1. Go vertical
One of the easiest ways to change up your cabinets is to stack things or to find new ways to go up instead of out. I found these tiered can stackers at Garden Ridge but you can find them nearly everywhere (available online here). Other solutions I like are this Pull Down Spice Rack and this can rack.
2. Use Baskets
Baskets are key to organizing your cabinets. All those little packets and Tastefully Simple mixes get thrown straight into my baskets. This one is on my pantry’s baking shelf so it holds those half empty packages of nuts, white chocolate chips, and pudding. This is a CD basket from Target’s paper rope line. It fits perfectly in my pantry so naturally I have a million of them.
3. Use containers to hold new things
I use an old cereal container and scoop I bought from Target to hold chocolate chips. Yes, I bulk buy chocolate chips. I do in fact use that many and if you do too, a cereal container is a great way to store them all.
4. Don’t Buy Everything
You don’t have to spend money to organize. I took a shoe box from the running shoes for my giant feet and wrapped it in some wrapping paper. I used scrap paper from printing out coupons to make some dividers and now my teas, coffee mixes, and cocoa have some storage of their own. All for the price of nothing! (except the shoes)
5. Don’t Just Sort the Food
If I’m not careful, I can get messy very quickly with all those paper products in my cabinets. So I buy totes and hide it all away. One holds utensils, plates, and napkins. Another holds straws for summer parties. Yet another holds cookie cutters. I’ve tried plastic bags and the like but the only way I don’t have a crazy cabinet is by locking them all up.
6. Sort It Out
Much like my organizing tip for Monday, I’m really into sorting my items by use. You saw above how I have one shelf set aside for canned goods, well I have another set aside for baking items. On the left is my tea sorter, then my chocolate chip explosion, then my baking basket, and finally on the right are some cake mixes for speeding along baking, some molasses, some powdered egg whites, and finally applesauce to lighten up some recipes. Not every shelf of mine is sorted by use but it does make it easier knowing that if I’m baking up some cookies that all my good stuff will be on the third shelf down.
Tomorrow I’ll show you why these tips are necessary and how I put them to good use with my lazy susan makeover.
Yesterday I talked about how to clean out your kitchen and to take an inventory list. I mentioned highlighting any irregular items from your inventory and today I’m going to show you how to easily base your meal plan around your pantry.
When I did this last April, some of the items that popped up on my inventory were cherry pie filling, some leftover cream, white cake mix, carrots, peanut satay sauce, coconut milk, raisins, and canned clams. There were some more obvious choices on using up some items but other items had me stumped. The clams I used in clam chowder and the cherry pie filling I used up in a quick bread.
For the raisins I went to one of my favorite sites, foodgawker. I knew I wanted a raisin dessert or breakfast item so first I searched raisins and then I chose desserts and breakfast under category on the second screen.
I had 10 pages of results but on page 3 I found a perfect recipe that used both raisins and carrots: carrot cake! On the same page I also saw Hot Cross Buns. Since I was doing this in April, Easter was right around the corner so both Hot Cross Buns and carrot cake were perfect for my menu.
Another site I like to use is food.com. I figured both the coconut milk and the cake mix could be used in a dessert so I used the site’s recipe sifter tool.
Under filter by ingredient I typed “coconut milk” and checked the green arrow to add it to my sorter.
I repeated the process with “white cake mix” and then I had just 13 recipes.
The most popular recipe was a Tres Leches Cake that not only used my coconut milk and cake mix but also used up most of my extra cream too. Bonus!
For sauces like my peanut satay, I wanted to use it all up and quickly. I was working on this all last spring so I was into grilling a bunch of meat. I took several pounds of chicken and coated it all in the peanut satay sauce before throwing it on the grill. I froze a bunch of it and over the next few weeks I had traditional satay chicken, satay pita pockets, and grilled chicken salad with satay dressing. If you don’t want to be overwhelmed trying to eat up a single ingredient, freezing is definitely the way to go.
The best part of cleaning out your pantry is how few items you’ll need to buy for your many meals. I just added the extra ingredients needed to complete my recipes to my restocking list from the cleanout. For 20 days the only items I had to buy from the store were milk, some fresh produce, and bread. It was a great way to save money and you can do it every 6 months if you’re anything like me.
How about you–what are your best tips for making a meal plan from your pantry?
This week is all about getting organized. I’ll be showing some of my best tips to an organized home and for me that starts in the kitchen. If I don’t have my kitchen organized I end up not cooking as much and that leads to money wasted. On top of that, if I’m not using the items in my kitchen I’m wasting money there too. Last year I worked on following a 5-step process to keep my home organized and I ended up succeeding at having a better organized kitchen and life. My plan was simple:
- Remove the problem: After you’ve found your problem spot, empty everything out. Everything.
- Clean Clean Clean!: Clean it all out and wipe everything down. Consider protecting your surfaces with shelves or contact paper before moving on.
- Trash the trash: Look at what you’re holding on to. If it’s expired or bad, get rid of it. If the item needs upgrading then trash it and add a better one to the shopping list.
- Contain the mess: Find new ways to hold your old items. It’ll help keep the area clean and help you see what you already have so you don’t buy duplicates. A label maker is very helpful at this stage.
- Sort it all out: Categorize things as you put them back on your shelves. I keep my baking items separate from my cooking items and I store bulk or rarely used items out of the way.
You can apply these ideas to any room of the house. If you’re having a hard time, just watch an episode of Hoarders and you’ll suddenly feel very motivated.
Start with your pantry. Clear all the shelves, wipe them down, and throw away all expired goods. While everything is out on the counter, group similar items in size or use together and find a way to store them. I’ll be sharing some of my storage tips later this week so stick around for more ideas there. I also like to take an inventory at this point. Write everything you have down and include quantities. Then put everything back into your pantry or cabinets using your new sorting system.
Next, work on the fridge. Clear it out and really clean this one, drawers especially. Make an inventory list of all these items too. When you put items back in, choose a shelf at eye level to put your healthiest snacks and leftovers on so you’re most likely to eat these items. If you’re always looking at your leftovers then you’ll be more likely to eat them. If you have any fresh vegetables or fruits, clean them and place them in containers if you haven’t yet.
Last, check on your freezer. If you have an ice maker then this is a great time to thaw it and clean it out. Be quick about cleaning so nothing thaws. Sort meats with similar meats and have one shelf set aside for convenient foods, like frozen shredded chicken or smoothie packs so you can eat quickly from the freezer. Inventory the freezer too.
Take a look at your inventory list and see if you have enough of all your staples. If you don’t, add them to your shopping list. Also add any containers you might need. Highlight all the irregular items on your inventory and check back tomorrow for some helpful advice on cooking from your extra inventory.Pin It