Pantry List: Stock Up to Save Time, Money and Hassle

[Display of home-canned food] (LOC)

Last week I ran out of baking soda while making sourdough bread. The last time I had checked, we had a full container. We buy it in bulk at the shuk (open-air market). But my husband used it to make dishwasher detergent.  Since I don’t know a good substitute, I had to run to the corner store for some more. We’re going to be buying twice as much from now on.

In my post Avoiding the Emergency Trip to the Store, I mention the importance of being well-stocked. Today we’re going to look at the pantry and freezer and talk about foods to stock up on.

Most things, with a few exceptions like salt, sugar, and cocoa, will eventually spoil or attract bugs. How much of every item you need depends on space, family size, how often you shop and whether you get unexpected company.

If you get a good price on something you use, or you don’t shop often, it’s worth the effort to find extra space: Under the bed, the back of a closet, bathroom cabinets (for bottles or cans), or even behind the sofa.

The rule of thumb is to keep at least one unopened container of everything you use regularly. So if you are about to open your last bottle of oil, it had better go on your shopping list. For items that come in smaller containers, like tuna, you will need more. Calculate how many cans you use between shopping trips. Add on a few in case you have unexpected company or your shopping trip is delayed.

If you often cook in bulk, like I do, you will need a larger supply of the required staples. I try to keep at least three bottles of oil, rotating the old ones to the front when I buy more. I needed four teaspoons of baking soda for my sourdough, not the one my husband thought would tide me over.

Since this is a cooking blog, I left out many processed foods. I’ve noted in parentheses things that I don’t generally keep on hand, but you might.

Baking supplies:

  • Oil. Keep in a cool, dark place.
  • Sugar
  • Flour. Freeze if you can, or for the first 24 hours to kill live insects.
  • Baking  Soda
  • Baking Powder
  • Cocoa
  • (Chocolate, chocolate chips, coconut, flavorings)
  • Vanilla
  • Salt
  • Honey

Grains. I keep these in the freezer if I can, except for the pasta.

  • Oats
  • Bulgur
  • Rice. Brown rice contains oil and gets rancid at room temperature.
  • Assorted dried beans, lentils, chickpeas, and peas.
  • Unpopped corn.
  • (Quinoa, wild rice, cornmeal)
  • “Instant” yeast granules

Canned goods:

  • Crushed or whole tomatoes
  • Tomato paste
  • Tuna (or other canned fish or meat)
  • (Canned fruits and vegetables)
  • (Canned soup or broth)
  • (Powdered soup)

Sauces and condiments.

  • Tamari or soy sauce
  • Mustard
  • (Catsup)
  • Vinegar
  • (Bottled lemon juice)
  • (Salad dressings)

Dried spices and herbs. Some people keep these in the freezer.

Nuts and seeds. These contain oil and should be stored in the freezer.

(Boxed cereals.)

For unexpected company or if you frequently host meetings:

  • Soft drinks or juices.
  • Snacks, pretzels, etc.
  • Crackers, cookies, etc.

Frozen items:

  • Packages of fruits and vegetables.
  • Concentrated juices.
  • Meat and fish.
  • Bread.
  • Cheese. Some types freeze better than others.
  • If you have room, keep milk in your freezer to save trips to the store.

Avoid overstocking and most of all, don’t buy things you never use because  you think you should. You only want a generous quantity of foods you use regularly.

Tip: Avoid buying items for one recipe. You’ll find yourself with most of a container left over and nothing to do with it.

If you enjoyed this post you may also like:

Foods for Putting Quick Meals Together

Avoid the Emergency Run to the Store

Use Your Food Processor Efficiently


  1. You can add bread to the frozen items. I also buy cheese in bulk and keep it in the freezer. And I keep chocolate chips in the freezer, not in the cabinet, so they don’t smush together.

    • Ilana: Yes, bread, and I forgot honey. Cheese doesn’t freeze so well, so I didn’t include it. I admit that I freeze it too.
      LeahGG: Pesach is not so far away.

  2. we always stock ketchup, because my husband will only eat certain foods with it, and he’ll only eat heinz, so we buy tons whenever it’s on sale. I think we currently have enough heinz ketchup to last us until pesach.

  3. I freeze cheese all the time and it works great. Why do you say it doesn’t freeze well? I freeze mozzarella (in blocks of about 300 g), grated parmesan, and sometimes Emek.

  4. I try to keep around an extra bottle of our kiddush beverage of choice (grape juice).