If you don’t have time to read the Why, skip down to the How
I rarely run completely out of something in the kitchen anymore, other than fresh fruits and vegetables, since I’ve gotten into the habit of keeping a stocked kitchen. I don’t wait until I’m out of something before putting it on my grocery list; I put it on the list when I see the item getting low.
One of the purposes of keeping a stocked kitchen for me had to do with preparedness to avoid having to make a run on the store when a natural or manmade disaster hit, or perceived or real shortages that tend to cause the general public to go nuts and buy everything off the store shelves. It concerned me to learn that grocery shelves can empty in a matter of hours when people get scared, which we observed during the pandemic with certain items like paper products, long shelf life staples, water, and even meats which shot prices up. Did you know that most grocery stores would start running out of food in only three days if long haul truckers stopped driving? (1)
We saw instances where one link breaking in the supply chain caused havoc all along the line. When Covid 19 shut down many food processing plants, some producers were forced to dump millions of gallons of milk, destroy crops, and even euthanize chickens. (2)
Not keeping a stocked kitchen means extra trips to the grocery store for people already too busy and exhausted from work, community, and family commitments. Limiting grocery trips to once a week saves time, and making a list based on meal planning saves money.
1. Use a Grocery List
I created a grocery list that’s in the order of my usual grocery store’s organization so I’m not running back and forth all over the store to pick up items I missed on a disorganized list. I know many use their phones for their grocery lists, and that’s great, but I like to post a paper list in sight on the refrigerator for anyone to see and add to it when something is getting low. I used the curbside service a lot during the first half of the pandemic, but I prefer shopping for myself, especially when it comes to picking fresh produce. I also like to stock up on meat that’s on sale (and not advertised) to freeze for later use. I load up on Naan bread that is usually 50% off when it’s getting close to the “Sell by” date.
Here are a couple of grocery lists you are welcome to print* out and use if either fits you. The first list (green & has 2 lists per page) is in the order of my favorite local grocery store (HEB), but the website wouldn't let me post a Word doc to download. If you would like a copy of the green list in a Word doc so you can change the titles to fit the aisle order of your usual grocery store, email me at and I'd be happy to send it to you. The second (yellow) link is a generic subject list that can be used in any grocery store.
2. Keep Your Pantry/Fridge/Freezer Stocked
Keep the food items you use regularly on hand all the time. I also keep certain kinds of food in my pantry/fridge/freezer so if I need to make something last minute for a potluck or party, I have the ingredients to make certain dishes. A blank form for a basic staples list is included at the end of this section for you to print out and start filling out, and the following chart will give you an idea of some of the food items I try to keep on hand all of the time. Don’t judge. : ) Your list may look completely different than mine, and that’s fine.
Food Staples List (Example)
Foods to Keep on Hand
A number of other foods I buy occasionally, such as bacon, sausage, artisan bread, ‘no sugar added’ ice cream, yogurt, whipping cream, dips, special foods for holiday meals, etc. I don’t necessarily keep in stock all the time, but you can include another section or page of part-time or seasonal staples, if you'd like.
Here is the form you can use to start building your staples grocery list.
Note: you can also include a section of basic household supplies (toilet paper, paper towels, tissues, soap, toiletries, cleaners, trash bags, etc.) on your staples list to remind you to check those supplies, too, before shopping.
3. Plan Your Meals
If you do not plan your meals because you're too tired or think it's too overwhelming, start by planning only six of your favorite main meals of the day, and reward yourself with a meal out (or take out) for the seventh. Writing down the ingredients on the cards to make these meals will help you quickly fill out your shopping list. Once you get in the habit of making these meals, you can add a second week of meals for variety. I do not plan breakfasts or lunches; I keep enough quick breakfast and lunch foods on hand for us to make something easy, or we eat leftovers.
Not planning means overbuying in some areas and failing to get all the ingredients needed for certain dishes or meals thought up at the last minute. I used to buy a ton of fresh fruits and veggies with good intentions of eating healthy, and then I’d let half of them go bad because I'd forget what I'd bought.
The following are the instructions for using the meal plan cards along with a blank meal plan card template you can fill out with your own meal plans.
Click the red box to download a page of blank meal plan cards to print out and create your own meal plans to use over and over.
For two decades, I’d gotten away with bringing side dishes to all of our family Thanksgiving dinners. I was thirty-five before I cooked my first Thanksgiving turkey. And that didn’t involve dressing. I finally attempted making dressing when I was forty-seven.
Several years later I spent a weekend with my cousin in San Antonio where she served me tender rosemary chicken thighs, baked butternut squash, and a lovely green salad with cranberries and walnuts. The meal was wonderful, and I was so impressed. I confessed to her that I wasn’t a very good cook. What she told me completely changed my perspective about cooking. Lee Ann Kramer said, “You don’t have to know how to cook everything well to be a good cook. You just need to learn to cook a few things well.”
You don't have to know how to cook everything well to be a good cook. You just need to learn to cook a few things well. ~Lee Ann Kramer
That was revolutionary to me, and it gave me the confidence to try and keep trying, even if I failed, which I did from time to time. But I do have a number of dishes now that are my ‘go-to’ dishes when I need to fix a meal or dish for whatever reason, and I know they’ll turn out great.
Donna Van Cleve
11 incredible facts about the U.S. trucking industry. https://markets.businessinsider.com/news/stocks/trucking-industry-facts-us-truckers-2019-5-1028248577#
Wasted milk, euthanized livestock: Photos show how coronavirus has devastated US agriculture. https://www.cnbc.com/2020/05/02/coronavirus-devastates-agriculture-dumped-milk-euthanized-livestock.html
*If you don’t have a printer, you can get a good printer from $99-$149. The toner is expensive (that’s where they make their money), but it lasts quite a while for home use. I cannot function without my printer.