A few times a year, I do a “pantry reboot.” I clean out the cabinets, the fridge, I purge old ingredients, unused equipment, and aim to shed shopping methods, foods, and patterns that don’t serve my lifestyle, my eating habits (or my wallet.)
If you’re considering a reboot of your eating habits, it’s time you consider a pantry reboot as well. To make this worthy, exciting and delicious change happen, you’re going to need a small arsenal of ingredients, tips and tricks, as well as a pantry and kitchen space that’s stocked, easy-to-navigate and ready to help make all of your healthy meal plans a reality. In this two-part series, we’ll introduce some clutch ideas for how to reorganize, clean out, and spruce up your space as well as how to fill it with ingredients to empower delicious, healthy meals. Rebooting your pantry so it’s an inspiring space that works for you is surprisingly simple, and is a little bit like reorganizing a desk or any other work space. Don’t groan – other work spaces don’t churn out delicious, healthy, vibrant meals when you’re done revamping them, and your pantry will! Here are our ten best tips to get you started:
Does your kitchen counteract as a nerve-center, catch-all for your entire house? Keys, bags, books, children’s clothing. If so, it’s no wonder you’re overwhelmed when it’s time to make a healthy breakfast. If you’re going to start your healthy eating habits with a clean slate, really do it! Make a vow to keep kitchen counters and work spaces clean, free of clutter, and clear of appliances or tools. Keep some all-purpose anti-bacterial cleanser and rags on hand under the counter or nearby so you can clean your workspace immediately after using it. This way, when you’ll literally have a clean slate when go to plot a meal.
Similar to cleaning out a closet, if you don’t use it, lose it! Mismatched Tupperware containers, unused appliances, random pots or pans that you don’t use often, broken or malfunctioning kitchen gadgets — be gone! You’ll breathe a sigh of relief when you fill your kitchen drawers (your kitchen toolbox, if you will!) with just the things you need to get the job done right.
Like any room in your home, you want your kitchen to be a space that’s joyful to be in. This starts by filling it with objects, appliances and cooking items that are aesthetically pleasing, and finding ways to make space feel inspiring and soothing while you’re in it. Displaying pretty bowls of fruits and ingredients is a nice way to do this, or keeping a vase with flowers in view.
Open up your cabinets. Does a pile of half-eating bags, stock-piled boxes and other random containers of ingredients fall out? It’s difficult to find healthy ingredients in a haystack. Pull out all of those rubber-banded, taped or labeled, inconsistent containers and plop them on the countertop. Then pick uniform containers to store them in. This strategy helps you to not only see what you have on hand more easily but also to keep your pantry under control. When it comes to choosing containers, we suggest…
…or another see-through option that will store your dry storage pantry items air-tight, but will still allow you to see what’s in each. (Read: no guessing what that random, unlabeled plastic bag is!) Before you buy, measure your cabinets and shelves to be sure the containers fit, then buy enough containers to fill the space (so bags and boxes don’t sneak in.) Make sure it’s easy to reach the containers (a sliding drawer or organizing box may help with this.) Some find it’s helpful to designate a container as “grains,” “beans,” “cereal,” then swapping out versions of those ingredients when you do your pantry restock.
You won’t use what you can’t see. Similar to your cabinet space, keep healthy ingredients in plain sight. Keep your promise not to allow ingredient clutter to stack up. It may be helpful to place pieces of tape on shelves to help you identify, and quickly see, what ingredients you have on hand. For example, leave cereals, coffee, dried fruits and daily vitamins on the “breakfast shelf.” On the “quick dinner shelf,” keep pasta, quick-cooking grains, and any cans of beans, or pre-made broth you like on hand.
As your cleaning and organizing, make a list of supplies you’ll need to keep your space clean and well organized. Add paper towels, kitchen towels and rags, natural cleaning solution for countertops, containers and plastic bags to organize ingredients, a Sharpie marker for labeling, and some washi tape or masking tape for writing removable labels. Keep the supplies under the counter or close at hand!
Bring your fridge up to speed with your cabinets and shelves. Start by pulling out everything from the fridge and wiping down the shelves and drawers. Then, take a look at what you’ve got. Toss out any half-eaten items or condiment jars that you haven’t touched in the past week. This includes any condiments that you don’t have plans for in the next week! Then, put remaining ingredients back in one by one. Designate spaces for cheeses and meats, condiments, dairy products, and leave the most space for fresh vegetables. Make sure that any homemade items are in containers with labels and dates (so you know when it’s time to throw them out!) This is particularly important in the freezer!
If you weren’t inspired already by all the designated spaces and unidentified ingredients falling out of your cupboards, we’ll remind you now: this is your year to label label label! Use labels to make reminders about how to use the space, about what ingredients you have on hand, and how long you’ve had them. This will help you to know what you have, how to use it, where to find it and when to toss it out.
Find a small space in the kitchen for you to keep something inspiring and special for you, something that reminds you that cooking for yourself is a nourishing practice and that you’re fueling an active, vibrant lifestyle when you take time to make delicious meals for yourself and your family. It can be something simple like a photograph, a little bud vase, or pretty ceramics that make you feel happy. When you’re happy in your space, you’ll make happy food!