes, but it avoids throwing anything away.

Also, look at the expiration dates of food at the front of the shelf. Work your weekly menu around foods that are near that date. You will get full value of every dollar spent by never throwing food in the trash.



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