woman stocking pantry after grocery shopping

Smart tips for saving money while stocking your pantry

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A well-stocked pantry can save money, time, and stress.

“And when she got there, the cupboard was bare” is perhaps the saddest line in nursery rhymes. A well-stocked pantry is crucial to any family’s happiness. Smart grocery shopping can save you money helping you reach your financial goals.

Having basics on hand can take the worry out of whipping up a last-minute meal or having to put dinner prep on hold while you run to the grocery store for that one missing item. A little planning can make a huge difference and help you to be prepared for anything.

Get organized.

Know what you have before you shop for groceries by scanning your shelves. Organizing your space by category—for example, pasta and grains, baking needs, canned fruits and veggies, soups, and breakfast items–can make monitoring what you have so much easier.

Be sure to record a “best by” date on things you transfer out of the original package. Plastic Lazy Susans can be a big help by spinning items hidden in the back of cabinets to the forefront. Use shelf baskets to organize miscellaneous packets and pouches.

Think like a grocer and put your older items at the front of the shelf, newer to the back. This simple trick can help you make the most of your groceries and save money by not having to replace expired items just because you didn’t use them in time.

It’s not a value if you won’t eat it.

Know your taste and that of your family. The greatest price on brown rice won’t turn you into a brown-rice lover. Stock up on the things you know you will use on a regular basis. Remember, non-perishable products do expire. Don’t waste space in your pantry with unwanted items waiting out the “best by” date. Pass these things on to charitable food pantries.

To bulk or not to bulk.

Buying in bulk from warehouse stores can be a great value — unless it’s not. Look closely at the price and compute what an individual package would cost to see if you’re actually saving money. If it’s a deal, then ask yourself if you will use it all before the expiration date, and where will you store it.

By all means, if it’s a deal on something your family uses on a regular basis, such as paper products, buy it. You can always store things in a garage or under the bed. You also might consider splitting a bulk purchase with a friend.

Condiments are a constant.

Oils and vinegars have a shelf life of two years and endless uses, so stock up. When you see a good price on mayo, mustard, ketchup, or your favorite taco sauce, grab a few to keep in reserve.

Get that can-do attitude.

Canned fruits and vegetables may not be glamorous, but they can be a healthy way to feed a family quickly and affordably. Stock up on protein-rich black beans, cannellini beans, and garbanzo beans. Add them to tacos, soups, salads, rice, and quinoa dishes.

Think you don’t like beets? You may be surprised how a chilled can of sliced beets will sweeten up a salad while it adds a healthy dose of iron. Tomato-based foods are another essential, so stock up on diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, and tomato paste. Canned fruits in natural juices are a great addition to any meal, dessert, or snack. Keep canned tuna on hand for casseroles, sandwiches, or salads. Canned corned beef hash is a simple way to make any breakfast more satisfying.

Another reminder about expiration dates: according to The United States Department of Agriculture, low-acid foods like canned vegetables, canned chicken, fish, or ham can last up to five years if they’re kept in a cool, dry place. High-acid items like canned tomatoes and citrus fruits foods last up to 18 months.

A grain of sense.

Stock up on healthy grains such as rice, quinoa, barley, polenta, pasta, grits and oatmeal that extend meals and keep their shelf life. Store them in clear air-tight containers and refill from the bulk bin aisle at the grocery store.

Check weekly specials.

Online coupons and ads are easily available and a great way to save money when grocery shopping. While it may not make sense to drive all over town to take advantage of specials on different products at different grocery stores, it does make sense to check out the weekly specials at your favorite store. This keeps you from strolling past a great deal on the aisle while you’re in search of something else. BOGO (buy one, get one) offers make sense if the product is something you know you will use again and something your family likes.

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