Hi, and welcome to Week 1 of 52. This week we will focus on pantry, fridge and freezer organization. Let’s get this party started!
The holidays are over, kids will be soon back to school (yay!) and now it’s time to put our families back to regular schedule and, it is also time to go back to our regular eating habits. Am I right? 😉
With so many treats, holiday dinners and parties, lazy take-out nights, and cookie baking, I think we can all agree that it is time to check the back of the pantry, the fridge and the freezer. I don’t know about you, but I have way too many cookies and treats in mine, a couple of bottles of eggnog in the fridge, and I desperately need to clean the freezer.
Now that the kids are ready to start school, we need to replace the candy canes with cheese sticks and the sugar cookies with cereal bars. Got it? Ok. Let the
work fun begin!
Call me weird, but I LOVE organizing my pantry. Sorting through dry goods gives me a feeling of satisfaction. Maybe because, it is the easiest thing to purge. There’s no hesitation in the decision making process; if it is expired, stale or ‘weird looking’, you know it’s time to toss it. You can’t keep it!
I just thought about something:
[bctt tweet=”I wish clothing – like food- had an expiration date. It would be so easy to declutter my closet! “]
The first thing you have to do is empty out the entire pantry and place contents on top of kitchen counters or on a table. Proceed to clean every shelf as you usually do and let air dry. Sort the food and/or items in 4 groups: keep, discard, donate and relocate.
- Keep all food that is fresh and that you know you will use up within the time set on their shelf life.
- Discard any expired or old items.
- Donate any non-expired canned goods or other non-perishable food that you know your family won’t eat. I can’t tell you how many times I have bought all different types of snacks for my son and he ends up saying the usual ‘Mommy… I don’t like it’. Friends and neighbors could benefit!
- Relocate items that do not belong in a pantry. Chances are, you have been stuffing your pantry cabinet with other things such as utensils or appliances that are taking up prime real state. Consider finding a new place for all items that aren’t food, unless you absolutely don’t have any more closet or cupboard space.
Once you have all 4 groups in front of you, concentrate on group 1 (keep) and do the following:
- Discard as many boxes as possible. You have no idea how much of a space saver this is! To give you an example, this is what came out from my last pantry sorting back in October. That is a lot of boxes, friends.
Now, what to do with all the lose packets of everything? Here comes my thrifty secret: use dollar store baskets! For a single dollar you can get 1 of the big baskets, and 3 of the little ones. Isn’t that a sweet deal?
Now it’s time to sort your food in groups.
This step is very important. It is going to give you perspective, and notice what you really have stored in there. Ask yourself two questions (and be honest with your answers!):
- Is it real food or all
junkodds and ends?
- Can I can put together a hearty (or at least decent) meal out of this?
Sorting the food in groups helps you organize your shelves effectively, and you will find your food faster when you need it. Make groups such as:
- Pastas and grains (rice, beans, lentils, quinoa, etc.)
- Sauces and canned goods
- Cereals, bread and crackers
- Snacks. I like to call this shelf ‘the lunchbox station’.
- Oils, dressings, other bottled goods.
- Baking goods such as powdered sugar, flour, chocolate chips, etc.
Once you have sorted your food into these groups (or in any other way that fits your needs), it is time to put the food back in the pantry cabinet or closet. It never fails, the cabinet might be a little empty now, but that is because you made a lot of purging. Good for you! Now it’s a good time to make an inventory and head to the food store 🙂
If you manage to keep your food classified, toss boxes as soon as you come from the store and use those handy-dandy baskets, I promise that your pantry will stay organized for a much longer period.
Fridge and Freezer Organization
Your refrigerator is an area that, even though is opened and checked several times a day, it tends to be neglected. I get you, we are always in a hurry, doing something else…but there is a time for everything and your fridge and freezer need some of your time.
My advice to you is: purge your fridge once a week and clean it at least once a month. Make sure to clean it and make room in it before heading to the food store. I am sure you have to go some time this week, don’t ya? So here is what you have to do.
Pick a day for purging
I like to clean out my fridge on the day that is ‘garbage night’ (that means the night when we have to put the garbage out on the curb). It will only take you 10 minutes to scan through every shelf and drawer, and like I said before, it is very easy to make the decision to toss something out.
Check expiration dates. The appearance and smell of meat, fruits and vegetables are the perfect indicator for whether to toss or not. Throw out any food that is freezer burnt, although it is safe to eat, it is dry food and tasteless. And remember: ‘when in doubt, throw it out!’
Clean the fridge and freezer
Whatever your system is to clean your fridge, do it! Some people take the time to fill a cooler with ice in order to keep some food refrigerated while cleaning the shelves. I personally believe that, that is absolutely unnecessary, unless you are planning to spend more than an hour on each shelf (please don’t!). Use this system for both fridge and freezer.
- Clean from top to bottom. That way drips, crumbs and dirt will fall on the shelves that are yet to be cleaned.
- Starting with the top shelf (or drawer), take out all the food that is on that top shelf only, and place it on a counter.
- Remove the shelf (or drawer) from the fridge and close the fridge.
- Wash the shelf in the sink with warm water and your regular dish washing liquid.
- Wipe clean the fridge walls with a disinfecting wipe. Dry with a clean cloth or paper towel. Close the fridge.
- Wipe clean jars and containers that might be dirty (sticky?).
- Put the shelf (or drawer) back in the fridge.
- Return food to the shelf.
- Repeat steps from 1 to 8 with every shelf and drawer of your fridge and freezer.
Your fridge is now clean. Yay! – Now, do you have a system to store food in your fridge? or do you just
shove place things randomly? I am OCD with my fridge! Milk must be on the door, middle shelf, all the way to the left. And juice boxes should always be inside the lunchbox station at my son’s level so he can reach them easily.
- Place glass jars such as pickles, olives, capers, etc. on the top shelf. Those are items that are not used on a daily basis and, if you have kids at home, it is safe to have them out of their reach.
- Place deli items in a drawer. I keep mine inside a small shallow drawer located at eye level. It is so convenient to access them in the mornings when it’s time to prepare lunch boxes.
- Place milk, cream, juices, water, etc. on the door for easy access. Those are items that are used constantly and having them on the door is better than having to reach the back of a shelf.
- Place meat and vegetables in their designated drawers. Some drawers have humidity control levers, which are great to keep your food fresh longer.
- Have a lunch station (see picture above). To give you an example, I have a few fridge bins* (affiliate link) that help me keep zones defined inside my fridge. On the left I have a bin that holds juice boxes, yogurt pouches, smoothies, etc. and to the right I have a bin that holds pre-washed fruits that I grab in the morning to cut and put inside the lunchbox. It is also good to have them pre-washed and at eye level for your child. My son opens the fridge and if he sees a shiny apple at his eye level he will grab it and eat it.
Ready to tackle Week 1?
I know this post has been a little long, but I packed three tasks that hopefully you will be able to perform within the next 7 days. If you can’t tackle all three, don’t feel defeated. It’s the start of a new year and I know there is a lot on our plates. There is always another week, and another, and another!
Remember, we are not judging, we are helping each other to be a little bit of a better homemaker each day! Share your progress, pictures and ideas on our Facebook group, and on Instagram with the hashtag #52weeksneathouse
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Thank you so much for joining me and 160+ people on this awesome blog series! Will see you again next time!
Have a great Monday!
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