Go Grocery Shopping Less Often by "Back Stocking" at Home

Use this method to keep your kitchen stocked.

Have you taken the last can of soup out of the pantry and dreaded another shopping trip? A solution to that experience can be creating a "back stock" of items you frequently use, beyond your regular pantry or cabinets. During the pandemic, I've created a back stock of things my family consistently eats and I plan on continuing that method going forward. By taking a look at what you use most from your pantry, you can create a back stock of those necessities.

What is a "back stock" of food? How can you build one? Explore adding an extra stock of shelf stable foods for emergencies, everyday needs, and the future. From granola bars to pasta and soup, adding back stock items can help extend time between shopping trips, keep you prepared for weather events, or add variety.

While shelf stable items have long expiration periods, it is still good to keep track of what you have so you can integrate it into your pantry or cabinets. This also helps save money. Many back stock items can be purchased at warehouse stores, but you can also build a back stock at your grocery store as well. Watching for sales on your favorite or most-eaten items can be an opportunity to fill the back stock.

With less urgency than day-to-day shopping, building a back stock can be a slower process. Keep track of what is in your back stock with a running shopping list. Once you move a frequently-used item into the pantry or cabinet, add that item to your shopping list. A back stock is generally kept in a separate area in your pantry or in a different cabinet. This helps to free up space in your general pantry for everyday needs while allowing you to add to it.

Love It or Leave It On the Store Shelf

It doesn't make sense to back stock stuff you don't love. Just because it's on sale doesn't mean it is the right option. Buy the peanut butter you love, the rice that is easiest to make, and the canned vegetables that are your recipe base or dinner sides. It may be tempting to stock up in a big way if you say "I'm making a back stock."

The truth is we all only have so much space and specific tastes. A back stock can be a great way to fill in shopping gaps, capitalize on sales, buy special treats to have on hand, and to feel like a weather or health catastrophe won't leave you scrambling. On the negative side, it can take up space you might need for other things—buy carefully and thoughtfully!

Back Stock With Current Dates

Expiration dates and freshness are important in a back stock. Don't just stock up on random items to have a store in the back of your pantry. You might end up with waste or expired items. Things with longer expiration dates are obviously easier to include but also think about your food needs. If your family doesn't eat tuna, don't buy tuna. If they love chocolate chip granola bars, that may be the sole item you feel you need in your back stock. Check on the stock once a month—if dates are getting close or you find you're not eating that item, consider donating to your local food back.

Tip: If something you do love goes on sale, carefully check the expiration dates. If the dates are close, it might be better to put that into more regular rotation instead of back stock.

Stocked kitchen pantry with food - pasta, buckwheat, rice and sugar .
Irina Tiumentseva / Getty Images

Your Back Space for a Back Stock

Choose your back stock area and size of storage based on your needs and available space. If you have one extra shelf, fill that shelf with extras. If you have an extra closet, use a section of that. A back stock doesn't need to take over your garage or require a storage system of shelves and containers. It can be simply an extra shelf or plastic tote in your pantry.

Tip: Do keep your back stock near your kitchen or pantry. Out of sight and out of mind could mean you end up with out-of-date granola bars in your front coat closet.

Organizing the Back Stock

Depending on your available space, choosing containers for a back stock may be simpler than for regular pantry storage. I have a tendency to leave my back stock food items in their original packaging to maintain freshness since they may not be used for several months. While you may not move the items into different containers, removing any bulk items from larger packaging can be helpful to see what you have. If cereal boxes come three to a box, remove them from that larger outside packaging. Same with canned goods—it is easier to stack and store and see how many you have.

Labeling can be as simple as adding labels with the item, amount, and date matched to a taped-on list of contents.

Ask the Kids

What kids like one week, they might not want to eat the next. This is one area to keep a smaller back stock of to accomodate changing tastes. Some kid-friendly back stock items include granola bars, fruit snacks, juice pouches, cereal, soups, breakfast items, and other lunch box fillers. Designating a drawer or cabinet for kid items lets you see when it needs to be refilled. If there is a back stock area that needs to be constantly adjusted, this is it!

Buy for back stock:

  • Breakfast items like Pop-Tarts, cereal, individually packaged donuts and muffins, and juice pouches
  • Fruit snacks, fruit roll-ups, and fruit leather
  • Single serve soups
  • Snacks like granola bars, packaged chips, trail mix, and Goldfish
  • Hot chocolate mix
  • Items to make s'mores (chocolate bars, graham crackers, and marshmallows)
  • Candy

Oh Sugar Sugar

One easy thing to add to a back stock is dry goods like sugar, flour, baking soda, baking powder, and cream of tartar. Also think about including dry cake and pancake mixes for easy baking projects. Consider your baking needs when building a back stock of dry ingredients but also consider storage and expiration. Some dry goods need to be stored under special conditions. Consider dates and storage needs when purchasing baked goods. Having even a small back stock of an extra box of basic pancake/baking mix can be helpful on rushed dinner nights or when you can't get to the store.

Buy for back stock:

  • Dry goods like flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, powdered sugar, brown sugar, and cream of tartar
  • Boxed cake, cookie, brownie, and quick bread mixes
  • Flavorings and food colorings
  • Spices
  • Paper goods needed for baking like cupcake liners
  • Sprinkles and toppings

Tip: Buy holiday cookie and frosting when it goes on clearance. Expiration dates are often 6+ after the holiday and are great to keep on hand.

Back to Basics

Take note of everything you regularly use from your pantry. Staple ingredients like grains and dry pasta can be the backbone of many meals. While beans (whether canned or dried) and canned meats provide an easy protein option. Also jot down what specific canned products you go through the fastest, it can help you decided between buying a case of chopped or crushed tomatoes.

Buy for back stock:

  • Grains like rice, quinoa, and barley
  • Dried or canned beans
  • Canned vegetables such as tomatoes, green beens, and corn
  • Pasta of varying shapes
  • Canned meats like chicken, salmon, and tuna

Compliment Back Stock With Condiments

My refrigerator may not have everything to make a meal but we always have jelly, dressings, and pickles. Condiments can be a big part of a back stock. With condiments serving as the base for sauces and as flavorings, shelf stable condiments can compliment your other food options. Choices include: ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, dressings, pickles, and jelly. Spaghetti sauce is another great choice to keep on hand alongside back stock pasta for an easy meal when you don't have perishable foods on hand.

Buy for back stock:

  • Pickles, relish, and chutneys
  • Mayo and dressings
  • Jellies, jams, and preserves
  • Spaghetti sauce and canned tomatoes
  • Mustard, honey mustard, and ketchup
  • Homemade canned goods

Keep Cool

That garage refrigerator you kept when you got a new fridge? That can be your cold back stock storage. We use our garage refrigerator/freezer to hold things like back stock shredded cheese, frozen waffles, whipped cream, frozen meals and veggies, and even ice cream. Designating even a shelf in your fridge for those extras can make sure you don't run out of favorites.

As always, check expiration dates, especially on frozen or chilled foods.

Buy for back stock:

  • Frozen vegetables
  • Frozen fruit for smoothies
  • Frozen waffles and pancakes
  • Bottled water, soda, and juice
  • Shredded, sliced, and block cheese
  • Bread for freezing
  • Ice cream

Wine With Your Back Stock

A wine back stock? The image of a wine cave or room may not be practical but you can create a back stock of your favorite alcohol. Consider how the wine ages or needs to be stored and put it with your other back stock items. An added benefit is taking it out and having a special dinner with a favorite bottle or glass.

Back stock to buy:

  • Mixers
  • Wine
  • Spirits
  • Beer
  • Salty and sweet glass rimmers

Flatware, Plates, and Napkins, Oh My!

Back stocking non-perishable and shelf stable foods is the first thing you might think of. However, paper goods, plastic silverware, and cups are other options to back stock. Again, consider what you use the most. Don't buy an extra bulk box of knives if you prefer to use washable flatware.

Consider making this back stock from unexpected places. For example, I have a back stock of packaged silverware and napkins that come with delivery food. Having them saved in a specific place makes them accessible if we run out of other options or need something for travel or quick meals on-the-go.

Buy for back stock:

  • Paper plates and bowls
  • Plastic silverware
  • Napkins
  • Birthday candles, napkins, and plates
  • Baggies and disposable food store containers
  • Plastic and paper straws

Don't Forget the Pets

Keeping pet food on hand in back stock can be helpful too. We keep a small back stock of treats, poop bags, and canned dog food. Because it may be necessary to make a trip to a different store for pet items, having a small stock on hand can tide you over.

Back stock to buy:

  • Dry and wet dog or cat food
  • Treats for training and everyday
  • Pill pockets
  • Poop bags
  • Cat litter

Related Content:

Was this page helpful?
You’ll Also Love