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Changing My Grocery Philosophy :: Shop to Stock

Changing My Grocery Philosophy: Shop to Stock :: Vintage Kids | Modern World

If you do a search on our blog for food-related posts, you’ll realize that although we AREN’T a food blog, we do focus a lot of our articles on food – as it relates to nutrition and your children, snacking, cooking and maintaining your sanity!

This particular post has been brewing in my head for a while, and I’ve made mental notes for the last few weeks for that eventual time when I would sit down and write it.

Although NOT an alarmist, I think the time is sooner rather than later, and although this post feels a bit unfinished to me (and I will probably amend it in the weeks to come), I at least want to get the wheels in your grocery-shopping brain turning.

Rusty and I have frequent discussions over the dinner table about certain items that we want to stock up on – I saw butter on sale, I told him, so I grabbed a few extra pounds.  I’d like to get a bushel of apples and do some canning, I said, just to stock up.  We know that the world isn’t ending tomorrow, but I also know that grocery prices continue to rise, and having food on hand isn’t being an alarmist, it’s being wise.  

One night last week, over meatloaf and mashed potatoes, Maddi, our oldest, asked why we were “stocking up”.  After all, we live less than a mile from the closest grocery store.  I realized that night at dinner that my generation – all the way down to my 7 year old daughter – never really needed to think much about stocking up.  It’s a foreign concept to us because we didn’t live through The Depression or WWII and we’ve never – thankfully – suffered from a natural disaster.

This was my time, as a parent, to embrace raising a vintage kid in a modern world.

Rusty and I went on to explain to her the wisdom of preparation, of being safe, saving, prudence vs. convenience, and how we were making non-mainstream choices.  And the crazy thing is, I think she got it.

However, if you’re like us, bulk shopping and stocking up isn’t always feasible on a week to week basis.  We have enough money in each paycheck for this week’s groceries, and as much as I’d like to plan ahead, we never seem to reach a financial windfall, thus allowing me to stock up to my heart’s content.  I kept waiting for said windfall, and I had to come to the glaring realization that I needed to have a plan, no matter what our income looked like.

Now, here’s where I am still working out some of the kinks for our family, and your family is going to look different and buy different items than mine.  However, hopefully this will give you a starting place and then you can tweak it as you go…

So here is how I am now approaching grocery shopping:

I am no longer making out a menu plan before I go grocery shopping.


I now make MOST of my menu plan AFTER I go shopping and I plan from what I have in the pantry; I now Shop to Stock.

Before, I did it the other way around – I’d look for exotic new recipes to try and then I’d make a corresponding grocery list.

I am now allotting the majority of our grocery budget to staple items that I am using to stock our pantry.

Then, once I have the basics, I am spending the remaining amount on produce and specialty items (specific ingredients for certain dishes that I DO pre-plan, leaving some wiggle room for treats and sales or a particular meal that we are craving that week).

I realized that we are creatures of habit, and although I like to think that I am a cutting edge chef, the reality is we have about 10-12 favorite meals that we rotate.

{Case in point:  This summer, I headed out the door for my weekly grocery run and  I *thought* I grabbed my grocery list when I left.  I found it in my purse and proceeded to fill my cart with the listed items.  About 3/4 of the way through, I realized that this was the previous week’s grocery list.  So many of the items overlapped or repeated themselves that I didn’t notice until I was almost done!}

So, here’s how it works: (roughly)

  1. 65-70% of our grocery budget now goes to stocking the pantry with staple items that we use all the time.

  2. 20-25% (though often times more) goes to produce, dairy and perishables

  3. remaining 10-15% (or less, if there was a great sale on produce!) goes towards specialty items

Does it mean that we are eating a lot of the same meals? yes.

Did we do that anyways? Yes.

I do most of my shopping on Fridays and Saturdays, so does it make me worry that come Thursday night, we’ll be left with nothing but dry goods and we’ll be eating popcorn for dinner? Sure. But hey, who doesn’t love popcorn?!

Here is a (very rough) list of what our family stocks up on and how I implement my new grocery shopping philosophy:


  1. These things vary depending on the season, what’s ready to harvest in my garden, and what I can find at our local farmer’s market.

  2. Our dairy, eggs and meat come from the Amish, and these are purchased weekly as well.

Specialty items

  1. These are meal-specific items, treats, desserts (although I tend to error on the side of making chocolate a staple item), specialty spices. Setting aside a small chunk of each week’s budget gives me a little wiggle room to take part in sales at the Market and the grocery store.

Pantry items

  1. This is the biggest category and receives the majority of our budgeted money right now.  This is by no means an exhaustive list, but here are the things that I am buying weekly or bi-weekly:

  2. flours (gluten-free)

  3. oats

  4. rice

  5. dried legumes

  6. olives

  7. nuts (for snaking and making nutbutters)

  8. dried fruits

  9. sweeteners (raw honey, coconut sugar, maple syrup, and sometimes sucanat)

  10. tea and coffee

  11. baking essentials (baking powder, baking soda, vanilla, etc)

  12. GF pasta

  13. spaghetti sauce (and/or any other canned items that I didn’t get around to preserving myself this year…remember, we had a drought…I’m buying more than I’m comfortable with…)

  14. oils (olive, coconut and sesame)

  15. soaps, toothpastes, etc.

  16. spices

  17. canned tuna/salmon

Again, this is definitely not exhaustive, but these are items that are on my list almost every week now.

Then, once I get home and unload everything, I spend the following day making out my menu plan from what I have on hand.  Yes, there are times that I have completely forgotten something and so I make an extra trip to the store.  I’m still figuring out how this looks for my family, but I’m starting to get into the new groove and it’s actually working!

I was able, without changing my grocery budget, to start stocking my pantry, by shopping first to stock my pantry, and then meal planning based on the contents of my kitchen.  Now, if we lost power, or, heaven forbid there is a terrible storm, I won’t be joining the rest of humanity in storming the grocery store for the necessities!

Have you ever tried this method?  I’d love to hear from a veteran grocery-shopper!  How do you manage to stock up on a budget?


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