Open up your pantry and take a look. What do you see? Do you even know what’s in there? Utilizing your pantry correctly is an amazing way to make free meals every week; I do it all the time! You’ll soon be able to look at your pantry list, and with just a few ingredients come up with a frugal yet delicious dinner. Here’s an outline of steps you can take to fill your pantry, keep track of your stockpile, and plan meals like a boss!
Stock up when items are on sale
Creating a stockpile in your pantry and freezer is key to being able to make free meals. Keep an eye out for sales on your favorite pantry staples! If salsa is usually $1.69 and right now it’s on sale for $1.00, buy enough to last you a few weeks. I do this constantly with miscellaneous items, even if I don’t need them that week. If they’re at a rock-bottom price, don’t feel bad about getting more than you need right now as long as you eventually use them! I cover the specifics of how much you should stockpile in a previous blog post, but know that having multiples of different items is the best way to start making free meals.
Keep track of what’s in your pantry
Now that you have an amazingly-stocked pantry, you have to start using those items and rotating out the old ones before they start to expire. But food can get lost in the very back, and it can be hard to remember everything you have. That’s why it’s important to keep track of how much food you have, whether it’s in a notebook or on an app like Out of Milk.
The Out of Milk app is also web-based, so you don’t necessarily need to put it on your phone/tablet. But it is convenient to have the app installed, especially if you use their Shopping List feature and go paperless on your shopping trips!
The cool thing about using an app is that some of them can sync multiple accounts, so if your husband takes the last bag of cheese out of the freezer, he can update that on the app and you’ll be able to see it, too. It can take awhile to set up, especially if you have a lot of stuff. But once it’s done and you keep up with it, having a pantry list will help you tremendously!
Use resources to help meal plan
Sometimes it can be overwhelming to look inside your pantry and think, “What can I make tonight/next week?” Luckily, the internet is a vast wealth of information and people have created resources to help you with just that! My favorite website to use for times like this is SuperCook.
On SuperCook, you type in the basic ingredients you have- like pasta, mozzarella, and pizza sauce like above- and the website will pull up recipes that contain those ingredients. The bottom of the page has a suggested ingredient list, so in case you suddenly remember that oh yeah, you DO have chicken in the freezer, you can just click on Chicken and more recipes will show up for you. This site is really handy if you’re not that creative (like me) and just want some meals that don’t contain weird and expensive ingredients you don’t have!
Confession: I actually have a really hard time keeping track of what’s in my house. I keep telling myself I’m going to keep an inventory, but I never get around to it; or when I do, I forget to update it. So this is something we can work on together! Once you get the hang of filling your pantry and keeping track of what’s in there, it becomes much easier to meal plan and stay on budget thanks to those free meals! Do you utilize your pantry to help with grocery shopping? Share any tips you have in the comments below!
Be sure to check out all the posts in my ABCs of Frugal Living series!