Just as dressing in the morning is easier with an organized closet, identifying ingredients for a quick meal is simpler if your pantry is organized to make it easier to find what you need when you need it. When organizing your pantry, go beyond keeping like with like; think about your eating habits, too.
Hassle-free breakfast. It’s often the most rushed meal of the day, especially if you’re feeding a family and everyone has individual preferences. So make breakfast hassle-free by keeping foods used first thing in the morning together and close at hand. Keep cereals close to the refrigerator with bowls. Keep breads and pastries in a bread box by the toaster. If you want your breakfast foods out of sight during the day, try keeping them together in a breakfast box that can be quickly retrieved and returned to the pantry after use. Be sure to refrigerate jams, jellies, cream cheese or other items that would spoil at room temperature.
Guilt-free snacks. Whether it’s for kids or dieters, keep a shelf, drawer or basket stocked with guilt-free snacks the whole family can dip into between meals. Not only will it decrease the kind of rummaging that leaves your pantry in disarray, but it will also reduce the exposure to temptation to snack on unhealthy foods if they are stored separately from the “go-to” place.
Food groups. Organize the bulk of the pantry by food groups. Store rice, pasta and other carbohydrates together. Transfer foods from opened packets that are likely to tip over and spill into plastic storage containers that are easily stackable. Tape labels to the lids or use wipe-clean reusable labels to keep track of use-by dates and to avoid confusion between types of flour. Store cans together, with each type in rows, so that you can see what you have used and make a shopping list easily. Rotate older items to the front to avoid accumulating aging cans in the rear.
Professional organizer Marilyn Bohn advises keeping spices and condiments on a lazy Susan in the corner of the pantry. This makes full use of otherwise difficult-to-get-at areas and makes identification and retrieval easier.
Extend this organization beyond the pantry to the refrigerator and freezer, keeping breakfast, snacks and supper items together, and storing the remainder by food groups. Meal preparation then becomes a cinch. Simply choose a carbohydrate base and protein that goes with it. Then add fruit and vegetable accompaniments, identify the oils, spices and condiments to complete the meal, and you’re good to go.