Hold up, how are we already halfway through November!? Thanksgiving is practically here and maybe you’ve found yourself cooking a big turkey dinner for the first time. If that doesn’t sound stressful enough, with all the extra time we’ve all been spending at home this year, your kitchen pantry might look a little worse for the wear. If the thought of opening your cupboard doors sends you into complete panic mode, don’t worry – organizing the space of your dreams is not as tough as you think it might be. With a few easy tips and tricks, your Pinterest-worthy pantry will be ready to show off and make your holiday cooking that much easier! Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Time to Get Messy
Anytime you organize, it gets a whole lot messier first! It may seem like a monumental task, but the first thing you’re going to want to do is take every single item out of your pantry. Yep! Every. Single. Item. Make room on your kitchen countertops and group all like-items together: pasta, canned veggies, baking items, soup, etc. This step will make your life a whole lot easier when you put everything back inside the pantry.
Get Rid of It
As you’re clearing out the deep, dark depths of your shelves, you may find you own five jars of peanut butter or chili seasoning that expired in 2005. It happens to the best of us. Make sure to look for a printed date on each item and figure out if it should be disposed. This is the time to purge! Here are the differences in dates you should be aware of:
Best By/Best If Used Before Date: This date suggests when it’s best to consume the food item by. It’s generally safe to still eat the item within a week after the printed date.
Use By Date: This date also suggests when to consume the food item by, similar to Best By dates. However, Use By dates should be more strictly followed. If you have refrigerated items past the Use By date, the USDA recommends disposing it. If you have canned goods past the Use By date, use it as soon as possible after this date.
Sell By Date: This date means that the food item should be sold by then. It also means that the item could be safely consumed anywhere between a few days up to two weeks after the Sell By date.
No Date: If there’s no printed date and you didn’t purchase it recently, it’s time to let it go. With food, you don’t want to risk eating something questionable and getting sick.
It’s easy to look at a pile of expired food and feel guilty, but if you’re on the fence about whether or not to get rid of something, it’s time to toss it. Getting rid of expired food items will end up feeling like a weight has been lifted from your shoulders. This process is a learning curve, but by disposing of what you don’t use and getting everything out in the open, you’ll be able to determine what foods you aren’t necessarily eating before they expire, and what foods you might not need to buy in bulk anymore to avoid waste and save yourself some money.
Invest in Clear Containers & a Label Maker
Now that you know which food items you’ll keep, it’s time to turn your attention back inside your pantry. Clear containers are especially helpful for bulk-bin items, like rice, sugar, or cereal. Another idea is to use baskets to group your kids’ snack foods, cooking oils, or any baking items or coffee pods.
When it comes to labels, there are some items we suggest rather than marking the container’s actual product name, you mark the bought and expiration date (who really needs a label to tell you you’ve got cereal in your plastic jar?). With neatly labeled clear containers and organized baskets, gone are the days of having four partially open bags of brown sugar and too much junk food!
Here are a few pantry organizing items to get you started:
OXO Good Grips POP 5-Piece Canisters: OXO makes canisters in square or rectangular shapes, and they are stackable. These canisters have an airtight seal, keeping food fresh. This 5-piece set is a great starter kit.
Water Hyacinth Storage Bins with Handles: These baskets come in a few different sizes and are great for storing snacks. They’re beyond stylish, too!
madesmart Expandable Pantry Shelf & Spice Organizer: This organizer is perfect for all your canned soups and veggies. It has non-slip lining so your cans or spices will stay lined up, and it can expand to whatever size you need (up to 25” wide). This lets you see all your cans at once without moving them around to see what’s in the back.
Made By Design Plastic Turn Table: For those weird, pesky corners in the pantry, a Lazy Susan might be the best use of space. Bottles of oils can be stored like this, and all you have to do is turn it to find what you need.
Come Up With a Floorplan
With all of your food items now stored in new containers, it’s time to visualize where it makes the most sense to put items back. You should think about the items you use most – they should be stored front and center and at eye level.
If you have kids, another thing you’ll want to consider is where to place their snack foods. Healthy cereal and snacks could be placed on lower shelves so the kids can make breakfast for themselves and grab snacks before heading to school in the morning. Any less nutritious items, like leftover Halloween candy, should be put on a higher shelf out of reach. Do you have items that aren’t used very often? If you bake cookies and cakes, but only during the holidays, baking items could be stored on higher shelves.
You should have already done all the sorting work when you removed everything from your pantry, now it’s just about putting everything back in. Also, leave space in case you have extra items you’ll need to replenish after your grocery run.
The Work Is Never Done
Once you’ve finished organizing your pantry take a step back and admire your hard work. If you’re diligent, it should stay orderly for a while, but just know it won’t last forever. The key to keeping an organized pantry is to check in a few times a year to assess its contents. Old ingredients need to be tossed. Dust and little spills need to be taken care of. Systems need to be tweaked. These quarterly checkups will mean you may never have to completely make over your pantry again.
With these easy tips, you’ll be well on your way to having a much more organized pantry this holiday season and all year round!
Article by Katie Rothman, REX