There are few things that can break your eat at home resolve faster than an unorganized pantry. Who needs the stress of searching for ingredients when you can just order a pizza? Not to mention, the chaos of snack time when you have kids running between activities that are hungry and need to eat quickly. The convenience of drive thru becomes hard to ignore, but you can fight the temptation with a pantry that is organized to serve your family.
Recognize Your Habits
Begin by being honest about you and your family’s needs. Are you always on the go and need quick, no prep snacks or do you like to plan your meals and snacks ahead being mindful of portion sizes? If you are like me, your family members fall into one of three categories: Planners, Foragers and Shoppers.
Planners typically enjoy meal planning and prepping. They thrive with an orderly kitchen where ingredients and tools are easy to find and there is an open space for preparing food. I am a planner. I thrive when my entire day of meals and snacks is pre-planned and I don’t have to think about what to eat in the moment.
While a planner does a great job of accounting for all the food that is purchased, flexibility may not be his or her strong point. For this reason, it’s important for planners to be open about his or her meal plans by using a posted menu board, meal prepping or enlisting the help of other family members to ensure that meal planning is followed as best as possible.
My husband falls into this category. When he is hungry, he will grab whatever is ready to eat. Because of this, I need to have pre-made or no prep items ready.
Foragers love anything that is ready to eat with little to no prep time. However, if they open the pantry or fridge and only see ingredients, they may feel like there is nothing to eat. To curb the temptation for take out, portion out leftovers into meal prep storage containers for foragers. Grab and go is a foragers best friend.
My kids are definitely shoppers. When it comes to snack time, they open the pantry and just stare. I used to think they were being indecisive, but then I realized they were shopping.
Shoppers know they are hungry, but don’t know what to eat. Unlike foragers who are motivated by whatever is ready to eat, shoppers are a bit more picky as to what they want to eat. Shoppers do well when all food is clearly displayed and there a lots of options to choose from.
Set Your Goals
Now that you know your family’s meal and snack time habits, be clear about your goals before you begin to organize your kitchen. Is your goal to eat out less? Maybe it’s to make healthier choices?
With your goal in mind, plan out how you will set up your pantry based on the way your family eats.
For the planners in your home, designate an area of your pantry to be just for ingredients they need to prep meals.
For the foragers of your family, have a basket or designated shelf for no prep snacks like fruits, prepackaged snacks or nuts.
For the shoppers in your household, decantering your snack items is a great way to display what is available and quickly check your inventory when it’s time to make a grocery list. You can pick up clear food storage containers at any big box store to match your space and budget. This has worked best for our family because it keeps chips, crackers and cookies fresh longer and I don’t have to shake boxes or open bags to check how much we have left when making my grocery list.
Whether your goal is to eat all the food your purchase at the grocery store, eat healthier or cut back on the stress of meal prep, always consider the people in your home and how their habits affect the way they prepare food for themselves.
Armed with the knowledge of exactly how your family will use the pantry, it’s time to remove any clutter that doesn’t help you achieve your eating and grocery budget goals.
As a home organizer, I have seen pantries used to store unopened Amazon packages, craft supplies and party supplies leaving little room for food.
While there is nothing wrong with doubling up on storage space usage, keeping food and other storage separate will help as you organize your pantry. If you must use the space for things other than food, try to designate a specific section or shelf of the pantry for those items and keep food separate from it.
As you remove the clutter from your pantry, notice which food items are sitting on the shelf untouched week after week. If your family is never going to eat it, why keep it? For non perishables, consider donating to a food bank. If the items will be expiring soon, can you use them to create a dish for an upcoming potluck?
Make It Easy
As a planner, I like to arrange my pantry similar to a grocery store. Group all like items together. Pastas can be stored next to pasta sauces, etc.
Because in my house, I am organizing for planners, foragers and shoppers I have segmented my pantry.
For the planners, the bottom shelves are for ingredients and organized exactly as you would see them on a grocery store shelf. As the planner in our home, this helps me create food inventory and grocery lists. The visual of having like items grouped together helps me minimize the stress and time spent on meal time.
For the shoppers and foragers, the top shelves are designated for no prep snacks and all sorted into clear storage containers. This allows my family to easily see what snacks are available and keeps chips, crackers and cookies fresher than leaving them in their original packaging. We also pack out leftovers into meal prep boxes, so the foragers in our home can easily grab them for a quick lunch. I found that we were way more likely to eat all of our leftovers when we stored them like this instead of in one large storage container.
As you put things away in your pantry, you can do like I do or something different. Just keep asking yourself, how can I make this easier for my family and myself. Consider all the things you need to do in the pantry: grab snacks, prep school lunches, make meals, meal prep, food inventory, grocery lists, etc. How can you set up your items so that all those things are easy?
Create A Clean Out Routine
Once you have your pantry set up in a way that you feel comfortable with, plan to clean it out regularly. A perfect time to do this is when you are creating your grocery list. As you search your pantry, take note of things that are not being eaten or being used less frequently. Check expiration dates and discard or use items as needed.
Reduce Waste By Using FIFO
Once every two weeks (or when you create your food inventory list), wipe down shelves and clean out any storage containers before replenishing them.
An easy way to make sure are keeping storage containers clean is to utilize FIFO (first in, first out). For example, if you have a half empty jar of almonds and decide to purchase more. Empty out the jar and set the existing almonds in a bowl. Clean and thoroughly dry the jar then put the new almonds in first. Next, put the older almonds on top of the new almonds. This will ensure you always have a clean storage container and are eating the foods you purchase without allowing them to spoil.
You can do this with canned goods, boxed items and fruit as well by placing new items in the back of a shelf and sliding older items forward to be used first.
Long Lasting Organization
The trick to long lasting organization is creating solutions that work for both your family’s habits and schedule. You can learn more about this people first method to organization in the book, Chaotic To Clean. Read a free sample of the book by clicking here.
Jenny Welsh is a self-proclaimed planner addict who loves organizing, writing and drinking coffee. She lives in Southern California with her husband, three kids and two dogs. You can read more about her 7 step method for keeping your home organized (even with kids) at www.homeafterthree.com or connect on Facebook in her free facebook group, Mom’s Time Well Spent.