If you’re lucky enough to have a pantry, but unlucky enough to be a messie, you know it can be a pain. We had a pantry in our house in Germany… it was actually a closet off of our kitchen. So many times, I was tempted to just close the door and ignore it.
Just because you have a pantry doesn’t mean you have to stuff it full of food. You don’t HAVE to go to Sam’s Club or Costco every week just to fill the shelves. And you don’t have to buy stuff just because it’s on sale. Sometimes, buying in bulk can be a bigger inconvenience than the savings are worth.
Before you buy one more thing to put in your pantry, inventory what you have. Are there certain foods that you never seem to use? At one time, we had several cans of bamboo shoots and water chestnuts. We enjoy making Oriental food, but we don’t like those ingredients. We just kept buying them because the recipe called for them… but then we wouldn’t use them. Do you have more than two bags of flour or sugar? You probably don’t need to keep more than two bags of flour or sugar on hand, unless you run a bakery or a day care center. Do you have a kind of canned vegetable that always gets passed over at dinner time in favor of another? Make a note of that and don’t get those any more. Uneaten vegetables aren’t good for anyone.
Set aside the canned goods that you don’t and won’t use. Wipe them off (since I’m sure they’re dusty) and save them for the next post office or Boy Scout food drive. Or take them to your town’s food closet. Someone will appreciate your beets and water chestnuts.
To avoid making the same mistakes again, try planning your menus a week or a month ahead. This will especially help you if you live payday to payday, because it will help ensure you have food for each meal in the coming month. (Set aside some cash for milk and bread, maybe keep it in an envelope taped to your pantry door.)
You have two options for storing the remaining food. You can store food in categories, all vegetables together, all fruits together, all soups together, or you can store them with other items you use with them… such as flour, sugar, brown sugar, baking soda, and chocolate chips together. Try one method, and if you don’t like it, try the other. I don’t have a pantry, but I store my food together as I would use it (tomatoes and canned beans for chili together on the same shelf is one example that comes to mind.)
You need a way to store the small packets of gravy and taco and chili seasoning. I keep mine in a drawer, but you can also use a large recipe card box or a small basket. Keep a different basket for Jell-o boxes and Kool-Aid packets.
Set aside a shelf for your children’s snacks. You can give each child a dish-pan to store snacks for the coming week. Label the dish-pans and put them on a shelf within your children’s reach (unless they would do better if you got them their snacks.) This way, they can grab their own snacks for school lunches or after school. You can ration snacks one week at a time for your kids.
Your pantry is not just for food. You can store appliances you don’t use very often. You can also keep some of your emergency supplies there… a flashlight, some candles, batteries, some gallon jugs of water, and other emergency supplies. You can also use your pantry to store extra dinner dishes and glasses… the ones you would use for a party or get-together, but don’t need for day-to-day meals.
If your pantry starts to get cluttered, yet you can’t find any food in there, it’s time to inventory your food again. Don’t buy the foods that just languish on your pantry shelves. No matter how many times you think you should add beets to your diet, if you won’t eat them, it’s a waste of money and space. Make sure you store what you do have in a way that makes everything easy to find.
If you have any pantry tips, use the form to the right to email me.