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I’m sure we have all
drooled over looked appreciatively at some amazing pantry spaces and food storage areas online, right? Maybe you are like me and have even felt a twinge of envy. So imagine how I felt when my dad agreed to help me build a new pantry area exactly the way I wanted it! Finally, I could have a perfectly organized and always stocked area that was worthy of Pinterest! For a few weeks, it did look like something to brag about…then real life took over.
Having more space meant it was easier to get disorganized, and food often became hidden, which resulted in me buying duplicates of many items that I did not really need. I knew something had to change, so I decided to rethink my pantry storage methods. In today’s post, I am going to share some tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way. Additionally, I’ll be touching on how to keep your freezer organized and some tips to prevent waste.
If you have a disorganized, cluttered, too full, or just plain messy pantry space, I want to first encourage you that it CAN be made into a place that is very useful and nice looking. It takes a bit of planning and commitment, but ultimately, having a well organized and inventoried pantry can help save your family money.
Empty It Out
I’ll explain that a little later, but for now, I want you to go take everything out of your pantry. Yep, everything. This may take some time, so make sure you can dedicate a couple of hours to it. You will need a pen and paper, as well as a large basket or box. Take everything out, and as you pick up a can or box of food, consider if your family will use it in the next month. Maybe you have some extra packages of pasta that your husband isn’t a fan of, or a bag of chocolate chips that are semi-sweet instead of milk chocolate (been there, done that!). If you honestly don’t see yourself using it in the next four weeks, put it in the large basket or box and donate it to the local food bank. Obviously, if anything is expired, go ahead and toss it in the trash.
Sort It Out
Once you have taken everything out I want you to go back through all the items you are planning to use and sort them. Canned goods, dry goods, baking, whatever! Sort them in a way that makes sense to you. Then get your writing implement and make a chart using your pantry items as headings. Beans, tuna, bread crumbs, pasta, etc…whatever if spread out from your pantry, mark it down as a category. Once that is done, mark down the quantity of each item you have.
Clean It Up
Once you have your inventory list made up, go ahead and put back the items you are keeping, but be sure to recheck the expiry dates. If it is expiring soon, put it in the front, and if it still has some shelf life, keep it further back. I like to group my small items (extra spices, baking things, etc) in little baskets or boxes, but you do not have to do this if your pantry has ample space. By the way, if you are looking for some ways to use up your pantry items, take a peek at our Pinterest boards for meal ideas!
Cross It Off
The nice thing about the pantry inventory is that you simply cross off, white out, or erase the mark for the item when you use it up. Then when you make your next grocery list it is easy to see what you are running low on or are totally out of. This is the “saving money” aspect I mentioned earlier! Before your handy inventory sheet, you might not have realized you still had six cans of tuna, so you might have bought even more. Did you need the tuna? No, and that money could have been spent elsewhere. If that has happened to you before, please don’t feel discouraged! It’s an easy mistake to make, one that I have done many times in the past, but hopefully, one that doesn’t happen often after creative a pantry inventory.
I prefer to keep a monthly inventory, and repeat the process every 30 days or so. We shop about once a month, which is why this system works for us, but you could update your inventory more or less frequently.
Let me take a moment to talk about rotating your stock. It seems natural to put your newly purchased goods at the front of the pantry since it is quicker, but I advise you to actually push the current items to the front and add the newer to the back. This helps reduce a waste by spoilage.
Once you have your pantry inventory all done, you can do the same with your freezer. Only, instead of donating anything, you don’t want to use, just toss it out. Anything that is unidentified, too badly freezer burned, or has been in there too long should all be thrown in the garbage. My goal is to have all my freezer items sorted into smaller boxes within the freezer, but that has yet to happen! It will make things so much easier to find and can help prevent my glass jars from breaking. The process for writing out the inventory is the same as the pantry. I chose to keep my list on my freezer, for convenience. But you can store yours wherever you like and is accessible.
Did you know you can freeze dairy? We like to buy bricks of cheese when it is on sale, but we buy so much that we can’t eat it all before it expires. So in the freezer, it goes! Once we are ready to use it, I let it thaw in the fridge and it is consumed within a week. Same goes with butter and even milk! My tip for freezing milk it to pour it into ice cube trays and freeze that way. I have not tried drinking the thawed milk, but I do use it for cooking and in coffee.
Creating an organized and inventoried food storage space is not too difficult, but it can be overwhelming if you have no idea where to start. Hopefully, this post gives you the motivation you need to tackle the project! And if you do take the step towards a better functioning food storage space, we’d LOVE to see before and after photos! Join our Facebook group, The Homemaker’s Corner, share your photos, and be encouraged by this community of like-minded ladies!