The best way to meal prep for the week and save money is to start by shopping your pantry before you go grocery shopping. Use this simple guide to start!

Shopping Your Pantry to Save Money and Make Meal Prep Easy

I never knew there was actually a term for how I grocery shopped! The first thing I always did before going to the store was to take a quick inventory of what we already had. Well, apparently, this is is called shopping your pantry. It makes sense right? Look. through what you already have and then you can start to grow your grocery list from there.

The thing is, not everyone is great at meal prep and strategy. So I decided to break it down and layout how my mind works while I shop my pantry and meal prep.

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Why you should shop your pantry

Overspending on groceries is one of most families biggest struggles. Actually, I guess you don’t even need to have a family to over-spend on food.

When life gets busy, we often head to the aisles of the grocery store still in that rush, rush, rush mindset. Then we start tossing things into our carts without thinking about what we’re buying or how much we’re spending.

Then once you toss 3 screaming kids into the mix, forget about it! All of a sudden the aisles of your favorite grocery store seem more like a race in the pits of hell. #motheroftheyear

Because life’s chaos isn’t going to settle down any time soon (no matter what stage you’re in,) it’s important to be prepped and ready to handle potential money-sucking pitfalls like grocery shopping.

That’s where shopping your pantry comes in.

When to shop your pantry

I’m not going to pretend for a single second that I have my life together enough to always shop my pantry 24 hours before I go grocery shopping. In fact, it’s something I usually do just before I run out the door.

BUT, the method I use works great to quickly and effectively plan meals based off what items we have. Then I fill in the blanks with a grocery list and head out the door with minimal screaming.

Our $100 Healthy, Organic Costco Shopping List

Shop your pantry by meals

The first thing to do when you start shopping your pantry is to start at the very beginning. By this, of course, I mean breakfast.

It makes things so much easier when you go in order and then you can be extra sure that you’ve forgotten anything.


When you start browsing your pantry to see what you have in stock, start by looking for items specific to breakfast time.

What to shop for

  • Oats
  • Cereal
  • Bread
  • Fruit

Tips for breakfast prep

Pro tip: I generally stick to one breakfast per week. That way things don’t get too complicated or expensive.

I try to always have oats on hand. They are so versatile and you can meal prep them into overnight oats, 3 ingredient waffles or just pop them in the microwave for oatmeal in the morning!

The first thing I do is make sure to check my stock of oats or cereal to see if I need more. Then I’ll check for milk or fruits to go along with them.

For our pancakes and waffles, we buy frozen berries from Costco. They last longer and are healthier, more. affordable option.

The best way to meal prep for the week and save money is to start by shopping your pantry before you go grocery shopping. Use this simple guide to start!
Waffles topped with heated up frozen berries is healthier for my kiddos and lasts longer!


The kids and I usually eat salads for lunch since they are homeschooled. Tom meal preps his work lunch and will let me know what he’s running low on before I go grocery shopping.

When shopping the pantry I make sure we have fresh lettuce and then decide on a protein to eat with our salad.

Pro tip: I generally opt for buying an entire rotisserie chicken instead of lunch meats.

Lunch meat is a bit…suspect to me. Haha. That’s why I opt for the entire rotisserie chicken. I will break it apart and store the meat in a container for the week. Then, I can use the leftovers to make bone broth.

5 Frugal Meals to Make with One Turkey

What to shop for

  • Healthy proteins
  • Snack sized veggies
  • Easy grab snacks in bulk (like popcorn or trail mix)
  • Fresh fruits

Tips for lunch prep

Pro tip: If you have kids who are in school, opt for bulk sized snacks instead of snack-sized packs.

This takes away a little bit of the convince of just popping a snack-sized pouch into their lunch every day, but opting for the bigger bag will save you a ton of money and make your snacks last for longer.

Pro tip: Make school lunches as simple and small

After having worked with kids for, over 5 years in school settings, there is one big giant secret I have for you: they never eat all their food!

If you are sending your kids to school with a sandwich, 2 snacks, 1 fruit, a juice box and a brownie…they will eat the brownie and part of the sandwich. That’s it.

So take it easy on yourself, send a sandwich, one small side and a dessert. This will simplify your grocery shopping, save you money and make sure your food isn’t going to waste.

The best way to meal prep for the week and save money is to start by shopping your pantry before you go grocery shopping. Use this simple guide to start!
Keeping school lunches simple saves money and wastes less food.


When it comes to shopping the pantry for dinner, I start in a similar way that I do for breakfasts. I look for grains and starches first.

What to shop for

  • Noodles
  • Rice
  • Potatoes

If we happen to have leftover noodles (which we don’t often) I can quickly plan on adding 1 jar of spaghetti sauce (or other topping) to my list. BOOM! One meal down.

Pro tip: Starting with grains is a good way to start with the foundations of a meal. Then think of what you can build onto them.

What to shop for next

  • Cooked meat
  • Uncooked meats
  • Fresh veggies
  • Frozen veggies

It’s so important to make sure you are staying aware of the already cooked items you have. These could easily be made into a stir fry, soup or a packed lunch for you or your spouse.

Checking for uncooked meats might give you an idea of what to make for dinner tonight. You could easily begin the thawing process before you head to the store.

Pro tip: Stick with 1 to 2 veggies per week.

Something people often do is Pinterest search for meals and then buy all of the ingredients. Instead, work to simplify your shopping by purchasing one type of veggie per week. Add this alongside your meals and then next week try a different one.

Plan for lazy days

I think as parents (at least as a mom) I want to make these amazing, nursing meals all of the time. But honestly, there are at least 2 days a week when I am just burnt out and don’t want to cook a single thing. That’s why I try to get honest with myself and just buy pizza in bulk basically every time I shop.

Otherwise, I would hit my brick wall and end up paying twice as much for only 2 pizzas at a take out place.

Another thing I love is pre-made soups. These make me feel like I’m giving my family a better option but still doesn’t feel overwhelming to make.

Bonus time and money-saving hack

The biggest and best tip I could give you after you’ve shopped your pantry is to plan out your grocery list, order your groceries online and know how to hack your budget.

Benefits of online ordering

  • No actually going into the store
  • You’ll stick to your grocery list
  • You can plan your spending before you pay
  • You’re less likely to forget things

You can order groceries for pick up at places like Walmart or have them delivered through services like Shipt.

Get $50 off your Shipt order

Benefits of budget hacking

  • Free up extra cash each month
  • Create a more solid grocery budget
  • Stop over-spending on phantom costs in your budget

Learn how we freed up $1,000 liquid cash each month.

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The best way to meal prep for the week and save money is to start by shopping your pantry before you go grocery shopping. Use this simple guide to start!

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