It’s time to Spring Clean that Pantry! Yep, it’s time to clean, take stock of your food storage, and begin to SEE what you have in your pantry. Really, it won’t hurt much!
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Today, I’d finally had it. I was done trying to find the food I’d just purchased, tired of finding dust everywhere, tired of seeing foods not in their proper places, and just tired of looking at what was once a pretty organized pantry but now was a huge mess.
It wasn’t too bad, but all that stuff that kept getting jumbled on the bottom made it impossible to find out what I really had, and things were getting disorganized to the point I wasn’t able to just glance and see what I had. So shopping lists were harder to put together, preparing a meal at a glance was hard, and my meal plans weren’t quite working out because things were not in their place and not being used properly.
So I went on a wild cleaning spree and wanted to share with you those things that I found helpful. I’ll be honest to say I didn’t clear shelves and wipe down shelves. I’ll do that when I finish painting (you’ll see the half done shelf in one of the photos..it’s an ongoing project for me – one of those if I feel in the mood I’ll paint a shelf today kind of projects).
10 Tips for Spring Cleaning Your Pantry
Admit that you have a problem.
If you don’t see an issue with your pantry, all these ideas just aren’t going to work because you won’t really care and will just sort of put the boxes back in a straight line, throw out the half eaten bag of snacks and call it a day. You really have to want to do this because you know it’ll be good for you!
Clean off all of the shelves.
While I didn’t do it this time since I knew it was a project coming in a few weeks, cleaning off the shelves completely allows you to dust or wipe down all of your shelves. It’s good to use a mild cleaning solution. This will help with critter problems down the road, and allows you to store things without getting them gunked up. This also helps protect any cardboard boxes you have that might get caught in that sugar spill that turned gross. Trust me, it’s happened.
CLEANING TIP: I use 2:1 water/vinegar + a couple of drops of tea tree oil as my general cleaner. You might add a couple of drops of dish detergent as well to help cut grease and grime that can build up from spills and dust.
Take stock of storage bins and shelving.
Are your organizational tools helping you or hindering you? Could you use baskets to collect the small pieces? Would you be better off using glass to see your food? While I’d love the idea of a perfectly organized pantry with matching storage items, chalkboard labels that never smear, and pretty jars all in a row, and boxes that all look exactly the same, I’m more realistic in what I’m willing to spend and do. So I’m happy in making do with something that will help organize, even if it’s not the prettiest thing ever. Take this hack that I wrote about yesterday — turns out a simple magazine holder that I scavenged from our homeschool area solved a problem for my spaghetti noodles that weren’t already in a tall glass canister.
If you need more space and have it, you can buy shelving units from the box stores to add a 2nd shelf in smaller areas like you see in my photo at the top (or at the bottom if you want to see it already finished and not have to look at the mess again). Make use of smaller bins or repurpose canning jars for items that don’t easily fit in a box or container. I put all of my bulk grains, beans and snacks in glass jars so I can see them better. Since the pantry stays dark most of the time, I’m okay storing in glass.
Take note: In the after photo at the bottom, you’ll see a little wooden shelf that I use to make a 2nd tier of shelving. That is a little wooden step stool my father made for my boys to use when they brushed their teeth. I couldn’t just get rid of it when they are tall enough to brush the ceiling, so I repurposed it in the pantry, and can think of my Dad every time I go for another can of garbonzo beans to make hummus.
Label, Label, Label!
I don’t use those fancy chalkboard labels. I don’t want to go through that much trouble, and it just smears anyway. What I do use is something I already have in my home – a Dymo Label Maker. Yep, the kind from the box store that I turn and click and create fun little strips of embossed, adhesive, organizational goodness! They can be taken off easily to change out the contents, and they’re just big enough to see what’s there. And it’s an off-grid tool! I don’t have to worry about it going down if it all comes to an end while I’m trying to organize my pantry!
While I may know what’s in each of the canisters in the pantry, my kids might not, and my husband definitely won’t. And I have to admit, it took me a few minutes to figure out if one of the unlabeled jars was rough corn meal or cous cous. I’d forgotten to label them when I got bigger canisters. So even though you MIGHT remember right now, you probably won’t remember later, and better to know now than make polenta, accidentally!
Dust or wipe down everything.
I don’t know about you, but we have a REALLY dusty house. And because our pantry doors stay open more than they are closed, dust accumulates in here a lot. I don’t make it a habit to dust as often inside the pantry as I do the living area which it opens onto (COUGH COUGH…as if I dust the living room all that often!!!), so canisters that aren’t used a lot tend to get a bit dusty and sometimes a little grimy. So I spend time dusting the jars and containers as I put them back in, making sure to keep the cleaning solution and a few rags handy to clean off things as they need to be.
Tip: Did you know one of the big reasons why you might have a dusty house is that it’s not sealed properly? Double check to make sure your have proper sealing around your doors, that your flue is closed on your fireplace, that you’ve caulked any openings, etc. Those drafts help bring in more dust than you might normally have!
Check expiration dates.
This is a good time to check for expiration dates on all of your food storage. As you put things back, put the newest items in the back, oldest in the front, and make sure that you have an easy rotation method for bringing in new food. If it’s a struggle to rotate your canned goods, see if you can find a different way to store them that makes it easier for you. I love those soda can dispensers that you can see in the first photo above to keep my canned vegetables and fruits in. Rotation is super easy. I currently keep a mixture of vegetables there, but you can easily use one per item.
This is also a good time to donate food you know you won’t eat, or throw away food that is not worthy of being donated. Don’t put it back on your shelf if you know you’re never going to eat it!
Once you’ve gotten everything on your shelves, or even as you’re doing it when you see an issue, take stock of what you need to replenish, or what you need to take off of auto-replenishing for awhile if you tend to do that. I use an Excel Spreadsheet that I created for myself to make shopping lists and quick pantry inventory easier. Looking at the reorganized shelves, I can quickly see what I need to replenish that I may have missed in the chaos before. I see holes where stock should be, so I can add it in and make note if it’s immediate or long-term replenishment.
For my long term inventory, I keep track in this awesome Preparedness Planner that my friend Jennifer from Self Reliant School.com created. It helps me keep a running inventory of pretty much everything in my household. It’s stored in a binder in my kitchen (I’m a paper and pencil kind of gal so love having a hard copy right here I need it instead of running to the computer all the time). You can read my review of it here.
Please just ignore the big can of Kilz. That’s what I’m using to paint the shelves, and I forgot to remove it when I took the picture. You can even see the shelf I half-heartedly started painting before SQUIRREL!
Notice the holes? That’s where I know I need to restock. Under the wooden shelf (behind the Kilz can), is where I normally keep a hefty supply of canned soups (yes, I know they are bad for you, but until I get this canning thing under control, I buy canned soup for a backup if I don’t want to make it all from scratch). However, after the flu we had this year, we decimated our soup supply and I seriously need to stock more!
KEEP IT THAT WAY!!
One of the biggest problems with an organized pantry is how quickly it can become disorganized. Having a system in place to do a quick once over is a way to keep it clean and tidy. Wipe up any spills immediately. Keep a pad of paper and pencil handy to jot notes for restocking or shopping lists for organizational items. Rotate as soon as you bring new stock in. Cook from it!
Where I get it? The tall glass containers and silver topped containers are IKEA, but when I look at the website, it looks like they might not carry them any longer. Most of the rest of the glass jars are varying vintage and regular canning jars. The wire shelving is from wherever I happen to find it (Target, Walmart, Container Store).
Your Thoughts: Do you have an organizational tip that makes keeping your pantry clean and organized easier? Share it with us!
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