An organized pantry will prevent you from spending unnecessary cash on groceries you just don't need. Once you know your food inventory, you'll be able to know exactly what to shop for...and what NOT to shop for.
Here are ten tips for organizing that pantry step by step:
Step 1: Do a Clean Sweep. Remove everything from your pantry and place into categorized boxes: a) expired/throw away, b) keep and reorganize, and c) donate to food bank.
Step 2: Dust It Off. Wipe down and dust every shelf, and re-line each one with new shelf liner to prevent any additional mess. Shelf liner makes everything look clean and pristine. When you’re done organizing, nothing should be kept on the floor of the pantry.
Step 3: Analyze. Take all the food out of your “keep and reorganize” box and get a good sense of what you really need. Anything that’s expired, you must obviously toss. If it’s something your family isn’t going to use but is not yet expired, donate it to a food bank. The key is to be realistic about which items you are actually going to use and which ones are just lying around the pantry.
Step 4: Consolidate. If you’ve got almost-empty bags of cracker crumbs with no actual full-sized crackers, throw these bags away. The same is true for a box of individually-wrapped granola bars, for example. If there’s one granola bar in the box, remove the bar and toss the box. Another empty or nearly-empty box will only clutter your pantry. Throw out any spice bottles that are older than one year.
Step 5: Organize each shelf by type of food. You can do this in a number of ways. For example, you can place boxed foods (cereals, cake mixes, powdered pancake mix) on one shelf and canned items (beans, soups broths) on another. Place bagged foods (e.g. dry pasta) and jarred goods (sauce to go with the pasta, perhaps?) on separate shelves as well. Olive oils and vinegars can go in one section and additional spices or condiments that don’t need refrigeration can go on another. Just be sure to keep similar foods together, leaving a few inches of space between types of food so things don't look crammed.
Step 6: Consider special dietary issues. If a member of the household has food allergies or special food needs, you can devote an entire shelf to that person’s special foods so they don’t get mixed up with anyone else’s. Decide how you want to organize the shelves then proceed. Consistency is key here.
Step 7: Make your pantry kid-friendly. If you’ve got children who come home after school looking for a quick snack, be sure to keep healthy and tasty snack foods on a shelf they can reach. If you have small children and you don’t want them to reach the sugary snacks when you’re not looking, keep these snacks on the top shelf of the pantry, this way they’ll most likely be out of sight and out of mind. However, be sure YOU don’t forget they’re there, because then they’ll be more likely to expire without you knowing.
Step 8: Seal every container. Be sure that all items are securely wrapped and boxes are shut tightly. Always roll down the bag inside the box so that no air can get into the food and cause it to spoil. Potato chip bags should be folded as far down as possible and clipped with a chip clip or clothespin to keep the chips fresh.
Step 9: Take inventory of your food. One key to making sure your pantry stays neat is to make sure you don’t buy more than what you actually need. It's necessary to take inventory before you go to the store so you don’t buy duplicates. Please don’t go shopping and buy enough food for the end of the world, especially if you know that much of your food will most likely go to waste! You will save lots of money this way.
Step 10: Be generous. Make a friend: if you know you’re not going to use it, give it to someone who will. Bring unnecessary, unwanted (but NOT expired!) food items to the neighbor's house, such as that tin of popcorn you got for a gift last week that you know you're not going to eat. Someone else will enjoy something that you'll probably ignore!
These are just some tips for keeping your pantry tidy. Let us know yours, too!