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January Pantry Organizing

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Have you checked the dates
on your pantry foods lately?

If you don’t already have a schedule in place for this, perhaps January is your month to put the pantry in order again.  Our pantry is a bit too family friendly at our house, holding not only nonperishable foods for cooking, but a snack shelf and craft storage area for the kids.  All of that traffic meant it was time to get things back in place. When you’re busy (and who isn’t?)  you need an orderly pantry to do the work for you of having essentials already in place for mealtime and more.  Here’s a reminder of some of the basics:

Group foods to fit family routines.  You probably already group breakfast cereals together, but how about convenient kids’ snacks or bread baking ingredients?  This is isn’t about perfectly straight rows of canisters, but about what works for your family on an everyday basis.  Maybe non-sugary kids’ snacks could be easily accessible for them, while occasional sweets are not.
Home canned goods are
best within a year.

Rotate foods according to “best by” or “sell by” dates.  Aside from the pantry, you might have a few nonperishable food items stored in your vehicle or elsewhere for emergencies.  This is a good time to rotate those stocks.  Don’t forget to check the dates on small containers of herbs and spices.  Hopefully all of your home-canned goods are also dated, as the United States Department of Agriculture says home canned goods should be used within one year.  The USDA also says “a shelf-stable product can be safely used after the ‘sell-by’ date.”

Use the oldest items by cooking and freezing.  Now might be a good time to turn dried beans into chili, use a nearly expired packet of yeast to bake bread, or open more home canned vegetables to bake in a casserole.  If you can’t use up flour in time, double wrap it and store it in the freezer for a few months. 
Donate extras to a local food bank.  We hear so much about hunger needs during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, when the hunger is real year-around.  The beginning of the year is a perfect time to share those ten extra jars of peanut butter you’ll never finish, with people in need.
Is your pantry overstocked?
Allow more space for real food, less space for junk food.  If you want to break the potato chip and snack cake habit this year, squeeze them out of your pantry.  Find creative ways to stock your pantry with more whole foods like nuts, popcorn, and more wholesome versions of popular junk foods through efforts like clean couponing.
Consider the switch to more bulk bin pantry foods.  Especially when you search for organic ingredients, bulk bins are increasingly providing both the quality and value you want.  You may already have airtight containers to use.  Just remember to start a dated labeling system to ensure freshness.
Clean all the way down to the corners.  Make sure your pantry is staying dry, clean and pest-free by cleaning up any crumbs and deep-cleaning into those corners.  If you do encounter a pest, remember there are plenty of non-toxic ways to repel them.

One Response to January Pantry Organizing

  1. Lori Popkewitz Alper January 18, 2013 at 1:45 pm #

    I love your suggestion to rotate foods based upon their expiration date. My pantry is a disaster!

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