When you prepare meals, do you have a hard time remembering where everything is? Do you ever get halfway through a recipe and find out that you are out of one of the necessary ingredients? Or do you simply put off cooking anything complex at all because you lack the basic spices and other ingredients needed to make most recipes? If so, you’re not alone! Kitchen disorganization makes meal planning, shopping and cooking a burden for many people. The good news is that if you can get your kitchen organization system
under control, you will likely find it much easier to complete all of these meal-preparation tasks. Here are some tips on how to organize your refrigerator and pantry
Start with a clean slate
A well-organized refrigerator or pantry begins with clean surfaces. Take everything out of the pantry, stack it up on the counters, and wash down all of the shelves. Use a broom to clean out the upper corners (knock down any cobwebs!) and sweep and mop out the floor. Do the same for the refrigerator at a separate time. Wash the shelves, spray out the crisper and meat bins, and wipe down the inside and outside walls of the fridge. Once everything is sparkling clean, you’ll be able to better see what you have without being distracted by dust and grime.
Throw out anything past its prime
Before you put anything away, you’ll want to be sure that it’s not expired. Check the expiration dates of each item that you have taken out of your pantry or refrigerator. If something is nearing its expiration, make plans to use it up over the next few days. If you have had a product opened for a while and you think it might be stale, it’s usually best to throw it away. The mantra, “When in doubt, throw it out,” can help prevent food poisoning in many cases!
Separate your refrigerated food into zones
When putting things back in the refrigerator, some of these zones are already spelled out for you. Fresh produce goes into the crisper, and deli meats and cheeses go into the meat-and-cheese drawer. It’s usually easiest to keep all of the beverages on one shelf if they fit. Designate another area of the fridge for things like yogurt, sour cream, eggs and other dairy products. Nearby, keep the hummus, dips and spreads. If you keep bread in the refrigerator, keep all of that together, as well.
Think about how to organize your pantry
Different people decide to use different organizational methods in their pantries. You might want to keep all of the boxed goods on one shelf, the cans on another, and glass jars on yet another. Or you might choose to separate your pantry foods by how they are used: Breakfast foods go in one section, dinner foods in another, snacks in another. No matter which method you choose, you’ll want to stack items so that you can see what everything is at a glance. This will help prevent the rummaging around that creates pantry chaos in the first place. Also, keep in mind those expiration dates, and place older items more toward the front of the pantry so you use them up before you open another item of the same type that will be good for several weeks or months longer.
Make your shopping list
Now that your refrigerator and pantry are well-organized, it’s time to make a shopping list! What are you missing, that you need in order to make meals? It might help to make a menu plan for the upcoming week; this way, you can simply go down your list of planned food item and shop for whatever it is that you will need.
Keeping your refrigerator and pantry clean and organized is just a matter of taking care to put everything away carefully and neatly. Explain your system to your spouse and children; they will also be using various food products, and as long as they’re tall enough to reach the shelves to take items off, they should be the ones putting them back correctly.