We are gearing up for back to school time around here (year round school will be an adjustment for sure). This means our lazy days of fixing meals at home whenever we want are few and far between. It also means I need to get organized and crank out some meal prepping awesomeness to avoid eating takeout or fast food every night. Not that we don’t do takeout or fast food ever, but I am desperately trying to improve our family eating habits over here. First up, cleaning out my pantry and seriously taking stock of what we have, what we will reasonably eat and what we need.
What items do I keep stocked during the school year for meal prep and lunches?
Rice & Grains: I rarely have all of these at the same time. I try to rotate these around to keep the food interesting enough that we all want to eat it.
couscous (try Israeli couscous for a more pasta-like taste)
pasta (I try to keep spaghetti and a smaller sized pasta for pasta salads)
canola oil or grapeseed oil (these are neutral tasting oils)
apple cider vinegar
red wine vinegar
Italian seasoning blend
Southwest seasoning blend
**I stock up on seasonings and pick up 1-2 every time I shop. I recommend curry, cinnamon, onion powder, garlic powder, garlic salt and pretty much any seasoning you can put in your spice cabinet. Start small so you’re not breaking the bank.
Baking needs & sweeteners
white whole wheat flour
sugar: white and light brown
cream of tartar
Cereal & Breakfast
nuts: cashews, peanuts, almonds, walnuts (I rotate these based on what’s on sale)
sunflower seed butter (or peanut butter, cashew butter, etc)
dried fruit: craisins & blueberries are a favorite around here
popcorn kernels (seriously, buy these and pop your own. Saves $$ and doesn’t come with all the nasty chemicals)
pita chips/tortilla chips
chicken broth or vegetable broth
beans (dried and canned)
mustard: yellow & dijon
How to save money when it comes to stocking your pantry
- Know what you and your family like. I try to eat clean and introduce new foods into the house, but rather than buying a whole bunch of stuff you’ve never tried, buy 1 new grain to try and stick with staples that you know will work. Otherwise, the food sits in your pantry until it expires or you move and have to clean it out (speaking from personal experience)a
- Know what’s about to expire and use that up first.
- Look for sales and clip coupons. There are oodles of websites devoted to telling you the best deals at every grocery store in town every week. These sites are huge time savers so take advantage.
- Make it yourself. At some point, things become so time intensive that it’s so much easier to just buy it already made. One example of something quick to make at home and save money at the same time are nut butters. I bought a bag of raw cashews from Trader Joe’s for $7.99. I used 2 cups of cashews out of the bag (still have 2 cups left in the bag) and processed this in my food processor for 10 minutes. I can get 2 jars of cashew butter out of 1 bag of cashews making a jar of cashew butter cost me $4 a jar to make. I’ve seen cashew butter *on sale* for $10 a jar (or more some places). That’s an insane amount of savings for me. Also, if you haven’t tried cashew butter, it’s seriously amazing. So, make yourself some!
- Shop online. Depending on your family’s dietary needs, buying online may be worth the membership prices. Thrive Market has amazing deals on organic items for all different diets. Brandless also has great prices (it’s all $3). **I am not an affiliate for either place. I just have experience as a customer.**