Sunday, January 4, 2009
Here is my series on pantry organization that I have been promising. The idea started because my food supply seems to have grown out of control to the point that I am not even sure what I have. I am breaking down the project into two main steps, 1. Cleaning and taking inventory (segmented by cabinets, pantry and freezer) and 2. Using what you have.
It is pretty funny, because just around Christmas when I was trying to figure out what I should make for get-togethers, I decided to inventory all of my cabinets and I mentioned in a post that I was going to start a pantry project soon, that just might help some of you, too. Later that evening, I get a call from my mom telling me that she has an idea to go through her cabinets and make a list of everything she has, because she really has no clue! So I thought, because I am not at all dramatic, that it must be destiny.
In the next couple of days we will go through the pantry (which for me is in my basement) and the freezer. First, start with your kitchen cabinets.
The first step:
- Go through your main kitchen cabinets (you may want to break this down if you have a lot, I don't, so I pulled everything out that I had) and pull items out.
- Group items into a logical order and into segments that work for your needs. When I was grouping my items, I put all canned goods together and stacked them by type, like a row of beans, a row of tomatoes, etc.
- Wash out the shelves. Dry mixes have a way of spilling out and I am terrified of attracting bugs, so I also wiped down any sticky can bottoms, etc.
- Discard any items that are seriously out of date and set aside anything that you know you will not use, so you can donate these items or pass them on to someone who will use them.
Next, take inventory while you are stocking:
I found it easiest to inventory my items shelf by shelf as I was stocking it. If I had done the inventory while everything was still out on the counter, then I wouldn't necessarily know where the items were at once they were put back.
- Assign one piece of paper to each cabinet (I broke down my main cabinet into three sheets, one sheet for each shelf). You can use any lined paper, or you can print an organizing form like this one. I used that one (it says "freezer inventory" but obviously you can cut that off) because I like the system of putting a slash for the item being 'in' and then making it an x when the item is 'out'. This is easier than crossing out a number and then re-writing it.
- As you are returning items to their new homes, write in the size and quantity as you go. I made one cabinet of all baking and staple items, such as flour, baking mixes, rice & potatoes. My main 'can' cabinet is three shelves of canned goods, like beans in a row, canned tomatoes in a row, etc. Use whatever grouping is logical for you
- When everything is back in place and your lists are written, tape them to the inside of your cabinet door, so you can easily check the list for something and see what you need at a glance.
That's it! Here are some pictures of some of my cabinets now that they are cleaned out:
The can cabinet:
Dry staples cabinet:
Close-up of the filled-out lists: