Good Chicken Gardens, LLC

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Mastering A Pantry


Something I felt wholly unprepared for when I moved out on my own at 18 was feeding myself three meals a day, 365 days a year. I ended up spending hundreds of dollars eating out every month, which has turned into thousands over the years. I’d rather spend that money on something else, but I also don’t want to spend hours every week planning meals and grocery shopping. Here is how I manage my pantry efficiently without sacrificing the yum factor.

Part One: Section Your Pantry

I categorize my pantry and shopping list in two sections: staples and non-staples. Staples include items like milk, butter, and bread—things you eat almost daily and can use up quickly, even if you accidentally double up while shopping. They also include non-perishables that are important to always keep on hand, like flour, sugar, and rice. Staples are things you don’t want to run out of so doubling up is always a safe option if you think you might be running low.

Non-staples rotate more frequently, and you might not purchase the same things as often. These are your fresh ingredients and sides that pair with various meals throughout the week, typically having a short shelf life and a more specific purpose in your meal plan. Meal planning can take as little or as much time as you like. There are many guides on the internet for crafting the perfect meal plan, but I am going to give you my streamlined process that I usually do at the grocery store or as I am ordering without any great forethought.

Part Two: Section the Meals


The entrée is the center of your meal, and the center of the entrée is typically a protein-rich food like pork chops, chicken, or even tofu. Our bodies need a lot of protein to function, so factoring a bit into each meal will make you feel nourished and satisfied. I usually end up eating the most protein at dinner. When I shop, I keep in mind that I will need multiple proteins throughout the week, so I gravitate towards items like frozen chicken or multi-packs of pork chops. That means I don’t have to plan seven full entrées, but instead, I can plan to have chicken four times, pork twice, and pasta with meat sauce once. This gives me a lot of flexibility throughout the week regarding the time I spend cooking.

Sides are meant to be the accompaniment to the protein in both flavor and nutrients, plus it bumps up those calories to keep you nourished! I usually only prepare one side per protein but you can always add more to increase serving sizes. Ultimately, the most important thing is to enjoy and feel satisfied with your meal. Rice, quinoa, and instant potatoes are great sides to keep on hand since they are non-perishable and inexpensive.

Breakfast and Lunch

The last meals to consider are breakfast and lunch. With my lifestyle, these meals tend to happen on the go, so I prioritize convenience over variation. Oatmeal, smoothies, and egg bagels are some of my favorites because they are delicious and easy to keep on hand. Plan for a simple lunch that you can easily change up the sides for, such as turkey sandwiches and fruit. Sandwiches really can’t be beaten for both convenience and cost-effectiveness! Incorporating dinner leftovers whenever they are available can also help to keep lunch appetizing.


Snacks and are something I used to forget about often when meal planning but busy days are so much easier with quick fuel options.

I prefer bulk snacks that includes more than one serving, like popcorn or pretzels. Fruit is also a great option for snack time because it boosts blood sugar and helps to hydrate you all at once!

Part Three: Do the Shopping

Now, it’s time to do the easy part: shopping! Using grocery pick-up or delivery services can help you find the best value before you purchase by comparing online carts. Purchases can sometimes earn you targeted coupons if you have an online account, but not all grocery stores offer that. Pick-up is ideal for my personal schedule, and because I usually purchase groceries once a week, it is easy to pass the minimum purchase threshold for free pick-up at my local Kroger. The examples in this post show a meal plan that will feed two people for around $100 a week or $50 per week per person in the Atlanta area. That’s an average of around $3 a meal, which absolutely cannot be beaten by eating out! Adjusting the menu can drive that price even lower by adding more inexpensive items, like rice, or repeating dishes more often so ingredients can be purchased in bulk.

When shopping in the store without a list, start with proteins and build one meal at a time. With a solid goal in mind, you can navigate the grocery store efficiently and avoid impulse buys. This not only saves you money but also ensures you have all the ingredients you need for the week. Snacks and treats are best left for last; otherwise, you might find yourself overindulging.

Managing your pantry efficiently and planning your meals doesn’t have to be a time-consuming or daunting task. By mastering the staples, considering your meals thoughtfully, and carrying out your shopping strategically, you can enjoy delicious, nutritious meals without breaking the bank or spending hours planning your grocery excursions. With these tips, I hope you can streamline your meal planning, save money, and still enjoy a variety of tasty dishes throughout the week. Happy cooking and happy eating!