Welcome back to the kitchen tidying series! If you missed the first one, tidying up your fridge, you can find it here.
We’ve had a lot of nice feedback from people saying the tips we shared have helped them use their fridge more wisely and has helped them cut down on food waste. Yay! We’re so glad it’s been useful.
This week we’ll be talking about how to KonMari the food in your pantry.
As with any category, we always start by discarding. So the first step is to take ALL the food out of ALL your cabinets and drawers and go through it. If it’s expired, let it go. If it’s not expired but you won’t be using it for one reason or another, donate it to a food pantry or to friends who can use it rather than just keeping it until it goes bad or throwing it in the trash. We have a table in our entryway where I put things I’m not going to use before our church group comes over every week. Usually someone will grab whatever is there.
After you’ve discarded the things you won’t use, the next step is to group like items together. This comes very naturally to me, but the more clients I work with, the more I realize that not everyone thinks the way I do. I’ll find boxes of the same thing in three different cabinets in three areas of the kitchen. Friends, It’s so much easier to keep track of your inventory if you store like items together. And if things are stored in a tidy, organized manner, cooking becomes a more pleasant endeavor as well. I know part of the reason people store things helter-skelter is that their cabinets are crowded and cluttered and it’s easier to just put things wherever they’ll fit when they put away groceries. But if you take some time now to figure out a storage method that makes it convenient to both put away and access your food, you’ll be so much happier.
I gotta tell you, I am SO grateful for the kitchen in our home. It was remodeled by a previous owner and they did an amazing job. ALL of the lower cabinets have big pull-out drawers! I just love them. The cabinet we use as a pantry has drawers all the way to the ceiling. (We took down most of our upper cabinets a couple years ago because after we KonMari’d they were all nearly empty.) It’s honestly my dream kitchen.
In our last home we had a tall, narrow, deep pantry cabinet and I couldn’t stand it. No matter how I tried to organize things I’d always end up frustrated. I’d knock stuff over reaching for other stuff in the back. I also abhor having to move things to get to other things. Now when I’m faced with a cabinet like this at a client’s home, I recommend plastic or acrylic bins like the ones I use in my fridge (I buy them from discount stores like TJ Maxx or Marshalls.) You just find a bin that fits your cabinets pretty well and load it up with like items. Even if the bins don’t take full advantage of the space, it’s worth it.
My friend Autumn Wolfenbarger of The Passionate Homemaker has a really pretty kitchen. It’s bright and lovely, but her lower cabinets are very deep. She had canned goods stored on the bottom shelf of one of them, but to access them she practically had to lie on the floor to see what was in the back. We ended up using plastic bins she had emptied earlier (remember I’m a huge proponent of using what you already have) and stored like items together. Now she can just pull out a bin and find whatever she needs easily. She has bins for:
Nuts, seeds and dried fruits
Grains, rice, pasta
She says since we changed her storage system, it’s been working wonderfully.
“This is definitely a more user-friendly method than we had before. And I love how things stay contained and don’t migrate to the back of the cabinet, only to be forgotten until a year past their expiration date.”
We use acrylic bins in our pantry just like we do in the fridge. We have some of the same categories as Autumn, nuts and fruits, pasta, snacks, among other things. Once you’ve grouped all your foods into categories, you’ll know which ones you need containers for. As I said in the fridge post, I’m personally not a huge fan of labeling bins because of the visual clutter and because I can easily see what’s in each one, but if you want to label things, go right ahead. Also, it might encourage your family members to put things where they belong. Remember, this whole thing is about what sparks joy and works for you.
Here are 4 common problem areas I’ve encountered, and some tips to overcome them:
Something I started doing when we moved into this house with the lovely drawers was to label the tops of my canned goods because we keep them in the bottom drawer of our pantry. We are primarily plant-based, so we use a lot of canned beans. I keep a Sharpie in the drawer and when we put the cans away, we just label the tops, W = white beans, B = black beans, etc. I like not having to lift up each can to find what I need. I can also see at a glance what I have on hand. A few times I’ve had my husband or daughter text me a picture of the drawer when I’m at the store if I’ve forgotten to make a list of what I need and I can see right away what I’m low on. We moved Autumn’s canned goods into a drawer, and she’s started marking the tops of her cans too.
We keep all our cereal together in a drawer. I read a while back that a study showed people who have cereal stored in view on counters or the top of the fridge are twenty pounds heavier than those who store them behind cabinet doors. I know when I have snacks out in plain view, I am much more likely to eat them than a piece of fruit, so it kind of makes sense to me. Plus, you have the visual clutter issue again. If you can put your cereal (or any food) away I suggest you do it. It’ll make your kitchen appear more peaceful.
I got these racks from IKEA a couple years ago and bought the bottles from Hobby Lobby. I decant the spices I use most into these jars. I do have the tops of these labeled since a lot of my spices look the same and I’m not a good enough cook to recognize all of them by sight. I initially had them mounted under our upper cabinets, but when we switched to open shelving, they looked weird, so now they’re mounted on the back of a door. I’ve started buying spices in bulk because they’re so much cheaper and I store the overflow in a plastic bin nearby so I can refill as necessary. Some of the spices I don’t use as often I store in a drawer (in alphabetical order of course.) I’ve never liked those lazy Susans for spices because I find the name insulting. Plus things get knocked over when I spin them, and you have to move things to get to other things, which we all know I detest. But again, if you have one and it brings you joy, spin away.
I really like baking and use my baking supplies often, so I store things I use most in this drawer. I pour my flour and sugar into containers because it’s easier for me to measure directly from them than from the bags they come in. I’ve labelled these containers because I can only see the tops when I open the drawer. I keep the flours I don’t use as often in the freezer.
I’ll be honest, I just went through our pantry before I wrote this and there were a couple things in there that had expired, however that happens far less often now. I also don’t stock up as much as I used to, which helps, but I guess the downside is that if we ever have a zombie apocalypse we won’t be prepared. But realistically, I’d probably die screaming before I worried about what I have in my pantry to eat. Actually, I just looked up foods to have on hand in case of disaster, and this is what I found:
Whole wheat crackers
Nuts and trail mix
Power bars and granola bars
Canned soups and chili
I was pleasantly surprised that other than canned meats, we have most of the things on this list!
Bring it on, zombies!
If you need a hand organizing your kitchen, we’d absolutely LOVE to help. This is such a fun category for us! Feel free to give us a call for a free 30 minute consultation.
We have some workshops at UA Pulaski Tech coming up! On the 17th of this month, we’ll be giving a class with Tidy Life on holistic wellness. On October 1st, we’ll be helping you tidy your house in time for the holidays. You can find more info on our events page, on Facebook, or in the UA-PTC catalogue.
Hope to see you there!
Thank you so much to everyone who participated in last’s months #sparkjoywithsue challenge! It brought us so much joy to see all your posts. Sue shared some highlights on The Vine last week: