Whether or not you are following along in The Week Ahead, today is a good day to tackle your pantry or dry food storage areas. Having lived in Europe, I understand that an actual pantry is much more common in North America. However, every culture has a place to store dried grains, spices, canned or jarred items, cereals, snacks, etc. It is usually located somewhere that is convenient to cooking. When you moved into your home, your pantry (I will just call it a pantry from here on out, but it means wherever you store your food or non-perishables) was likely an empty, clean area of your kitchen, just waiting for its bounty. Now you may find that it has become neglected. There may be spills or crumbs. There may be food from 2003 in there. Even if your pantry is pretty organized, there is always room for improvement. Take some time today to think through your food storage. Does it make sense? Are items readily accessible? Is it convenient? How do you keep track of what you have and what you need? Below are some ways to organize your pantry or non-perishable food items.
Take a Hard Look Before you touch anything in the pantry, open it up and look with fresh eyes. Pretend you are a guest in your home and are looking at the pantry for the first time. What would you think? What areas have room for improvement? What would you do differently? What are your goals for your pantry? What food items do you currently have in your pantry? Some items are worth buying and storing, but some items should only be purchased if you have a definite plan to prepare a dish with that item in it. Unless you are storing up food for
Remove Everything from your Pantry You need a good block of time if you start this project, but the best way to begin is to take everything out. Set items in boxes so they can be moved around according to the amount of time it takes to finish. Have one box labeled “keep”, another box labeled “donate”, and yet another box labeled “throw away”.
Give it a Good Scrubbing With all items out of the way, you will probably notice how messy your pantry has become. Sticky shelves, dusty baskets, and spilled food will likely be all that is left. Depending on the type of shelving you have, a good vacuuming or dusting before you wipe down with a cloth and mild soap and water is recommended. You may need to pull out something a little stronger if a stain or sticky spot persists.
Evaluate Shelving and Storage in your Pantry Is your current shelving and storage system working? If so, great! Move on to the next step. If not, then do some research on how you can make it better. There are lots of inexpensive shelving systems out there. If you are handy or know someone who is, a simple edge trim is an easy way to add shelving in a pantry. Narrow shelving offers easier access to pantry items.
Make a Plan Forget about the way your pantry was organized (or not) before. You have a clean slate. Think about what makes sense. Here are some things to consider: 1) Do you want children to have easy access? If so, put items low. If not, put items high. 2) What items do you use frequently? Put those at eye-level so you can keep a close watch on your stock. 3) How can you make the best use of your space. If possible, use the doors for storage. Use baskets or extra small wire shelves to stack items or make them more accessible. 4) Where do heavy items and kitchen gadgets/small appliances fit?
Inventory your “Keep” Box Now that your pantry is clean and you have a good plan for it, a good start would be to inventory what you have and what will be going back on the shelves. (Members to ListPlanIt.com have access to a Pantry Inventory page in Meal Planning.)
Break Down the Items in the “Throw Away” Box If items are past their expiration or stale from being opened long ago, then put food in the compost or the trash, clean out jars and cans for recycling, and break down boxes for recycling.
Deliver your “Donate” Items to a Food Pantry or Soup Kitchen You may have bought extra cans of an item that you now know your family will not eat. Or you may just have items that you want to give away before the expiration date gets too close. Now is your chance to clean your pantry and to do some good. Ask your child’s school if they are collecting for families in need. Your surplus is another family’s gain.
Clearly Label Storage Areas Consider a labeling system for keeping your items together and reminding everyone with access to the pantry about the layout.
Replace Items on Shelves Following your pantry plan, like items should be placed together: cereals/grains, canned/jarred goods, baking supplies, snacks, beverages, paper goods, etc.
Add Maintenance to your Calendar Add a quick pantry check-up to your calendar once a month. Now that your pantry is clean and organized, it only takes a little bit of time each month to make sure that everything is where it should be and that spills are wiped up.
What tips do you have to share on cleaning and organizing a pantry?
ListPlanIt.com has everything you need to plan your next menu, inventory your pantry, or create a grocery list, in Meal Planning and also in ListPlanIt’s Meals ePlanner. Find lots more pages to get the rest of your home organized in Home Management and in ListPlanIt’s Home ePlanner.