Tired of outrageously high grocery bills? One of the simplest things you can do to slice your spending on grocery items is organizing your pantry. Why? Because once you know what you have, you can easily plan menus around the foods already on your shelf. An organized pantry also makes it much easier to see when you are running low on staples. That in turn allows you to stock up when you get a good deal instead of having to pay full price for something that you need right now.
Tackling the pantry may look like a daunting task, but if you break it down into simple steps, it’s not as overwhelming as you think.
- Start from scratch. First, take everything out of the pantry. This gives you a blank canvas to work with and allows you to assess the space.
- Weigh your options. Make certain that your shelves can support the weight of everything you want to store on them. If shelves are bowing or pulling away from supports; it’s time for an upgrade. Home improvement stores have many stylish options that you can install yourself. If you need more space or a more customized fit, talk to a professional contractor who specializes in organizing. They may be able to carve additional space out of adjoining rooms.
- Think outside the box. If you have a large enough space, think beyond foodstuffs and consider storing bulky kitchen appliances that aren’t used often – like that waffle iron that’s reserved for special Sunday mornings. Pantries are also ideal places to store oversize or oddly shaped items such as cookie sheets and specialty platters.
- Be ruthless. This is the time to literally clean house. Check dates on all food and toss anything that has expired. If an expiration date is coming up quickly, donate the item to your local food bank. This applies to appliances, too. If you bought a wok 10 years ago and have only used it once, it’s time to let it go.
- Be realistic. Pantries get loaded down with all sorts of items that you’re unlikely to use: sauces that came in gift baskets; complex, multi-step dinner mixes that you don’t have time to make; and bargains that your family hated. If you are unlikely to prepare something in the next few weeks or don’t have it earmarked for a special event, give it to a food bank.
- Size doesn’t matter. Too often, the temptation is to group food items by size. Instead, organize packages by type of food. Keep all the pasta together and place it by the pasta sauce. Group salad dressings with the items you use to make them. Commonly used baking items and mixes should be in another area. Group these items on your counter before you move them into the pantry. This will give you a clear picture of how much space you should allocate for each section.
- Everything in its place. Now that you know what you have, where do you place it all? The answer is – it depends on your Things you use most often should be placed where they are easiest to access – roughly between knee and shoulder level. So one homeowner may have baking items front and center, while another household needs convenience foods or children’s snacks prominently placed. The key is to position your most frequently used items where they make sense for you and then build out from there. In the end, you’ll have a pantry that’s designed around your family’s needs.