When my girls were toddlers, I never wanted to have an empty fridge. I never wanted to tell my kids that they couldn’t have something because I couldn’t afford to buy them anymore. I also wanted my girls to understand that you can’t constantly eat when you are bored, either.
Today I want to help you realize you can have a full fridge without constantly fearing the kids will eat it all up. When you can take control of your grocery budget, you squash the fear of not having enough.
Here are some tips for stocking your fridge on a budget.
Every fridge needs an assortment of fresh fruits and veggies. So learning how to stock your fridge and pantry is essential when sticking with a grocery budget.
Packing your refrigerator with healthy, delicious foods on a budget can be demanding as you want nutritious food for the family while not buying expensive cuts of meat or organic produce.
Luckily there are ways to keep prices down while still providing great-tasting food for the family by knowing how to stock your fridge.
Organize Your Kitchen
Space is vital when stocking your fridge on a budget, so ensure you maximize the area you have.
Once you have your list of non-perishables, it’s time to organize your kitchen.
Start by taking everything out of the fridge and giving it a good cleaning.
Wipe down the shelves and drawers and discard any expired items.
Two Items I recommend:
I love magic erasers, and I think wholesale clubs are the cheapest for these. Or Dawn Powerwash- and again, wholesale clubs are the best deals for this item UNLESS you are a couponer.
Then, start with the items that will expire and work your way to the back of the fridge.
This will help ensure that you use the items that need to be used first and nothing goes to waste.
I recently did this and bought a fantastic clear container set from BJ’s. You can get this set here if you are a BJ’s member. I found wholesale clubs to be the best price on these plastic containers. It has made an enormous difference in what the kids eat.
I had a box of whole wheat pop tarts sitting on the back shelf for weeks. When I bought a fancy little container to put the pop tarts on- my oldest daughter grabbed it the first day. We laughed when I said we’ve had those forever, and she responded, ” I know.”
I did a super quick Titkok video on my BJs account below.
Every time you go shopping, make sure to make a list. This will help you stick with the items you need for your home and not be tempted by those things that seem like a good deal but aren’t necessary. If something is on sale, wait until it isn’t before you buy it.
If you have an Aldi near you, this is the cheapest place I’ve found to stock up on the pantry staples below. Otherwise, you can shop around but always buying the generic version of these items is the way to save money.
First, assess your needs and make a list of non-perishables that have a long shelf life.
These include items such as:
-Dry goods like pasta, brown rice, cereal, beans, etc.
-Condiments like ketchup, mustard, mayo, BBQ sauce, etc.
-Jar of pasta sauces
-Olive Oil, Oils, and bottles of vinegar
-Spices and herbs
-Baking Soda and Baking Powder
-Cans of tuna
I like to be able to look at my pantry and be able to come up with a least a handful of meals. As long as you have a can of tomato sauce, noodles, and seasonings, you can make a meal.
Check out my 12 meal ideas from an empty fridge here.
Instead of buying pre-sliced produce, spend extra time slicing your own. This can be more cost-effective and save you money on wasted produce.
A great way to do this is by investing in a few wire racks and placing them inside your fridge. These can be used to hold condiments or small items that usually lay on the bottom shelf, taking up valuable space.
In addition to non-perishables, your fridge should also be stocked with perishable items. To save money on perishable items, ONLY buy fruit and veggies that are in season.
For example, in June in our region, this is the time you can get strawberries cheap. Usually, June is the time you can buy fresh strawberries cheaper than frozen. Berries are a great item to freeze.
When freezing any berries, spread them out on a freezer-safe tray and freeze for a few hours until set. Then put them all into a freezer bag. This way, they don’t freeze in one big clump together.
These include items such as:
-Fresh fruits and veggies
-Dairy products like milk, cheese, yogurt, sour cream, etc.
Regarding perishable items, paying attention to the expiration date is essential.
Only buy what you think you will use before it expires, and try to use older items first.
You can also extend the shelf life of some perishable items by freezing them.
For example, you can freeze milk, cheese, and sour cream.
Just be sure to thaw them properly before using them.
If you’re trying to save money, always look for deals on meats. Purchasing in bulk can save you money, but ensure you’re using or freezing it within a couple of days to preserve freshness and keep yourself from wasting food.
I show how I do this at our local Tops Markets in the Tiktok Video below.
The best dairy products to buy on a budget are usually non-organic varieties.
Here are some of the most common dairy items to keep on hand: ( Yes, I know eggs are not dairy)
I’ve been milking our goat Willow and having the time of my life! It’s a commitment, but I love it!
When buying grains, opting for whole-grain versions is a good idea. These tend to be cheaper than their processed counterparts.
For me I find the best deals on grains at wholesale clubs. Aldi is the second best but when I price compare for me locally BJ’s and Costco are cheaper.
If you want a deal on any of the three wholesale clubs, tap here.
Some common grains, pasta, and beans to keep in your kitchen include:
You can use these essentials to make various dishes such as soups, stews, salads, casseroles, and more.
And they can be easily stored in the pantry or freezer for later use once cooked.
One of my favorite recipes using the above grains is this easy quinoa dish:
-1 cup quinoa
-2 cups water
-1 can of black beans
-1/2 red onion
-1 red bell pepper
-1 tbsp. olive oil
-1 tsp. chili powder
-1/4 tsp. salt
1. Rinse the quinoa and combine it with the water in a pot.
2. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.
3. Cook for about 15 minutes or until the quinoa is cooked.
4. Meanwhile, chop the onion and bell pepper.
5. Add the black beans, onion, and bell pepper to the quinoa.
6. Squeeze the lime over the top and stir in the olive oil, chili powder, and salt.
7. Serve warm or cold.
This recipe is great for using any leftover quinoa in your pantry. It’s also an excellent way to sneak in some extra veggies.
If you don’t have black beans, you can use any other type of bean.
And, if you don’t have quinoa, you can use rice or pasta.
When it comes to saving money on meals, think simple. A little olive oil and seasoning are all it takes to make a delicious veggie dish.
Produce (Fruits & Veggies)
Another way to save money with your product is to purchase it in season. This is when crops are most plentiful and, therefore, cheaper. Also, if you love berries, buy them frozen instead of fresh, as they will be much more affordable and just as healthy.
Frozen fruit also tends to last longer than fresh produce, so there isn’t a worry about wasting anything.
If you want to save money- grow your raspberries instead. We are thankful for the black raspberries that grow wild in our region- but we also have blackberries.
Berries will multiply from year to year, giving you a plentiful harvest. In addition, the berries freeze exceptionally well.
Here are some common fruits and veggies to keep in your fridge:
-Greens like spinach, kale, and Swiss chard
You can use these fruit and vegetables to make various dishes such as smoothies, salads, soups, and more.
And they can be easily stored in the fridge for later use.
Every year I buy seeds for 25¢ at Dollar Tree. You can also save your seeds, bringing your costs to practically nothing. Check your local Library for a seed exchange. Our local library offers seeds for FREE!
If you want to start seeds indoors because you have a short growing season as we do, check out how to get started here.
Learn how to grow and get started with the easiest vegetables.
Growing enough food to store in the winter months will help your grocery budget stay low.
One of my favorite recipes using fruit and veggies is this easy smoothie:
-1 cup frozen berries
-1 cup spinach
-1 cup milk or yogurt
-1 tbsp. honey
1. Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth.
2. If the smoothie is too thick, add more milk or yogurt until desired consistency is reached.
3. Enjoy immediately!
Find Cheap Prices
Some supermarkets tend to overcharge on products like spices and condiments, so make sure to shop around for these items.
To find the best deals, you can buy them in bulk at wholesale stores or opt for generic brands. I find Aldi to sell their spices for under $2. You can check out this comparison of prices for spices at BJ’s Wholesale club here.
I love the Flipp app to compare local grocery store sales for the current week.
Snacks and Dips
When buying snacks, it is essential to read labels. Most of the time, it’s not worth paying for the new trendy label- like Gluten Free or Keto.
Instead, look at the ingredients to see what you are paying for. Unfortunately, we can’t let marketing get the best of us in today’s economy.
Most of the time, the prepackaged snacks will cost you a bit more- if you have the time or don’t have the budget to buy them, always go for the big bag and then break them up into individual bags.
We switched to the pantry containers, and I love buying a big bag and putting the food in a see-through container.
Mixing your juices and water is a great way to save money as you can make as much as you need instead of buying it by the bottle, which inevitably gets wasted if not finished.
Also, buying fruit in season and freezing it for smoothies is a healthier and cheaper alternative than those already prepared.
It is almost always cheaper to refill or buy reusable water bottles and a premade mix. At wholesale clubs, you can find Gatorade and many other combinations for containers cheaper than buying a pack of Gatorade, for example.
The best condiments that are cheap to stock your fridge with are mustard, hot sauce, and ketchup. These three condiments can go a long way and be used in many different recipes or as a dipping sauce for your favorite snack.
The other night, we made a delicious and on-the-fly dinner using ketchup and mustard. We had leftover ground venison meat that we seasoned with ketchup and a little touch of mustard.
Next, we added chopped pickles and onions. Then we put the mixture on a tortilla and added a little cheese. It was delicious!
We always go to chicken quesadillas- but we still have a fair amount of venison meat to get through. So this was a new family favorite.
Budget-friendly items to buy at the grocery store:
Don’t be afraid of buying generic, just the name-brand product that is usually cheaper. Generic products are often made in the same factory as their more expensive counterparts, so there isn’t much price difference.
Buying frozen items you know you will use is usually cheaper than buying fresh ingredients later to leave them at the back of your fridge and end up wasting them.
You can save a lot of money by stocking your fridge with food you buy on sale or in bulk, but most importantly, purchase healthy and nutritious things for you and your family.
By doing this, you will spend less at the grocery store because you won’t be tempted to buy unhealthy snacks, enjoy better health, and save money in the long run.
Bulk is Better
You may think buying small packages of specific items will be more cost-effective than purchasing large, bulk items. However, this is not always the case.
Buying in bulk can save you a lot of money and provide you with more options during your weekly grocery shopping trips. Bulk items usually cheaper include meat, fish, pasta, rice, beans, and other dry goods.
Buying in bulk is a great way to save money, but only if you use all items within their expiration date. Buying too much can result in wasted food and lost money. Instead, use smaller containers when repackaging bulk goods for your fridge or pantry.
That way, you can ensure you’re using everything you buy and wasting less.
Make Friends With Farmers
Did you know that great deals are often available for people who want to purchase large quantities of produce?
Buying directly from the farmer can lead to huge savings, especially if you plan on using your fresh goods within a couple of days or weeks.
You may also consider splitting the cost with a friend and joining a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture).
Take advantage of inexpensive and inexpensive items that may be available close to where you live. Buying locally can save you money on your grocery bill, but it also helps your local economy by keeping more of your money in your town.
In addition, purchasing local produce and goods can help keep your community thriving.
Check your local Buy Nothing Facebook group I see many times dozens of eggs for sale.
Plan Your Meals
One of the best ways to save money is to plan your meals ahead of time and stick with them. This makes it easier for you to stick with a set grocery list and reduces the temptation to buy unnecessary items that may lead to waste.
If you need to adjust, buy things that complement the meals you’ve already planned instead of changing the schedule altogether.
Read Food Labels
You don’t have to be an expert at reading labels, but knowing what certain things mean is good. Check the ingredient list on things like canned goods and cereals, or look for nutrition facts on foods you eat frequently.
If you do some research, it will be easier to spot which items are the best deals and those that provide you with the most nutritional value.
You may think buying meat from a butcher is more expensive than purchasing it from the grocery store. However, many butchers will provide discounts if you buy your meat in bulk.
Ask about any deals they have before purchasing, especially when purchasing things like ground beef or other meats that can be frozen and stored for a while without a noticeable difference in quality.
Having a stocked fridge makes it much easier to cook and eat healthily. We hope these tips for storing your fridge will help make your budget stretch further!
If you’re looking for more inspiration on saving money in the kitchen, check out our blog post, “How To Cook With an Empty Fridge” There are lots of recipes that don’t require fancy ingredients or equipment – just a little creativity.