Organize Your Pantry & Fridge
It is clear now that many of us our focusing on our individual household supplies as panic buying and stocking up across the country have become a real issue in the COVID-19 pandemic. The reality of the situation is that many of us have more food and supplies in our homes than we realize. About a month ago, when the news reports were starting to show the supply issues going on around the world, I decided to inventory my pantry, fridge and freezer. I was surprised to find out how much I actually had on hand. Now more than ever it is important to buy items that are strategic to pragmatically stock your household rather than grab whatever you can get your hands on and cause others to have less on hand in their own homes. Here are some steps to keep your home supplied without going crazy. In addition, it is a great time to identify what may be expired or useless to your family in your cabinets and fridge.
Take everything out of your freezer and make a list of what you have
- With deep shelving and drawers our freezers can become an abyss for items that get thrown in there throughout the year.
- Taking everything out and identifying what you actually have may surprise you.
- Write a list so you don’t have to dig through it in the future to see what you have.
- I recommend sorting everything by category (i.e. meats, frozen prepared meals, fruits, vegetables, frozen treats).
- Eat things that are older first or taking up too much space for storage of more essential items.
- While everything is out give it a scrub.
- We like to designate shelves for each category so we can see our meats and frozen vegetables more easly. We also store items by filing them vertically rather than piling horizontally.
Clean out the Fridge
- As we are trying to reduce trips to the supermarket, fridge space should be cleared out for important supplies, rather than old condiments and half empty bottles.
- As with the freezer, take everything out. Toss out old, expired food and condiments.
- Clean and sanitize all the shelving in the fridge so you start with a clean slate
- Identify non-essential items or items your family has just refused to eat.
- Use clear containers to sort items on the shelves by category (i.e small yogurt containers, groups of small condiments etc.).
- Wash and prep your fruits so they can quickly be grabbed and eaten.
- Use containers in your vegetable bin to sort veggies like a drawer divider so you can avoid the piling as much as possible.
Sort the Pantry
- Pull everything out of your pantry shelves
- Wash the shelving and line with shelf liners
- Use mason jars to store grains, beans and other dry goods
- We like to use air tight containers to store open boxes of crackers, nuts and other snacks to prevent them from going stale as quickly. These containers are clear so we see the snacks more easily and take up less space than all of the miss-matched boxes.
- Use clear bins or baskets to sort items into categories. We like to put all of our pasta boxes/bags in one big container. We use clear drawer dividers to hold oatmeal packs and snack bags. I love clear glass containers with lids to sort out granola bars. You can fit lots of boxes worth of them in one container. Using containers strategically saves space and makes the foods easier to find and grab.
- Don’t forget to inventory your spices as well. These are the items you will not want to be running to the store for at the last minute if you are trying to limit your time in public places.
- Identify foods your family acquired but just won’t eat and get those to a food pantry or a neighbor who might enjoy them. Our town has organized local pantry shelves that people can bring food and supplies they are not using to the community for sharing in these more challenging times.
- Identify what you are low on and start planning.
Create a Shareable Shopping List
- As we limit our time at grocery stores it is important to use the information you have just gathered from you inventorying to be strategic about what supplies you will need in the coming weeks.
- Make sure you reasonably stock up on items you use all the time. Basics are the most important. With creativity you can make a lot of meals out of rice, pasta, broths, beans, flour and frozen and fresh veggies.
- Keep a running list as you run out of items or notice an increase in usage with certain supplies now that many families are home with each other 24-7. Remember if you are practicing social distancing you don’t want to be at the grocery store everyday. We like to use an app called Our Groceries, which is a shared shopping list across our household phones. You could also just share a task list or have a piece of paper taped to the fridge everyone updates. When you are ready to do a shopping haul at the last minute or place on online order, you will be sure to remember all of the items you need to purchase and limit frequent runs to the store.
Buy what is reasonable
There is a strong temptation to buy out of fear. Believe me I am a planner so I have a temptation to do so as well. However, this is how we are trying to buy enough for our family but not hoard supplies that others can use. Here are some ideas we have done recently
- Ground Beef – we buy a large package, make a meal with half and freeze the other half for the future.
- Pork Roast – we bought a large pork roast and cut it into slices. We made half of the slices and froze the rest for a future meal.
- Pasta Sauce – we make a batch of sauce eat half of it and freeze the other half flat in a freezer bag
- Soups – Make a double batch and freeze the other half in a flat freezer bag
- Bananas – We buy a bunch and begin to freeze them if they ripen too quickly. Simply slice them up, put them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Freeze and then place in a container or bag for future smoothies or breads. This can be done with berries and some vegetables that might be about to turn as well.
- Tomato Paste – We use it all the time in one of our favorite Butter Chicken (https://www.jayssweetnsourlife.com/pressure-cooker-indian-butter-chicken/) recipes or to make a quick Penne A La Vodka, but we don’t always need the whole container. We place dollops of it on plastic wrap, twist it and freeze it in single servings so we always have some on hand and it doesn’t get wasted.
You get the idea. Take something you are making now and prepare it to be used later. You will build up a supply slowly, create some healthy variety in your freezer and you also won’t have tons of food rotting in your fridge that couldn’t be cooked fast enough.
Hope these tips help you get a handle on your food supplies and inspire you to clean out your pantries and fridges. Please post, email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and share your ideas as well. I love getting new tips myself!