by Angela and Laura
Having a system in your kitchen where you can SEE the food you have, put it AWAY easily, and access it QUICKLY are going to help achieve goals you set this month during our March Meal Makeover.
Two big areas here: pantry and fridge.
Everything from a small cupboard to a huge walk in pantry are my (Laura) experience with dry good storage and the tips for today can be used in the smallest and largest spaces!
The first thing you need to do when organizing is take it ALL out. SO, clean off your counters to make room for the unload.
Keep the trash bag nearby and pitch things that have expired or gone bad. Grab a box or grocery bag for any items you can donate or give to friends. I’ve posted my pantry clean out items on Facebook before and friends are glad to take them. Start emptying out each place you store dry goods. I started with my cooking/baking cupboard.
I use these things every day, multiple times a day so they get to live above the counter. So, if you have your soup cans and pastas in these cupboards you might consider switching things around depending on how much you cook/bake. But, if you make sandwiches every day, your bread, and peanut butter might need to live above your counter top.
You can see everything came out, I vacuumed and wiped it down. Combining spices and baking goods when I found multiples gave me more space too! And, I got rid of silly spices that I haven’t used in years.
Then, I put it all back in. We use A LOT of spices in our home, so Spice Racks are a necessity. I just recommend solid racks and not wire or the little spices will tip over and domino the other spices. You can use Door Mounted spices racks too!
I categorize my spices. You can see on the bottom I have my COOKING spices. Then on the shelf above that I have my BAKING spices and small baking items. Yes mine are alphabetized, but that’s just extra credit.
The upper shelf has a bin with baking chips, nuts. In the dead space some jello and boxed mixes live.
Now, onto my big pantry. Even if you have cupboards for these goods, your organization will look very similar. As for organization. I put foods into these categories.
- Breakfast: Cereal and Oatmeal
- Grains: pasta, rice, breads
- Cans and Bottles
- Baking and Cooking: spices, ingredients
- Dried Fruit and Nuts
- Snack bags and Boxes
- Non-refrigerated produce
- Other: boxes of mixes, puddings…
Now I LOVE using bins to collect products that come in bags. My pantry is too deep for any function, so I take matters into my own hands and create drawers with the bins. You can find these babies EVERYWHERE. Dollar stores even have them. Use a sharpie or a 3×5 card and some scotch tape to label each bin.
I’m the type of person who does not like a lot of food STORAGE in my home. So, I’m not a bulk buyer. I have the base essentials and the ingredients for all meals that week. If I was a bulk buyer, that food storage would be in a basement, garage, or somewhere else OUT of the kitchen. It’s too much for my eye to look at.
Another issue is vertical space. So my cans and sometimes my pastas use these wire shelves or tiers to help me see what I’ve got. Let’s see the before and after here!
Let’s talk about the refrigerator now!
This is a constant place of organization in our (Angela) home. I find it helpful to do some organizing in the fridge more often as it goes quicker than a FULL take everything out of the fridge clean.
I learned from a friend, who has taken food service classes, that leftovers are good for up to 5 days. So I use that as I guide when sorting things out! If I can’t remember eating the leftover then I am pretty sure it is past the 5 day mark! If I have just a few days left, I make a plan to eat it or decide if it’s something I can freeze for another lunch or dinner.
A good time to tidy up is when you go grocery shopping and rearranging some things to put away. I wipe down any drips and crumbs and tidy things up on the shelves. Super fast!
In most refrigerators I have noticed that there is a part that gets colder or freezes things that should not be frozen. Like eggs and lettuce 🙂 I have learned this by error! So be sure to just double-check that those areas are clear of produce and things that would be ruined if they were to freeze.
Laura: Refrigerators usually come with produce drawers, but if you need an extra place to store yogurt or condiments, these Organizer Bins are great! Clear so you can easily see through and can easily be washed up in the dishwasher! Even my short pantry drawer gets bins to separate the cheese from the meat.
As for my freezer, I have one of those magic refrigerators with the freezer on the bottom. If you ever have to buy a new fridge PLEASE PLEASE get one.
The top drawer of the freezer holds my meat and cheese. When I get home from the weekly grocery store run, ALL my meat goes into the freezer because I CANNOT STAND meat going bad before I use it. Then I look at my meal plan, and pull out my next meat 24 hours ahead to thaw.
The bottom drawer has a few bins and dividers to separate my frozen fruit, frozen vegetables and then my breads. Bread is another thing I love to freeze. One loaf goes in the pantry and the other goes in the freezer. Any leftover hot dog or hamburger buns go in the freezer too. When I make pancakes, french toast, or waffles I make a double batch, cook it all, and then freeze those for EASY morning breakfasts for the kids. A quick microwave zap or a pancake in the toaster is all it needs.
I think it took me 1 hour to organize my pantry and cooking cupboard and then 30 minutes to get my fridge and freezer under control. Not too bad you guys. You can do it! Take control of your kitchen this month!
We hope these systems keep your kitchen functioning more smoothly.
You are Delightful,
Angela and Laura
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