When I first started cooking, I had a very hard time grocery shopping. It seemed as though every week I was going to the grocery store and stocking up on food, and then it seemed as though half of it would rot at the bottom of the vegetable drawer. Luckily, I learned to organize myself, and today, I’m going to let you in on my secrets.
1. A Place for Everything and Everything in its Place
The key to keeping a stocked pantry is first to have an organized pantry. If every item that you have has a place – a place for canned beans and canned tomatoes, a shelf in the fridge for cheese and dairy with another for meat – you ‘re far more likely to know what you have. Once you know what you have, you know what you can use, and you’re far less likely to let things languish at the back of the pantry.
How you organize is up to you and depends entirely on how you cook. Examples might be having a drawer for potatoes and other root vegetables, a different one for onions and garlic (storing onions and potatoes next to each other is a no-no), a shelf for canned goods, another shelf for bottled vinegars, oils and condiments. Do the same in the fridge and freezer, and you’re off to a good start.
2. Replace Before You Run Out
Once you’ve organized your pantry goods and spices, you’re ready for the next step: noticing what you use frequently and replacing it before you run out. I buy canned peeled tomatoes weekly, even if I haven’t used them that week. I use them so frequently that it’s never a bad idea to have extra.
First, start taking notes of items that you use frequently, especially items with a long shelf life, like flour, sugar, canned beans, tomato paste, and condiments. Then make a list of things that you can buy regularly – every week, every other week, or every month -- or even in bulk. If these things are always on your list, alongside things you need for individual recipes, grocery shopping becomes much easier… and you can stock up when things go on sale.
3. Channel Your Inner Stock Boy
When stock boys stock supermarket shelves, they pull the oldest merchandise to the front and stock new merchandise in the back. Work the same way in your pantry, putting the newly purchased items in the back of the pantry and pulling the remaining ones to the front. This works well for fridge goods too, like sour cream and yogurt. In this way, you make your life easier as you cook; reaching for the item in the front means that you use things up in order of their expiration date, thus lessening the waste coming out of your kitchen.
For more pantry tips, check out our guide to the perfect pantry in 5 simple steps and our green pantry makeover guide.
Image: Alex S Bayley