I saved our biggest kitchen organization project for today, Sunday - the pantry. I'm staying home this afternoon to get this done, then going to see a movie (Probably "The Equalizer") later tonight. I'll have plenty of time to whip my pantry into shape before it's time to leave. I won't even have to feel rushed or frantic.
QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:
- Need to spend any time grooming pets tonight? All three of mine need to be brushed.
- Do you use felt pads on the legs of your chairs or barstools? If so, do you need to wipe them to get rid of hair? Mine tend to collect lots of dust and pet hair every week.
- Are you going into the workweek with clean clothes?
- Will your family members be sleeping on clean sheets tonight? I like to launder all the bedding in my house on Sundays.
- Make meal plans and lunch box plans for the week ahead; create grocery list.
- This weekend I get to skip cleaning a drawer or shelf in my refrigerator because we just cleaned them as part of a project a couple days ago!
TODAY'S PROJECT: Pantry Organization
As you begin pulling things out of your pantry to sort, grab something you KNOW you've had around a few months. Stop and take time to bake it for your family. We shouldn't pig out on desserts all the time, but the occasional mid-week treat as a surprise is delightful. Perhaps you have a scone mix you haven't made time to bake yet, or a box of brownies, or in my case a box of caramel cake mix. It will only take you a few minutes to get the mix stirred and the oven preheated, and you can enjoy smelling the goodies bake while you finish the pantry.
I plan to have a pen and paper ready to inventory my foods before I put them back in my pantry. With the busy holiday season coming up fast, I want to be very prepared. I don't want to waste money at the store buying supplies I already have enough of at home, too.
Time to get our pantries organized, food sorted and grocery list created!
I don't want to be obsessive/compulsive about my pantry, but I've fallen into the habit of using labels and stickers on some of my canned and boxed foods. Most food should already come labeled with an expiration date, but some things don't. It's also easier for my aging eyes to see the dates on the stickers than the little tiny Best By date on some products. This makes it so much easier to determine if a food item should be used or tossed. Keep a pen handy in your kitchen at all times. Then you can easily stick a label onto your boxed and canned food as you unpack things from your grocery bags.
Remove everything from your pantry and any food out of your other cupboards. Wash down the cupboards with soap and water (just water alone won't help get rid of any possible weevil infestations). Put in fresh new shelf paper if needed. Wipe dust off of cans with a dust rag.
Examine your cans for "Best By" dates. Discard any food you know you won't eat, or anything that's too old. (Throw them away, don't donate nasty or old food to food banks!)
Consolidate foods if you can - I have two storage tubs, each half full, of jasmine rice. Time to pour the rice from one into the other, then rinse, dry and use the second tub for something else.
Do you have a lot of unneeded, weird things, like specialty flours? I have to admit I'm not baking those two or three specialty breads any time soon, so it's time to toss out those specialty flours and revamp my efforts to make myself only buy stuff I know I will use in the next week.
Arrange your food back into the pantry the way you prefer it. Quickly write down the food and quantity as you put each item back into the pantry and cupboards. You'll use this info as you stock up your pantry for the upcoming holidays, festivals and house guests.
Pay special attention to your spice collection. Spices do get old quite quickly, much more quickly than you'd think. While they won't poison you, they won't taste as flavorful as fresher spices. I'm cooking more, so I'm using up my spices faster, and can buy them in bigger containers again. For a while there I was buying them in the smallest jars I could find.
Chefs would snottily tell us to not use herbs out of jars at all, but sometimes we have to. They'd also tell us to get rid of spices every 3 months, but I tend to go with the 6 month rule instead. I have found so many inexpensive spices at Trader Joe's, it's easy to restock.
Discard spices you bought once for one recipe, spices you bought on impulse but didn't actually cook with, and spices looking old and weird. Open and smell and taste them if it helps you decide which to keep and which to get rid of. What about your paprika - did you buy a huge container, only to find out you only use it for deviled eggs, and you only make those twice per year?
If you've gotten rid of any extremely important spices that you know you'll use frequently, put them on your grocery list for this week. If you are brave enough, toss out ALL your spices and start over with fresh ones. You can get newer, fresher spices at Trader Joe's for $1.50 a jar. It's affordable enough you should be able to budget that in twice a year. Don't forget to inventory your salt and pepper, too. Do you have kosher salt and sea salt as well as regular iodized salt? If you don't cook often you won't need that big of a variety of salts.
Be sure to familiarize yourself with the teas, coffees and hot chocolate mixes you might have on hand. Maybe you also like to stock hot cider mix? We'll all be drinking copious amounts of hot beverages in the upcoming months, I imagine, and we'll need them on hand to serve to guests as well. If your pantry or beverage storage area is overcrowded, though, you'll want to get rid of old drink mixes. You might be able to consolidate down from several boxes, cans or packages into one box whenever possible.
Teas can also get less tasty with age - the leaves and oils can dry out. Be firm with yourself and throw out teas you know you've had a long time and are rarely chosen by guests. I am going to throw out a Gunpowder green tea that nobody here ever drinks.
If you actually find you don't have very much tea, coffee and hot chocolate, add these to your grocery list for the week.
Do you stock extra food for emergencies, whether natural disasters like earthquakes and hurricanes, or snowstorms, windstorms, power outages and the like? I do, but I try not to let it take over my pantry and my life. I try to stock up in careful moderation, and rotate foods out, eating them before they get old and replacing them - a process made easy by my labeling system.
Look over your canned and boxed soups, chilis, boxed mac and cheese mixes, and other "emergency" easy-to-make type foods. Be thoughtful and careful while you take inventory of these. You could end up having soup a few nights in a row this cold winter, so just having two or three cans on hand probably won't do it. Consider stocking chili for heartier meals, and have plenty of pasta and rice on hand.
Do you have foods you can make if the power goes out? Do you have food on hand for when guests unexpectedly arrive late at night and you need to cook supper in half an hour? Make sure you have at least one box of Kraft macaroni and cheese - great comfort food for kids and sick people. It's not a food I would normally serve and prepare though, yuck!
If you are at all a baker or dessert maker, check over your supplies of flour, sugars, shortening, cake mixes (if like me you use those instead of baking from scratch), baking soda and baking powder, muffin mixes, scones, brownies, bread machine mixes, raisins, chocolate chips, oatmeal, etc. Be sure you have enough for the upcoming months - dinner parties, festivities, gifts, etc.
After replacing your foods in your cabinets, sit down with something yummy you just baked and a delicious hot drink. (Or iced tea if you are one of my California readers still suffering from 100 degree weather!) Look over your inventory list. Use this to plan your grocery shopping for the next week. If you need to buy too much to spend in one week, make a list for next paycheck too and split the groceries between them.
If you've read through any cooking magazines or cookbooks this weekend, you might have an idea of the kinds of foods you'll be serving over the next month. Pick your recipes and figure out which ingredients for them you'll need to add to your grocery list.
I expect my pantry cleaning to take around an hour and a half. Afterwards, I'll swap out some laundry and be on my way to a movie!
LOVELY BLOGS: Brooklyn Homemaker
Tux blogs about his passions: cooking, baking, home decor, entertaining, and his schnauzer. Recent posts I've enjoyed include Easy Fudgy Cocoa Skillet Brownies, Homemade Chicken Pot Pie with Buttermilk Biscuit Crust (which I will convert to a vegetarian recipe and try it myself!), Cherry, Almond and Dark Chocolate Shortbread Cookies and his Spiced Harvest Bundt Cake recipe. I'm eager to see what he cooks up next!
LOVELY KIDS: Macaron Themed Bedding
It's really hard to see in the picture, but this children's bedding set features macaroons! Several different colors of them. I just wanted to mention this because it's so rare to see anything other than a cupcake featured in pastry-themed bedding. So cute!
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