Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Organizational ramblings

My big sis suggested that I post some tips about how I organize my grocery stockpile to make sure that items get used before their expiration. This is one of those things that I really don't give much thought to; there are many, many things I am not good at (scrubbing the toilet, balancing the checkbook, styling my hair). But organization is something that just comes naturally, without much thought. Here are the tips I can give you (you'll see that I am pretty left brained, if you are right brained I can't help you!)
  • Everything should have a place. If you open my fridge, the yogurt is on the top shelf in the center, leftovers are on the 2rd shelf right in front, and the ketchup is in the top shelf of the door, all the way to the left. When everything has a place, you have a very quick visual of what you have and what you need. When your items are overflowing from their assigned place, stop buying more!
  • In my pantry I am meticulous about sorting according to use by date. Whatever needs to be used first is in front, easiest to grab. As I add things, they go in the back. Obviously, it's a bit annoying to pull out 10 cans of tomatoes in order to put 2 more in, but it's quicker than having to look for a date on each can to see which one of the 12 needs to be used first, and it's definitely better than throwing things away.
  • I also sort by theme, so the top shelf of my pantry is baking, the second shelf is canned, the 3rd shelf is more canned and pasta, the 4th shelf is snack food like crackers, as well as rice and beans, the 5th shelf is condiments and spices, and the bottom is cereal.
  • About monthly, I spend 10 or 15 minutes sorting and organizing my pantry, and I pull everything that needs to be used soon. It goes on the counter of my kitchen, where I have a "sudden death" policy. It has to be used in a week, period.
  • When I meal plan, I look quickly through my fridge to see which items need to be used first.
  • I limit the amount of different items that I keep a stock supply of. I used to have all sorts of random canned tomatoes for example, diced, petite diced, sauce, paste, peeled whole, ground, etc. etc. They were always in different sized cans which made it hard to rotate them through the pantry, and it annoyed the heck out of me! Now I buy only diced and sauce, and never once have I wished that I had some other variety.
  • I'll be totally honest, I don't religiously follow the suggested best by dates that are printed on items. And I've yet to poison anyone. That said, you gotta do what you gotta do, but keep in mind that those dates may be when the manufacturer thinks the quality of their product will start to deteriorate, it may not have anything to do with food safety. If you have a system to rotate your items, you shouldn't have to worry about it either way!

So, what do you guys think? Is my advice in any way helpful? Do you want me to come over and organize your fridge? Cause I will...

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