5 Tips on How to Create a Meal Planning Pantry [with a free Pantry Essentials Checklist & 5 Pantry Meal-Kit Recipes]

Family life is busy, and having a well stocked pantry with some essential inventory items takes the pressure out of cooking. Let your pantry be your guide for family meals! Free "Pantry Essentials Checklist" & "5 Pantry Meal-Kit Recipes" for when you need something to eat in a pinch!

How to Create a Meal Planning Pantry: Family life is busy, and having a well stocked pantry with some essential inventory items takes the pressure out of cooking. Let your pantry be your guide for family meals! Free "Pantry Essentials Checklist" & "5 Pantry Meal-Kit Recipes" for when you need something to eat in a pinch!

Life gets pretty busy as a family, having a pantry stocked with some essential inventory items takes the pressure out of cooking. If you have the ingredients on-hand in your pantry, it goes without saying that meals are easier and quicker to prepare. I like having options on hand should an ingredient unexpectedly be unavailable, and prefer not to run out of ingredients that are on scheduled meal plan.

And in the past couple of weeks, I've simply resigned myself to only being able to post biweekly until at least April arrives. I'm into week 7 of being sick, and while I've found some great new alternative remedies, recipe testing has taken a backseat to life. And honestly, I've heavily relied on my pantry to make meals for my family in a pinch.

If you read my previous post on 5 Essential Tips You Need to Meal Plan for Your Family, then you know that I’m a big believer in having your family members involved and engaged with deciding what you’re eating as a family. By putting together a library of easy meals you can grab the ingredients from in your pantry any day, it makes dealing with the dinner rush – and life – so much easier. In addition to including everyone, one of the easiest ways to have mealtime move smoothly is to make sure you always have the necessary ingredients on hand, and a back-up plan to ensure a quick meal is always on-hand. Life happens, right?!

How to Create a Meal Planning Pantry

In addition to simply having the ingredients on hand that you know you plan to use, being aware of what ingredients you need the most of (over a month or two), and being able to purchase these items in advance (or even in bulk if feasible), will not only save you time planning your family’s meals, but it can also save you money.

5 Tips on How to Create a Meal Planning Pantry

1. Create a master list of family meals:

In my previous meal planning post, I talked about creating a list of your family’s favourite recipes that you use in your regular rotation. Once you know what foods you are making most often, you can also get a sense of what pantry items you use most frequently. This plan will also ensure that items are being rotated regularly and that food items are not going to be purchased and then expire before you use them.

2. Learn what your family’s pantry essentials actually are:

How to Create a Meal Planning Pantry

Once you know what your family’s pantry essentials are that you use most often, you can choose to buy these items in bulk, or simply know that when you see them go on sale you should stock up on them. This will help you to avoid having things in your pantry that you don’t use, and it will also ensure you can save some money on the items that you do frequently incorporate into meals.

Nonperishable items can include such things as seasonings (such as salt, pepper, chili powder, parsley, oregano, cumin, thyme, paprika), baking items (flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, etc.), canned produce (beans, mushrooms), soup, rice, quinoa, couscous, pasta, oils (olive, canola), nut or seed butter, bread crumbs, tomato sauce, honey, oatmeal, vegetable stock, nuts/seeds, and dried fruit.

How to Create a Meal Planning Pantry - Free Pantry Essentials Checklist

Fridge items might include commonly used produce that keeps for more than a handful of days, such as carrots, potatoes, onions as well as other baking or cooking staples such as eggs, milk (dairy or nondairy) and cheese.

Freezer staples may include things such as items that could be quickly utilized as side dishes, in salads, or that will help form a quick meal in a pinch, including peas, corn, loaf of bread, and pre-cooked meat (we often have roast chicken left over and cube it, and freeze it into 1 cup and 2 cup portions).

Not sure what your pantry essentials might be? This Pantry Essentials Checklist helps keep us on track.

3. Ensure you have shelving, storage & an organization system set up for your pantry:

In some cases, you may be lucky enough to already have this in place, or the space you are using as a pantry may need some fine tuning. Shelving is the first key component to begin storing items in your pantry. Many food items (especially those you will buy in bulk) are heavy, so you will need to ensure that the shelves are sturdy and well secured. Taking some additional measurements of the space can help you determine if you want or need to purchase some additional storage containers that will work in the area you have designated for your pantry.

4. Regularly clean out your pantry by making meals from ingredients only found in it:

Every month or two, I’ll open up my pantry and take everything out so I can see what I have. I then make a list and begin planning meals from those ingredients to ensure everything stays fresh and I don’t buy sale items on impulse and then forget about them. It also makes my grocery order for that week much less expensive!

5. Keep a pantry “meal kit” (or two) on hand for a back-up meal:

How to Create a Meal Planning Pantry - Free Pantry Meal-Kit Recipes

Try to keep at least one pantry meal kit on hand for those days when it feels like everything is against you, you just don’t feel like grocery shopping for an extra day, perhaps a new recipe simply didn’t go as planned, or life just happens. We’ve all be there… there will always be days when you need to change the meal plan and be able to make something else (either in a handful of minutes, or you’re aware of this in advance). It may not be your original plan, but changing the meal plan is still better than takeout! I’ve created "5 Pantry Meal-Kit Recipes" resource for you, complete with a grocery list to help you have a back-up meal ready to go!

Do you have a pantry? Did I miss any ingredients? Are there any basics you keep on hand and use often that I haven’t listed here? Please share them in the comments below!

How to Create a Meal Planning Pantry
How to Create a Meal Planning Pantry: Family life is busy, and having a well stocked pantry with some essential inventory items takes the pressure out of cooking. Let your pantry be your guide for family meals! Free "Pantry Essentials Checklist" & "5 Pantry Meal-Kit Recipes" for when you need something to eat in a pinch!