Your pantry and food cupboards can help you make the most of every meal by effectively housing your packaged food items. By following these smart solutions, you’ll be able to effectively organize your pantry and all of your packaged food.
Make Rules for Snack Shelves. Our pantry snack shelf has a large variety of options and many snacks and treats. Our kids know they have to ask permission for what to have from this section. We usually let them have 2 snacks, like pretzels and fruit snacks or oreos and marshmallows if they also have just as many healthy options like milk, fruits/veggies or cheese. By providing healthy options with treats, our kids have more balanced snacks more often.
Fill Containers & Condense to Save Space. Look at the snack shelf in the previous picture. The boxes in this picture were from all of the snacks that I put away from my grocery trip, and most of them were from the snack shelf. Boxes can be bulky. Consider re-purposing old, reusable plastic containers (that have lost their lids, as mine had) into tubs to store snacks.
Store Meal Ideas Together. We keep our pasta and pasta sauce together, chili beans and chili ready tomatoes and condensed soups with noodles and canned veggies, along with many other meal pairings so we always know what we have and are able to easily prepare meals without searching for supplies. It may work best for you to store items by category, but keeping some items with the meal pairings makes meal planning easier.
Read Nutrition Labels. Packaged food is where manufacturers can really get you. They want their food to taste good, you want it to be healthy (well, and taste good). Look at the nutrition label for every item you buy. Every item. Search for hidden sugars, hidden salts and weird preservatives. Try as much as you can to purchase items with healthy, natural items as the first 5 ingredients. And always look for the most pure form of the item you can purchase. For example, it’s much better to purchase dry beans than a prepared baked beans item or consider purchasing 100% juice canned fruit or “No Sugar Added” applesauce.
Tip! Be careful of “No Sugar Added” items. Many times, this doesn’t mean less sugar, it just means an alternative sweetener has been added–these might not be better for you than sugar and some may not be safer.
Only Keep What You Can Use By Expiration Date. A sale isn’t worth it if you don’t use all of the items you purchase. Look at the expiration date for every item and think about what you can realistically use in that time frame. For some items, you can freeze them to extend their life, but you shouldn’t use this as your first option when making purchasing decisions.
Actively Process Items. You need to keep your most used spaces the most organized. This is our cabinet next to our stove and our main Kitchen prep area. We reorganize this weekly to re-stock what we’ve used and adjust by items we can pull from our pantry. By keeping this area meal-ready at all times, we save ourselves time and energy when we’re trying to decide on meal options and looking for related ingredients. Set aside 15 minutes each week to keep your main cupboard stocked or try to use your Bonus Minutes (like while waiting for water to boil) to keep your areas fully functional.
Pantry Storage & Safety Tips. Your pantry can work wonders for you if you know the basics to keep it helpful:
- Store heavy items at the bottom. It’s safer for kids if heavy items have less distance to fall (hurt foot is less dangerous than busted head) and light items don’t weigh down/break shelves like the heavy items do.
- Share pantry rules with family members. Some of our shelves are for storage and some are “active use” shelves. Everyone in our family (even the 3-year-old) knows the difference.
- Use the pantry as the back-up for in-kitchen storage. You can keep needed items in key places, but use the pantry for the extras.
- If you have space, fully stock up on favorite items.
- Keep “non-sale” items stored at the store. There is little reason to purchase extras if the item not on sale. It’s called the store for a reason, let them store the items for you until you need it.