Your Pantry: The place where cans of cream of mushroom soup and boxes of brown rice go to die a slow, lonely death.
Even if you are an organized person, you may have way more food than you actually need, which means it will likely expire before you get to it.
Size doesn’t matter
Large pantry, open shelving, small cabinet – it doesn’t matter what you have. We all overstock with items we will never eat and fail to remove them when they expire. Instead of solving the problem, we complain that our pantries aren’t big enough or we go out and buy organizers of every shape and design to clean up the space.
After having 10 different kitchens as an adult, I’ve come to a shocking conclusion about pantries: Size really doesn’t matter. It is all about technique – shopping and storage technique, that is.
What do you have hiding in your pantry?
Take a good look at your closet/shelf/pantry/cabinet. Follow the steps below to bring some order and remove any food that is no longer good to eat.
- Throw away any expired food and recycle the containers (this includes spices). I actually moved a large container of oatmeal from Massachusetts to Seattle 3 years ago and it is still unopened – and expired since 2006.
- Will you actually eat what’s left? Follow #1 for any food that you know you won’t eat. We stopped drinking Slim-Fast for breakfast when I gave up milk 6 months ago, and I still have 3 containers of it. Go figure.
- Can you combine any products to save space and keep items fresh? For instance, you can put all your dry spaghetti noodles into a plastic container – same with beans, rice, and other pasta. I also do this with nuts and dried fruits. Some people do this with cereal, too.
- Now that you are down to the basics, think about sorting by how you use food instead of by height or category. If you rarely use canned soup, it should be on the top shelf even though it is small. This will make it very easy for you to see when you need to replenish what you use most.
- Get a small notepad and attach adhesive to the back and stick it to the pantry door. Write down exactly what you need to buy when you first notice you need it. This will help you stay on track with your budget because you won’t buy 2 cans of tomatoes from memory and come home to find out you actually needed 2 cans of tomato paste.
Even though my “before” picture is messy, it actually only took me 20 minutes to declutter and sort. Besides the Slim-Fast that we no longer use, I found 1 big container of oatmeal, 1 bottle of lemon-pepper spice, 2 boxes of Jell-O and 3 cans of soup that had expired. That’s a lot of junk in one small cabinet.
Some shopping tips to keep your pantry from bulging:
- Buy spices in the bulk aisle. They will be fresher and cheaper than the bottles and take up less room because you only buy what you need.
- If you are organized enough, you can plan your meals in advance and shop weekly/monthly. This is hard for me, but I know several people who do this successfully. The Incredible Chef teaches classes in the Seattle area on “investment cooking.” Check your community college or personal chef association to find a similar class in your area.
- The other extreme is to shop daily or every other day so that you always have just a little bit of fresh food on hand. This is easier and more pleasant to do when you can walk to your grocery store and fairly common in larger cities.
- Have you tried online shopping? One way to keep yourself from going overboard is to use a grocery delivery service like Amazon Fresh, Safeway or Peapod for your bulk shopping. I’ve used all 3 services with success and currently use Amazon because I don’t have to be home to accept delivery. You may also have smaller delivery services available in just your area.
What did you find in your pantry? Do you have a plan to keep it clutter-free and healthy for you and your family? Let me know in the comments.