This year has been far from typical for most people. While it has come with many challenges, it has also brought families and friends closer together. This holiday season is a great time to celebrate all that we have overcome together.
Inevitably, these festivities will require all the traditional dishes and desserts. With Thanksgiving just around the corner, now is the perfect time to start getting your kitchen ready for all of this cooking and baking.
While it may be easy to keep the kitchen tidy by putting things behind closed cupboard doors, it is not easy to find ingredients that have been piled in the pantry. Digging in the spice cupboard and coming up empty-handed is the last thing you want when you are cooking for a crowd.
However, walking into the kitchen to get it organized can be overwhelming as well. The most well-intentioned homeowner may walk in, shuffle a few things around in the cupboards and walk back out, feeling defeated. It is hard to know where to begin.
We’re here to help. Before you give up on dreams of a tidier kitchen, read on. We’re going to walk you through some easy tips for getting your pantry cleaned out and organized.
Clear it All Out
It’s a well-known fact that when you are organizing, things will always look worse before they look better. The necessary first step in reclaiming your pantry is to take everything out. Who knows what you will uncover hiding in the back behind that can of soup.
With all the food out of the pantry, now is a good time to check all of the expiration dates. Anything that is past its prime should be thrown out. Items that you decide you no longer want or may be about to expire can be donated to a local food pantry. Get rid of anything that you no longer intend to use.
The pantry in the kitchen sometimes fills the roll of a food item “catch all.” You may want to consider relocating items that don’t belong in the pantry. Perhaps dish cloths, trash bags or paper towels are taking up too much space in your pantry. Depending on storage space in your home, moving these items elsewhere may not be possible. If that is the case, gather them up in a basket or other container to keep them from spreading out all over the pantry shelves.
A Place for Everything
There are a few keys to having an organized pantry where you can find everything. First, group like items together. Assign a shelf or an area of the pantry to dry goods like flour, sugar, and baking soda. Likewise, cereal, snacks, and drinks should have a place where they belong. Labeling the shelves will help other family members remember to put things back where they belong. If you have a smaller pantry, it may not be possible to designate a whole shelf to certain items, but you can divide shelves between a couple of different categories.
Second, place favorite items in an easy to access location. Deciding where to place items in the pantry may seem arbitrary, but there is a method to the madness. Shelves near the bottom should be reserved for items that you and your family use more often, especially if you have younger children. It is always helpful when kids can get their own bowl of cereal or mid afternoon snack. Likewise, favorites foods should be stored at the front of the shelf and less commonly retrieved items stored at the back. This arrangement will save you from needing to dig through the cans of pinto beans to find the spaghetti.
Third, invest in closet storage solutions. Bins, baskets, and jars in all shapes and sizes can be found online and in stores. Square or rectangle containers make the best use of the available space. Staking bins may also be useful for storing dry goods on taller shelves. You may also want to consider using clear containers, or labeling containers so that you can see at a glance what each one holds.
Stock up on Essentials
When you think about holiday dishes, there are bound to be things that you only make once a year. Spices may last in the pantry for a few years. However, the majority of the ingredients that you bought for these dishes last year are likely no good this year. It is a good idea to start adding these to your shopping list now. Hopefully, by doing so you can avoid running to the store to pick up the one thing that you need to finish making that batch of cookies—only to go back the next day for one more missing ingredient.
You might start by making a list of all the foods that your family enjoys during the holiday season. Identify anything that may be missing and add it to your list. Some cookies and other holiday treats can even be made ahead of time and frozen to eat later. Doing your baking earlier in the season may save you time and allow you to enjoy more time with family and friends.
Inventory Your Cooking and Serving Dishes
Perhaps you host family dinners frequently or maybe this is your first year having people over. Serving a large meal to a crowd requires a lot of extra pots, pans, and serving dishes. It is best to pull out all your dishes and make sure that your 22-year-old roasting pan is still going to make the cut before you try to cook a roast in it.
You may also want to take a look at your table linens. Nothing is worse than finding a gravy stain on the napkins as you are setting the table for the perfect meal. If they haven’t been used in awhile, you may even want to wash them. There is no way to hide the musty smell of a napkin that your guest is using on their face.
Organizing ahead of time is sure to help relieve some of the stress and extra work around the holidays. There is peace of mind that comes with knowing what you have, where it is, and that you can find it at a moment’s notice.
If you find that no matter how much you organize, your pantry is just not working for you, we can help. Washington State Closets has many home storage options to increase the functionality of your pantry, closets, storage rooms and more.