Besides simplifying menu planning, keeping your pantry stocked also:

  • Saves time because you can avoid last-minute trips to the store, which is especially helpful if the closest store is several miles away or the weather conditions are poor.
  • Makes it easier to entertain drop-in guests because you can put together an easy appetizer or even an entire meal with ingredients you have on hand.
  • Eliminates frustration when you really want to try a recipe but can't because you won't be missing an ingredient or two.
  • Saves money because you can take advantage of sales to stock up on ingredients you'll need to buy sooner or later.

To avoid one huge grocery bill, consider adding to your shortcut pantry gradually. Buy items when you have a coupon or when they're on special.

And be sure to only buy what you'll use in a timely manner. You won't save time or money if the food spoils before you can use it.

Salad dressing, peanut butter and whole wheat flour can be stored for up to 6 months, while canned goods, dry pasta, convenience mixes and many baking supplies can be kept for up to 1 year. When in doubt, check the expiration date on the item.

Also, don't forget to rotate the canned goods in your pantry, bringing older cans forward and putting the new cans in back to ensure foods are used by their expiration date.