Many of us are shopping less frequently and buying more at each shop to last a couple of weeks, due to the new coronavirus. There's only so much space in the pantry, fridge and freezer and with extra food on hand, it doesn't take long for things to become messy. Next thing you know, there's a rotten cucumber wedged in the back of your fridge that has to be tossed. Here are some ways to organize your kitchen to use the space and food you have efficiently and waste less.
Carolyn A. Hodges, R.D.
Top Tips for Organizing Your Food
Whether you do this all in one weekend, or just organize one shelf at a time, these tips will help you optimize your space and make the most of what you have in your pantry, fridge and freezer.
1. Keep similar items together
Don't just throw things in the cabinets or freezer willy-nilly. It's important to keep similar ingredients together, so you can keep track of what and how much you have on hand. This prevents buying more than you need of something you already have plenty of at home. Keep your canned beans together and on the same shelf as other canned goods, like canned tomatoes and canned fish. Keep your pasta, rice and other whole grains together on one shelf and your oils and vinegars on another.
Same goes for the freezer and fridge. The freezer can be particularly tricky because it can only hold so much, so we often end up shoving things in wherever they fit. Try to keep bags of the same veggies or fruit stacked on top of each other, packages of meat and fish together and so on.
Organizing this way may mean you need to pull things out of the pantry, fridge and freezer first, which is a good opportunity to clean shelves and toss items that have been in there for too long.
2. Store newer items behind older ones
Also referred to as first in, first out (or FIFO) in the food service world, organizing your pantry, freezer and fridge with the newer items to the back and the older items at the front ensures you'll use those older items first and get through them before they go bad.
This is especially important for fresh foods with shorter shelf lives compared to canned or frozen items that last a lot longer. Rather than breaking into that brand new container of spinach, use up the older one first. If you do a lot of cooking, chances are you're getting through our canned and frozen items before they go bad, but nonetheless, first in, first out is a good practice to follow.
3. Keep things clearly visible
It's a lot easier to know what you have when you can actually see everything! This is where proper placement, clear containers, shelves and other organizers come in handy. Things your use less (maybe it's baking ingredients) can go on top or bottom shelves of the pantry, whereas you want things you use more often closer to eye level, so you can easily see everything.
Cabinet shelves, tiered racks, lazy Susan's, clear containers and jars all help to optimize and organize your space and make it easier to see what you have. Here are some of our favorite items for the pantry, fridge or freezer:
- Stasher Bags, bedbathandbeyond.com, $10 to $20 (pictured above)
- Copco Non-Skid Cabinet Lazy Susan Collection, bedbathandbeyond.com, $6 to $15
- Copco Non-Skid 10-Inch or 15-Inch Shelf Organizer, bedbathandbeyond.com, $7 to $9
- 32-Inch Expanding Wire Kitchen Shelf in Bronze, bedbathandbeyond.com, $18
- Anchor Hocking Glass Jar with Acacia Wood Lid, bedbathandbeyond.com, $13 to $18
- iDesign Stackable Clear Containers, bedbathandbeyond.com, $11 to $20
4. Label and date as needed
This pertains to the freezer in particular—we always say we'll remember what's in the container but do we really 4 months after the fact? Jotting down what the item is and adding the date it was put in the freezer or fridge means you don't have to guess what it is or how long it's been in there. Whether you use plain-old masking tape and a sharpie or go all out and get a label maker, you'll thank yourself.
This article was written by M.S., Victoria Seaver and R.D. from EatingWell and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.