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Reader Question

It occurred to me that we can have food clutter like any other clutter. How do we manage food in the pantry, fridge and freezer and stay on top of expiration dates?  ~Karen Gibson

Great question! Food is expensive so we certainly don’t want to waste any.

When I work with clients to organize their kitchens, too often we end up tossing a lot of expired food, sometimes hundreds of dollars worth. Just like clothes hanging in your closet or folded in drawers, it takes an awareness of what’s being used and, maybe more importantly, not used. It’s said that we wear 20% of our clothes 80% of the time. I bet it’s the same with food. We tend to use often the things we like, don’t we? Here are 17 tips.

1.   Empty all food from your pantry and cabinets.
2.   Toss everything that has expired.
3.  Sort into categories: canned goods, snacks, spices, baking–whatever makes sense to you.
4.   Within categories, group similar items, such as soup.
5.  Place items near where used, if possible. Put spices in your cooking zone.
6.   Put often used items on easy-to-reach shelves and less frequently used items on high or low shelves.
7.   Put mom- or dad-approved snacks at a child-friendly height.
8.   Put taller items behind shorter ones so they are all visible.
9.   Put new items behind existing ones and use the ones in front first.
10. Use small containers to corral packets.
11. Use containers to hold categories of food. Baking pans can hold baking supplies. When ready to bake, just grab the pan.
12. Use tiered organizers so everything is visible (pictured below).
13. Use Lazy Susans and give them a spin to see everything.
14. Once every couple of months or once a quarter do a food inventory. (Note in your calendar to remember.) Look in your pantry, cabinets, fridge and freezer and check expiration dates. Use up anything nearing expiration. Add what you need to your shopping list.
15. Put newly purchased fresh and frozen food toward the rear and move the older food forward.
16. Frozen food usually doesn’t have expiration dates. If it helps, label with the date purchased before storing in the freezer. That way you’ll know how long it’s been there.
17. When you start running low on something, immediately add it to your shopping list so you don’t forget.

Here’s an idea. Look in your pantry, fridge and freezer to see what you haven’t used in a while. Do a Google search listing those foods and see what comes up! I bet you’ll discover some interesting recipes!

Product of the Month*

Tiered Expandable Shelf Organizer


Food can get lost in a pantry or cabinet, especially when items are the same or similar height. With a total of four levels, this tiered organizer makes items like spices and soups easier to see. What I like about this product is that it’s expandable from 14″ to 25″ and the steps have a non-slip grip. It’s available here at The Container Store for $14.99.


Bonus Product Of The Month*

Shelf Doubler

To make better use of vertical space in the pantry and cabinets, this product doubles shelf space for food, plates, glassware and more. Different sizes are available in home stores.

*Product mentions are provided as a courtesy. No endorsement by An Organized Approach™ is made or implied.


Notable Quote

I cook with wine, sometimes I even add it to the food. ~ W.C. Fields


Adriane Weinberg

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