Do what you can.

Do what you can, where you are, with what you have.

Good advice in general, and especially helpful now.

Today, let’s apply it to your pantry.
Most of us have been spending more time cooking at home than we usually do.
And limiting our trips to the grocery store.

For those of you trying to manage working from home, 
home schooling your kids, 
trying to keep the house reasonably clean,
and still reach out to other people in your life:
You may not have time for the following activity.

However, the rest of you can jump right in!
First, instead of looking at this as just another chore, 
perhaps you could reframe it as a treasure hunt?
Or an archeological dig?
Or a chance to bring order and control to one small area of your life.

So, clear the kitchen table, 
set up a bag or box for donations,
open the pantry door, and begin.

The goal of this fun is to get an inventory of what you actually have on those shelves.
By sorting through the boxes, cans, and  packages you will see how much of what you have.
You will  prioritize where it belongs on the shelves; 
know where it is when you want it,
and know what you need to add to your shopping list.

Start on the top shelf, left side.
Take out each item.
Be honest.  Will you ever eat this?
If yes, set it on the table.
If not, and it’s still good, and you know (be honest now) that you’re never going to eat it, 
into the donation container it goes.
Yup, you spent good money on it, and maybe you intended to make a fabulous new recipe with it.
That was then. This is now. Move on.
As you take things off the shelves, group the keepers like with like on the table.
All the soups together.
All the packages of pasta.
All the packets of seasoning mixes.
All the breakfast cereal.
All the snacks.

Work your way across each shelf, left to right.
Top of the pantry to the bottom shelf.
You may need more than the table, use a counter, or the floor.

You may find items that don’t really belong in the pantry.
Set them aside to deal with later.

Once the panty is empty, wipe down all the shelves.
(That probably hasn’t happened in a while!)

Now look at what’s on the table.
Consider how you might consolidate, and contain some of those like items.
Do you have an empty shoe box that could hold all the bags and boxes of pasta?
(A magazine holder laid on its side is a great place to stack packages of spaghetti or linguine noodles)
Another smaller box that could hold the seasoning packets?
A box for all the bags of nuts?
Keeping like with like and containerized keeps things easier to access.
Look around your house, you probably have containers that could be repurposed and work great.

Once you’ve consolidated like with like items.
Now we’re going to put things back into the pantry in a way that makes sense to you,
and gives the things you use most often the best access.
Keeping in mind that light things should live on the higher shelves and heavy things low.

Decide what food you use most often.
Put those in the center of the middle shelf.
What next?
Arrange things with accessibility and frequency of use as your priorities.
Also keep in mind the idea that you’re creating your own ‘store’ at home.
Pasta near the pasta sauce.
Soups on a shelf together.
Baking supplies close to each other.

This isn’t rocket science, no need to over think this.
Use logic.
Make the arrangement work for you.

Once the shelves are restocked, here’s a chance to look at your inventory.
Maybe add some things to your shopping list.
And pause to think about what you put in the donate bag.
Is there a theme there?
How can you use that information about impulse buying, 
or sale things that didn’t save you money because you never ate them, 
food habits you no longer have, 
or your tendency to not write down what you really need and instead buy duplicates of things you already had but couldn’t find?
No beating yourself up.
Just use this as a chance to pay better attention in the future.

One last idea.
My favorite pantry organizing products are:
Clear shoe box size bins-hold the pasta, envelopes, misc. bags of nuts, fruits, etc.
And, if your pantry door will accommodate it-
a clear over the door shoe organizer for the inside of the door.
Great storage for easily accessible snacks, 
places to store those odd sized little cans of things that tend to disappear on the shelves,
packets of dry mixes, small jars, etc.
It takes advantage of vertical space you might not be using,
and makes frequently grabbed items readily accessible.

Now that your pantry is organized, you can see what food you have.
Meal planning should be easier.
You can use up what you have at home, 
you can better track what you need to buy,
and you can find the snacks!!!!

So much of life seems out of control right now.
Managing your physical spaces will go a long way
in helping you manage the other areas of your life.

Be safe.
Be kind.
Be well.