If you are like me, you like to keep a well-stocked pantry, not only to help out with the monthly grocery budget, but also to help out when times are tough (i.e. money is tight, sickness, job loss, etc.). For me, it is very comforting to know that I always have food on hand to feed my family, no matter the circumstances. It is one less thing we have to worry about, especially when times are tough.
But, it honestly doesn’t matter if you have a few days or a few months worth of food on hand if you don’t have a organizational system in place to help you keep track of it all! If you go to the store to buy groceries & you have no idea what you have on hand already, you will end up buying duplicates of items that you already have, AND items will go to waste because they get lost in your cabinets/on your shelves/in your refrigerator or freezer. Not only are you throwing items away, but you are also throwing your hard, earned money away in the process. When you throw items in the trash, picture yourself throwing away a $5 bill, $10 bill, or even a $20 bill, depending on how much you are throwing away. OUCH! That really stings, doesn’t it?
Here are a few tips that I have that have helped me keep my pantry more organized (not perfect, but better organized), & it keeps me from throwing out a ton of unused items!
*Keep like items together: Either on a shelf in a pantry area, cabinet, freezer, or refrigerator, make sure that you keep like items together. A few examples would be to keep herbs/spices together, keep condiments together, keep like canned items together, keep all like meat items together (beef, chicken, fish, etc.) etc.
*Keep your stock rotated – oldest in the front: When you buy new items, make sure to pull the oldest to the front & put the newest items in the back. This keeps you from using up the newest item first & then ending up throwing the oldest item away because it was shoved to the back & forgotten
*Make a weekly/biweekly/monthly menu plan: I know a lot of people who have said that they can’t menu plan. The reason? Because when they’ve done it in the past, they’ve not been able to “stick to it” & ended up wasting food. They key to menu planning? FLEXIBILITY! Yep. That’s it! When you plan a menu, always remember to be flexible. You can’t plan sickness, last minute meetings at work, deaths in the family, unexpected trips out of town, etc. Be willing to change things around.
*Shop at home first: Before you even grab your shoes to head out the door, grab your menu & see what you already have at home that needs to be used up. Make your grocery shopping list accordingly.
*Only keep items in your pantry that you KNOW that you will eat/use! Just because it’s on sale doesn’t mean that you need to buy it! If you’re family will not eat it, then you might as well throw it away as soon as you get home. Remember that mental picture of throwing $5 in the trash?
*If you are storing several months worth of food in your pantry, make sure that it is stored properly in air-tight containers. If the food isn’t stored properly, it will not last as long as it could & you will end up throwing it out.
Always remember that, just like snowflakes, no two pantries are alike. Everyone’s family eats differently & doesn’t like the same items. Just because your best friend stores pinto beans in bulk in her pantry doesn’t mean that you will do the same especially if your family doesn’t like pinto beans.
One last tip. If you don’t already have at least 3 months worth of basic items in your pantry, I would strongly suggest that you do so. Again, you never know what life will throw at you & when emergencies will arise. It’s always smart to be prepared. And stocking your pantry will not happen overnight. It will take time. Start by setting aside $10-$20 of your normal grocery budget to start buying extras of items that you use on a daily basis (i.e. coffee, sugar, flour, salt, canned fruits/veggies, etc.). Stock up a little bit at a time as the items go on sale or as you can afford. It will take time, but you will be so glad that you did!
(On a side note: Please note that most of your store bought canned goods do contain BPA in the inner lining of the can, so while my family & I have chosen to not buy store bought canned goods & can much of our own fruits/veggies, I know this is not always an option for everyone. Always use your best judgment. When in doubt – buy frozen!)