When you move into your own place for the very first time, filling your kitchen with food isn’t always the first thing on your mind. But, once you’re settled, it won’t take long for your stomach to remind you that your pantry shelves need to be filled, or you’ll be forced to spend money on eating out.
But with all the other expenses of moving out on your own for the first time, you may be hesitant to go all out with stocking your pantry. Luckily, there are a few things you can do to stock your pantry and stick to your budget. Here are some tips to help you get started.
1. Clip Coupons
2. Buy in Bulk
Before you go all out with buying in bulk to save money, remember that this strategy only makes sense if you can use the items before they expire.
Buying in bulk will save you money on the cost per ounce of items, but if you waste a lot due to spoilage, you’ll just be wasting money too. If you are afraid you can’t use something up in time, don’t buy in bulk, or come up with a creative solution, like splitting a large purchase with a friend so you can both save some money and avoid wasting food.
3. Track What You Use
Set up a spreadsheet to track the items you buy, how much you use (when the items run out), and the cost of the items at the store you frequent. This spreadsheet can be helpful in two ways. It will help you recognize when a “sale price” is truly a good deal, and it also allows you to figure out how much of an item to buy while it’s on sale so you can make it last until the next time.
This can also be helpful when meal planning – which is another way to save money on food costs. If you’re new to meal planning or it has been difficult for you, check out $5 Meal Plan as they get you started and provide sample meal plans to adjust to the needs of your family.
4. Rain Checks
Rain checks are one of my favorite policies that helps me save money. Some stores give out a rain check if their shelves are out of a sale item. This ticket allows you to buy the item for the sale price once they have it in stock again, even if it’s no longer on sale.
Be sure to ask if your grocery store of choice has a program like this, and what their policies are regarding the use of rain checks. Some stores’ rain checks have a pretty short lifespan before they expire.
5. Buy in Season
When you stock your pantry for the first time, don’t forget to get fruits and vegetables. Some fruits and vegetables are more expensive than others, so you can start off with some of the cheap ones first to help you save money. This is why I typically stick to basics like apples, bananas and oranges for my fruits of choice. But you can branch out and try other fruits and vegetables and save money by shopping in season.
Fruits and vegetables are cheapest, and most delicious, when they are in season. If you don’t know what is in season when, check the internet or ask the produce clerk at your local grocery store.
6. Watch for Sales and Markdowns
Sales flyers are automatically mailed out for some stores if you get on their list, or if you subscribe to the local newspaper, they are also included in there in most communities. You can also ask if there is an area of the store set aside for expired or nearly expired items, and items that have been discontinued or will no longer be carried at your store. These items will be at their lowest prices.
7. Check Expiration Dates & Rotate Your Food
You might be hesitant to buy expired and nearly expired food, but it’s a good strategy to save money if you use those items right away. A good rule of thumb is to always store the oldest canned and packaged foods at the front of your cupboard and the newest at the back. This is a practice I put into play so every time I bring home new food from the grocery store, I put it at the back of my pantry shelves behind the things I already had.
Have you used any of these ideas to stock your pantry? What other ideas do you have to stock your pantry on a budget?
Photo courtesy of: ErikaWittlieb
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