On busy weeknights, every mom dreads hearing these three little words: “What’s for dinner?” It’s really no surprise, but in addition to homework battles, bedtime routines and work responsibilities, you have to raid the fridge and the pantry to find something decent to whip up. And let’s face it, sometimes that pantry is not a pretty sight. But there’s good news: With a few of these helpful tips, you can make your pantry well-stocked and presentable again.
1. Organize by zone
Organize food into pantry zones to easily locate what you’re looking for. Categories such as baking supplies, quick breakfasts and general food storage can help make order out of chaos. A low shelf designated for snacks will help little ones get their own after-school treats.
2. Use large clear containers
Staples like pasta, rice, flour and sugar can be stored in large glass containers with labels. Matching containers make for a much more organized pantry as opposed to mismatched boxes and bags. Plus, it’s easy to see when you’re running low on something.
3. Stock up during sales
If one of your favorite staples goes on sale, it doesn’t hurt to snag a few extras, especially of foods that keep for a while (think pasta, peanut butter, cereal). Having these go-tos at the ready will be a comfort when you’re having trouble thinking of dinner ideas or are stuck inside during a snowstorm.
4. Remember, you can’t really have too many baskets and bins
Some food packages aren’t very tidy—we’re looking at you, half-eaten bag of chips. For items that can’t be stacked neatly, store them in baskets and bins. Remember to put like items together. One basket can hold bags of chips and pretzels, while another can corral instant noodle packets.
5. Put the door to work
Don’t forget wall space and the back of the door, especially for small pantries. You can buy an over-the-door hanging shelf system that will give you more storage space for items like canned food or spices. Small shelves can be hung on whatever wall space you have available.
6. Consider canning at home
One way to fill your pantry with fruits and veggies is to can your own. This old-school way of preserving food is a smart way to save money on pantry stock. With canning, the possibilities are endless and go beyond fruits and veggies. Think pickled foods, homemade sauces, even meat! If you’ve never tried canning, follow our easy how-to.
7. Do a weekly cleanout
Let’s be honest. No matter how organized you get, the pantry is not always going to look as if it belongs on a magazine spread. With daily use, it will fall into disarray. To keep things from getting out of hand, do a weekly cleanout. A good time for this is right before your grocery run. Go through each shelf, removing any stale foods, straightening everything up and making room for the new groceries you’re about to buy.
Dinner prep or snack time doesn’t have to be a headache. With a full and organized pantry, half the job is already done. And when dinnertime runs smoothly, the whole evening will have a more relaxed and positive vibe. So grab your label maker and get to work—your future self will thank you.