New Year’s Resolution: Organizing Your Pantry
Ahhhhhh….I love the start of a fresh, new year! It is a time for making a resolution, assessing your “hits and misses” of the past year, and jumping into brand-new experiences. The possibilities feel endless, and one of my very favorite things to do is to declutter and tidy my house—especially organizing the pantry. When my home is disheveled, I feel my mind is as well, so cleaning and organizing my living space goes a long way towards helping me live a calmer and less stressful life.
Today, I’m going to focus on how to organize that pesky food pantry that’s in dire need of a good pick-me-up (if it’s anything like mine right now).
The many benefits of an organized pantry
- Items are easier to locate, which saves you time.
- You’re less likely to re-purchase an item you know you already have, which means you’ll save money and avoid food waste.
- You’re more likely to choose a healthier food option over a not-so-healthy option if it’s in plain sight.
- People tend to cook more meals at home (which is far less expensive than eating out) when we can easily see what ingredients we have on hand.
So, are you ready to make your New Year’s resolution and start organizing your pantry? Here are some suggestions to set you up for a successful endeavor.
How to Organize your Pantry
Step 1: Start with a clean slate
Yes, that means what you think it means: take everything out of the pantry first. While this may temporarily clutter other spaces in your home, it will help facilitate the cleaning and reorganizing process.
Wipe down the pantry shelves with a good cleaning cloth and cleaner. Since the pantry stores food, you’ll want a cleaner that can neutralize food-borne pathogens such as E. coli. Don’t forget to get those dusty corners that haven’t seen the light of day since a year ago. If you have a bigger walk-in pantry, now would also be a good time to mop the floor and wipe the baseboards. Once you scrub and dust your pantry space, you’ll have a have a clean, bare foundation to start organizing and storing your food.
Step 2: Toss out expired food and spices
This is the longest and most tedious part of the process, but the most important. Review the label on each food item or spice to check for an expiration date. Toss EVERYTHING that has expired (while putting the packaging in the recycling bin if it’s recyclable). If you can’t find an expiration date, it’s best not to consume the food and risk food poisoning, so toss those items out as well. You might end up throwing out a lot of stuff, so you should have several large trash bags ready during this process.
Step 3: Donate extra food
Have extra (unexpired) canned soup, pasta or pet food? Consider donating it to those in need. Contact local food pantries, homeless shelters, and family centers to find the best locations to donate your items, as well as to find out what foods are most needed in your area if you’d like to donate in the future.
Step 4: Place dry goods in clear glass containers
Not only do glass jars and containers make your dry goods look prettier on the shelves, but they are also more likely to keep bugs and other yucky things away. I typically use clear glass mason jars (of all sizes), which can be purchased in bulk. You should label each jar using a label maker or stickers, and always make sure to include the expiration date of the product.
Step 5: Use baskets or container organizers
Instead of leaving snack bars and snacks in boxes that take up a lot of shelf space, opt to dump the goods into a basket or container organizer. This also makes these items easier to find, grab and go.
Step 6: Put like items in like groups
Think of your pantry as a grocery store, and stock items together by category. Category examples include sauces and condiments, pastas, cereals, canned vegetables, canned fruits, soups, snack bars, bread, etc. This system will make finding items so much quicker and easier.
Step 7: Create a kid-friendly section
When your kids reach the age where they can grab their own snacks, a kid-friendly section in your pantry (typically shelves towards the bottom that they can easily reach) will be the ultimate time-saver for them and for you. This will also allow you to control what kinds of snacks they are eating, as well as the amounts, so there are (hopefully) no arguments about them having “nothing to eat.” Your children will also feel like “big kids” when they can get their own food like this, so this will teach them a bit of independence.
Step 8: Utilize empty wall space
Don’t waste that valuable empty wall space in the pantry. You can use nail-free hooks for hanging aprons, dish towels, small brooms, dustpans, or anything else that is hangable. You can also install small shelving on the wall for more compact food items like spices, coffee or tea.
Step 9: Keep it regularly maintained
If you want to keep your pantry neat and tidy throughout the year, organizing it regularly is a must. Once a month, you should check expiration dates on all items, and put older items in front of newer ones to make sure they are used first. This will help avoid waste. It also a good idea to check the pantry before going grocery shopping to see what you already have in stock. And lastly, regular cleaning is a big part of keeping this New Year’s resolution!
Now that your pantry is clean, pristine, and organized, you can start tackling the areas in the rest of your house. A fresh pantry for a fresh new year.
Enjoy your pantry space and Happy New Year!
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