Yesterday, the kids and I spent the better part of the day cleaning out and reorganizing the pantry. We’d had a small problem lately with those nasty little weevils showing up and it was grossing us out! No matter the size of your kitchen, organizing your pantry staples is key to finding what you need and ensuring that it’s still fresh when it’s time to cook up a meal.
Here are a few tips for getting started!
1. Take everything out. I mean EVERYTHING! Don’t just do it shelf-by-shelf. Take it all out. If you’ve already got it sort of sorted by like items, keep those together if you want to, but it’s not key.
2. Wipe down your shelves. Whether they’re wood shelves like mine or wire shelves, now is a great time to get that food that has drizzled out of containers (we found some light dustings of flour and a small bit of honey) or even just the dust that has settled there.
3. Look at the food you’ve pulled out–decide what to keep and what to toss. Is any of it past it’s expiration date? When was the last time you actually used it to cook with? Since I love to cook, I’ve got a lot of basics. I probably have a half a dozen types of vinegars and at least that many types of rice. Those seem to last “forever” so I didn’t toss too many of those. Are there any half packages of items that you can consolidate? We do that with cereals sometimes and make a hodge-podge blend combined in one of my Tupperware Cereal Storers.. The same goes for snack crackers. Can you put things into a smaller container so you can save space? I also realized that some of the random, unopened sauces or baking mixes were originally part of gift baskets that we’d received or for planned meals that were never made and just never used. I looked at expiration dates and tossed those that were over a year old (yes, there were a few really OLD things in there!) I also decided that if it was not able to be stored in a sealed storage container or bottle then it wasn’t going back or it was to be eaten this week–and quick!
4. Assess your storage options. When we were first married I became a Tupperware consultant so I could earn enough to buy my own storage system. I love the Modular Mates system . I know there are lots of options out there but I urge you to find one that works for your space and budget. Storing your items in glass or plastic sealed containers will not only keep the bugs out but they will also help preserve freshness which will save you money in the long run.
5. Group like items together and put it all back. I’ve got labels on the shelves in my pantry so that anyone who goes into my pantry can hopefully find what they are looking for. My categories include Canned Veggies/Fruits, Cereals, Crackers and Dry Snacks (like nuts), Baking, Pasta/Rice, Soups, Sauces/Vinegars, etc. I also have a shelf on the bottom where the kids can reach snacks that they are allowed to get themselves (they still have to ask first)…things like raisins, dried fruit, granola bars, etc. This gives them a little independence in preparing their own snacks.
In the end we found the culprit source to our bug problem–a box of opened fish fry cornmeal. Upon reading the box it was supposed to be refrigerated after opening–oops! Turns out that is one way to keep the little buggies from showing up…freeze or keep your grain products cold.
I don’t know if you’re like me but I always feel so good after cleaning out and reorganizing a closet or cabinet. My pantry was no exception–I’m still opening the door and just staring at our handiwork to admire it! Just like any closet or cabinet, you should plan to clean out your pantry at least once a year or every six months. I bet you’ll be glad you do!