Stocking a Zero Waste Pantry

Zero Waste Pantry

One of the first things I learned when I started experimenting with zero waste living was that I had to change the way I ate. I didn’t have the best diet. A lot of food that my husband and I ate was either fast food, processed, and of course, overly and excessively packaged.

Keeping an essential list of pantry goods was key to keeping my grocery shopping easy and cheap, my meals simple, and food waste minimized. I keep a pretty minimalist pantry considering that’s the only way it will all fit (my pantry is teeny tiny) and because most meals we have use pretty much the same ingredients. Most or all of my zero waste pantry items can be purchased in bulk where I live so keep that in mind when I say “Zero Waste” Pantry.

I found that when I chose elaborate meals calling for proprietary ingredients I ended up with a stuffed pantry with items that I never used that ended up going bad. The pantry turned into my closet at the time. hundreds of choices but nothing to wear – or in this case – eat. That’s another great thing about shopping in the bulk sections because if you do want to try some thing new, you won’t end up with a giant package and instead just the amount you need – and trust me – we love trying new things!
So, first things first, when I bring my items home from the store, they are in my reusable cloth produce bags. Check out my post “5 Steps to Zero Waste Bulk Shopping” for a more detailed look at how I shop and if you don’t have bulk check out my article “No Bulk, No Problem!“. I then transfer them in to glass storage jars to keep them fresh. That allows me to visually see what I have and what I need to replace or fill up. Another bonus to zero waste shopping, right?! Another key component to a zero waste pantry is stocking up on items that have longer shelf lives. This allows for you to purchase in larger quantities to store for meals later.

So what’s in my pantry?


Grains are the base to many meals in our household. We love stir fried veggies, Indian food, and a good bowl of pasta. Quinoa is also great for making veggie “meats”.


Baking is such an important part of my life that I gave it its own category on my shopping list. Everything from cupcakes, pancakes, breads, pies, and more come out of my kitchen quite regularly. And of course baking soda is used in many natural cleaning recipes throughout the house.


Beans are so versatile. They can be used in about any dish – even dessert! I use lentils in a lot of dishes as a meat substitute like chili and pasta sauce.

Natural Sweeteners

Maple syrup is good for more than just pancakes. It can be used as a honey substitute and replace a lot of refined sugar in dishes. Dates are great for binding ingredients together like in pie crusts or energy bites.

Nuts and Seeds

Almonds get used for almond milk, peanuts get turned into peanut butter, cashews are used in a lot of vegan cheese substitutes like Parmesan, and popcorn is just fantastic – right?!

Oils and Vinegars

Olive oil is my go to cooking oil. I use it when I am sauteing veggies or need to lubricate a pan in place of cooking spray. Coconut oil is used in everything from baking to toiletries. And vinegar is the primary ingredient in my cleaning spray.


This can be more of a guide to you than anything. Just stock up on your favorite spices. I do have to say, though, nutritional yeast is a great Parmesan cheese substitute if you’re looking to cut dairy from your diet. 

Again, very minimalist. But it works more me and my family. Use this as a guideline, add or subtract items, or just use it as inspiration.

Photo credit: shutterbean via / CC BY-NC-ND

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Zero Waste Nerd

5 thoughts on “Stocking a Zero Waste Pantry

  1. Since they are sealed in the jars, the bugs can't get in – at least they never have for me. When I have extra flour that won't fit in the jars, I put it in the freezer.

  2. Have you ever tried sesame oil? The flavour is heavenly! I get it in a glass bottle and will keep looking for a brand with a metal lid. It really helps to mix things up!

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