As fantastic as the thought of the cold winter ending and the impending spring can be, if you have children, it signifies the start of a different, busy schedule. The days start to grow longer, and we can practically taste summer, but your schedule is jam-packed with getting the kids to and from school, working on homework, handling end-of-the-school-year projects, meeting with teachers, attending school events, and more. Because it is such a busy time, having a well-organized pantry can mean the difference between feeding your family healthy, homemade meals or bringing home expensive, not-always-the-healthiest restaurant carryout food several times per week. These tips are going to make it easy to prepare weeknight dinners and to know what you need to replenish for the next time around. Simply by cleaning out and organizing your pantry, you’ll know where everything is and you’ll know if you have all of the ingredients you need to make whatever you’ve planned.
- Clean – Start by removing everything from the pantry, give it a good wipe down, and pitch expired items. (*Keep in mind that expiration dates tell consumers the last day a product is safe to consume. “Best before” dates, on the other hand, tells you that the food may no longer be in its perfect shape after that date. It may lose its freshness, taste, aroma, or nutrients. It does not necessarily mean that the food is no longer safe to eat. A ‘best before’ date is basically a quality indicator. Another term that gets mixed up with this is the ‘use by’ date which applies only to perishable goods such as fresh fish or meat. Dispose of them immediately once they have passed the ‘use by’ date.) A thorough cleaning gets rid of contaminants and lingering smells that can develop in all those abandoned nooks and crannies.
- Categorize – Categorize items, and designate different areas of the pantry as zones for each category. Group foods such as baked goods; breakfast items like cereal, jams, oatmeal, and syrups; dry pasta, and sauces; everyday snacks like bars, chips, and crackers; and cooking essentials like oils, spices, and condiments. Keeping clearly separated zones helps you know exactly what you have and what you don't.
- Label – Labeling is a must, and this is your opportunity to add some style to your pantry. Use handmade name tags, chalkboard labels, or small index cards to give it that “professional” look. Labeling means everything will have a place and help you identify what needs added to the shopping list.
- Unbox to Save Space – Removing all of the bulky packaging from your pantry can help you fit more into less space. Emptying pasta, rice, and other dry goods into clear containers and gathering individually wrapped items to place in bins frees up more space than you can imagine.
- Clear Bins – Say goodbye to searching forever when you're looking for that hidden box of penne pasta. Having clear storage bins allows you to see exactly what's inside, eliminating any guessing. Utilizing bins also offers you the ability to group similar things or items that you use together.
- Wire Baskets – Use wire baskets to store potatoes, onions, or loaves of bread. These are great for grouping items, plus they give your pantry a sharp look. One, creative space-saving product is the under-the-shelf hanging wire basket that is perfect for putting on a bottom shelf for added storage.
- Lazy Susans – These spinners are great for inside corners and hard to reach places. They’re especially good for deep shelves. Use them for organizing bottled items, spices, and condiments. I recommend that you use the kind that has a raised rim so that everything doesn’t go flying off when you give it the first spin!
Once you’ve cleaned and organized, it’s time to add things that will make preparing delicious meals easier than ever before. For example, having a selection of Bellisari’s Gourmet Spreads & Sauces and our fill-and-serve Phyllo Shells will allow you to make fantastic, easy recipes anytime you wish! At Bellisari’s, we strive to make that gourmet appetizer, entrée, or even a breakfast something that tastes amazing but doesn’t take a long time or lots of ingredients to prepare. Our Bellisari’s Sauces and Spreads are here to make you look great and make your family’s taste buds love you even more!