Whether your pantry area is a designated cabinet or a separate room, having it properly organized can make it much easier to keep track of what you have on hand to makemeals or do your shopping.
In our home I plan meals by a weekly menu where possible. I try to keep staples in the pantry and purchase fresh foods as needed. By keeping my pantry organized similar to the way a store shelf is, I can know at a glance whether I have the items I need to make the meals I have planned. This allows me to put the needed items on my shopping list and save extra trips to the store. It also keeps me from over-buying items I already have.
Here are some hints to help you get started (many I picked up from my Mom and how she organized her pantry):
- Be realistic in the number of a single item that you need to keep on hand, be it canned goods or varieties of grains and pastas. I have found ten is usually a good standard to use for my family. Your ideal number will be based on the size of your family.
- Rotate the oldest items to the front and put the newest to the back.
- Pay attention to expiration dates. Many foods can turn toxic when past their expiration dates. Even home-canned goods should have a date put on them when placing them in storage.
- Place breakable, heavy jars and cans on lower shelves to help avoid dropping them when removing them. (However, if you have little ones that could get into your cupboards, put these jars out of their reach.)
- Canned foods and other jarred foods should also be stored out of small children’s reach to avoid breakage and injury.
- Store dry goods such as pasta, rice and flour in clear, tightly lidded containers,
preferably those with an air-tight seal – thus avoiding moisture and insects.
- Avoid dented or damaged cans; they can allow bacteria in and cause spoilage to the food inside. Look over ‘bargain’ items carefully. Remember, a good bargain at the store is not worth food poisoning to your family!
- Store nuts, flours and cornmeal in the freezer to prevent them from going rancid before they’re used up. Before using, let set on your countertop to reach room temperature.
With today’s busy schedules, planning and getting healthy meals on the table is a challenge. Organizing your pantry can make it faster and easier – and save on your food budget, too!