Wondering how to fill your pantry for emergencies? Here's a detailed guide to help you stock your pantry and fridge with healthy food, so you can make nutritious meals for your family without a grocery run for a few weeks.
If for any reason your family is stuck at home for a few weeks, a well stocked pantry and fridge can ensure that you're still eating healthy and delicious food.
Putting together a meal plan is another key factor to running everything smoothly. In this post I have addressed what most of us struggle with it (based on the most common questions from my readers):
- What should I buy for stocking the pantry?
- What can I freeze, and how?
- What kinds of meals can I make?
- How long can I shop for?
My 2 Week Stocking Plan
This post is based on my two-week stocking and meal plan for my family of four- me, hubby and my two teenage kids. I plan ahead ALL meals for each week and make a shopping list accordingly. You can easily customize it to a 3-week or 4-week stocking plan.
You can buy spices and staples (pasta/rice/flour) in bulk and keep on hand, they stay good for months. But a meal plan will help you figure out quantities of fresh ingredients, dairy, eggs, meats, produce, and canned food items accordingly. I hope this will serve as a guide and help you customize and stock up your pantry and freezer.
Another Useful Resource: 50+Pantry and Freezer Recipes
Make a Meal Plan
It starts with making a meal plan. I find these printable meal plan sheets very helpful. Check out the following guidelines to keep in mind while making your meal plan. A meal plan will help you figure out the quantities of ingredients.
Things to Remember When Meal Planning and Stocking
- Stock up for tried and loved meals: This includes meals that are favorites in your home. Don't stock ingredients for experimental recipes right now.
- Three Meals plus two snacks: Account for Breakfast, lunch, dinner plus two snacks per day.
- Balanced Meals: When planning a meal, try to balance the protein, fiber (carbs), nutrients and fat content. Most likely your activity level will be relatively low if you're stuck at home, so go for low-calorie, high fiber choices. Include some plant based protein in your diet. Go for whole grain carbs to get fiber in a meal. When you run out of fresh veggies rely on the frozen medleys to keep your meals full of nutrients.
- Plan for two-weeks, customize and repeat: Make a meal plan, try it for the first two-week cycle, customize the next one and adjust your shopping list. No point getting stuck with a month's supply of brown rice if your family doesn't enjoy it.
- Look for compact replacements: Keeping in mind a moderate size pantry, replace large packets with compact replacements. Here are some common replacements:
- Don't hoard: The key here is to shop smart, not hoard. Put together a list of recipes, divide them for each day of the week and repeat the following week, as-is, or shuffled up. Here's what I do:
- 5-6 recipes for lunch
- 5-6 dinner recipes
- 3-4 breakfast
- 1-2 dessert recipes
- Cook for multiple meals and take a break-day: With everybody home, the last thing you want to do is spend time long durations in the kitchen organizing meals, you need to take a break too. What I do is, cook for two days at one go. For example, I make a double batch of Minestrone soup and Salsa Chicken Tacos (takes me a total of 1 hour), for Monday & Tuesday. This way Tuesday is my break day from cooking.
- Online Grocery shopping: When shopping, keep in mind Instacart, Amazon, Costco, Target, Walmart, and local food stores that offer grocery delivery services, and use them as needed.
Let's checkout the lists now. I have divided items into Fresh, Pantry and Freezer items to simplify this process.
Fresh Foods that Last long
- Fruits: Banana, orange, grapefruit, mandarins, apples, all stay good for a week to 2 weeks. Wash and dry them, then keep some on the counter for immediate use, store remaining in fridge (except bananas) for extending their life to 2 weeks.
- Eggs: Last for 2-3 weeks. Great for egg bites, omelettes, hard boiled eggs for breakfast, snack or dinner.
- Yogurt: Check the date while buying. Most last 2-3 weeks. Great with granola and smoothies.
- Milk: If possible buy ultra-pasteurized milks, those stay good for 2-3 months. Shelf stable Almond milk stays good for 3-4 weeks. (great as-is, or for smoothies)
- Heavy whipping cream: lasts for 2-3 weeks in the fridge and freezable, great for treating yourself with meals like Butter Chicken, or Butter Paneer or Broccoli cheddar Pasta.
- Butter and Cheese: Buy butter and an assortment of grated cheese and cheese blocks. Keep some in the fridge for immediate use and freeze the rest. (yes, they freeze well). Comes in handy for making quesadillas, pizza and grilled cheese sandwiches.
- Bread, Pita, Tortillas: Get an assortment- sandwich bread, Croissants, Pita, Naan, Cinnamon bread (for french toast), Tortillas have a long shelf-life and are great for tacos and quesadillas. Keep aside some on the counter (good for a week), and freeze the rest (yup, bread freezes well).
- Garlic and ginger: Great for enhancing flavor. Using a food processor, mince them (with or without olive oil) and freeze in mini-ice-cube trays. Once frozen, transfer the cubes in freezer storage ziplock bags. Alternatively, buy frozen aromatics from Trader Joe's or other stores.
- Onions, carrots and celery: Stay good for 2 weeks. But for extending freshness and life, chop up and freeze in small portions. They're great for adding flavor and fiber to curries, sauces and soups.
- Zucchini and butter-nut squash (whole, not cut-up): Stays good for more than a week. Can be added to soups, stir-fries and curries.
- Broccoli, Cabbage and Cauliflower: Buy whole, not cut-up. It stays good for 10 days and can be used to add flavor and fiber to pasta, curry and side dishes.
- Potato and Sweet potato: Stays good for 2 weeks. Great source of carbohydrates and ideal for stretching meals like soups and curries.
- Extra-Firm Tofu: Great source of protein and stays good for a month (or more) in the refrigerator. Add in Asian and Indian curries, and soups. It's a great source of protein.
- Canned Foods
- Canned Beans: Pinto, black, kidney, garbanzo (chickpeas) or any other kind
- Tomatoes: Whole, diced or crushed. Great for sauces and soups
- Canned Tunafish: great source of protein, use in salads, fried rice, sandwich filling
- Curry Pastes- Thai, Indonesian, Asian
- Coconut Milk- great for curries, soups and stir-fries
- Grains & Beans
- Pasta (TIP: think wholegrain or lentil pastas for added fiber)
- Noodles: Rice (brown) for Thai dishes, spaghetti (lo mein), ramen noodles
- Rice (white/brown), Quinoa (great source of protein), Couscous
- Dried beans: Chickpeas (Garbanzo), Kidney, Black etc. Stay good for months.
- Lentils: Red, Green, Brown, split peas, any other variety
- Oats- Steel cut/ Rolled Oats for breakfast.
- Staples, Sauces, Seasonings, Condiments and Desserts
- Cereal/Granola: Preferably Whole grain, low-added sugar
- Flour: Whole wheat (for roti/flatbreads), All-purpose for baking (cupcakes, muffins, banana bread)
- Sugar: white, brown, honey, maple syrup, agave syrup
- Baking Ingredients: Baking soda and powder, vanilla extract
- Pancake and Waffle Mix- easy enough for kids to use
- Olive oil: Or other cooking oils that you use
- Jarred Sauces: Marinara, Pesto or any basic flavor that can be used as an ingredient as well. Great for pasta, sandwiches and pizza base
- Jarred vegetables and condiments: Roasted bell pepper, Salsa (for dipping and as an ingredient ), pickled jalapeno, olives etc.
- Basic Condiments: Jam, ketchup, sriracha, chili garlic sauce, mustard, lemon/lime juice concentrate
- Seasoning sauces: Soy Sauce, vinegar, Hoisin sauce, sesame oil
- Chicken/Vegetable stock: for boosting flavor of soups, stews
- Spices: depends on what you cook, but heres what I have:
- Salt and Pepper
- Indian- garam Masala, coriander, cumin, turmeric, cumin seeds, mustard seeds, fennel seeds
- Mexican- Taco seasoning, Mexican Chili powder, paprika
- Italian seasoning blend, dried basil, oregano
- garlic and dried ginger powder (great for when you run out of fresh)
- cayenne and red pepper flakes
- Berbere, Harissa or any other seasoning blend (great for breaking the monotony)
- Baking mixes: Brownie-Mix, Cornbread-Mix, muffin mix etc.
- Chocolate Chips: great for pancakes, cookies and cupcakes.
- Peanut butter/Almond butter: or other nut butters
- Nutella: Used in breakfast, dessert and as a spread.
- Crackers: Great for snacking. The dry toasted ones have a longer shelf life
- Dried fruits and Nuts for snacking. Raw or dry roasted almonds, cashews, walnuts, dried cranberries, dates, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, dried apricots, prunes (great source of fiber)
- Popcorn: Great for satisfying the munchies and has more fiber than most crackers and chips
- Snack Bars- preferably whole grain based (like oatbars)
- Sweet Treats: Chocolates, candy etc.
- Savory Treats: Chips, pretzels, Tortilla Chips, Namkeen (Indian snack mixes).
- Meat and seafood: chicken, ground turkey, chicken sausage, fish (halibut/cod/Mahi-Mahi), shrimp (large)
- Paneer (10 oz packs serve 4)
- Frozen dumplings: Tortellini, ravioli, and Asian dumplings
- Burger patties: Bean Burgers, Chicken Burgers, Cheeseburgers
- Sausages: Great for sandwiches, quick stir-fry with peppers or adding to soups.
- Frozen vegetables- peas, corn, mirepoix (onions, carrots, celery) asian medleys, stir-fry blends, spinach, butternut squash, riced cauliflower (great for adding fiber to curries and soups)
- Frozen fruit: great for smoothies and muffins
- Aromatics: Ginger and garlic (frozen in 1 teaspoon portions)
- Bread- Regular sandwich bread, Cinnamon Swirl bread (for french toast)
- Butter and Cheese (grated and block)
- Desserts: Ice cream or other sweet treats
Tip: Always check expiration dates of perishable items before buying.
How Much to Buy- How to Figure out Quantity
This will be based on your personal consumption. But here are some guidelines as well as standard serving size that'll help you figure out the quantity you need for a few weeks:
- Two 15oz cans of chickpeas (garbanzo) or 1 cup dried beans for Chana Masala : Serves 4 (same for kidney beans curry)
- 15oz. can of black beans or 1/2 cup dried beans for Black Bean Quesadillas : Serves 4 quesadillas
- 1 cup of dry Basmati or Jasmine Rice : serves 3
- 1 cup of dry Quinoa : serves 3
- 24 oz. Jar of Pasta Sauce : serves 4-5
- 28 oz Can of diced tomatoes : makes Indian Curry Sauce for 8, Pasta Sauce for 4
- Cereal/Oats: Multiply the suggested serving size by the number of meals you have planned and see how much you need.
You Might Like: Easy Pantry Recipes
Tips on Getting Maximum Life out of Your Food
- Check expiration dates and pick the ones with the furthest out.
- When eggs are reaching their expiration, make hard boiled eggs or egg bites and extend their life another week.
- When cooking base sauces like Pasta sauce, Bolognese sauce, Tikka Masala or Indian Curry Sauce, double up the quantity and freeze half. It stays good for up to 1 month.
- Freeze extra bread, cheese, aromatics (chopped up onion, garlic, ginger, carrots, celery)
- Look for small packs or chopped frozen spinach. Great for adding to lentils, soups and curries
- Buy your vegetables like cauliflower, squash, broccoli etc WHOLE. Cut up veggies have a shorter shelf life.
I hope this post serves as a guide and helps you make a shopping list for stocking up your pantry and freezer. I will keep updating this based on additional tips and helpful suggestions, so be sure to bookmark this page. In the meantime, here are some Easy Pantry Recipes.
If you have any suggestions or tips that work for you, I would love to hear them. Simply comment below and share with us.