With the changing of seasons and cooler weather approaching, it seems many of us are giving our pantries extra attention. Though our Texas winters are far from harsh, I do still like to be prepared, and with a baby on the way, I want to make sure my pantry is stocked and that my need to venture out is kept to a minimum.
This year has brought so many surprises and uncertainties, and I think we have consequently seen the importance of having and keeping a well-stocked pantry! This has been a practice of mine for several years now, and our pantry has seen us through job loss, periods of very little to no income, hurricanes, and most recently and unexpectedly, food shortages. I personally don't think we have seen the end of it, so it is my aim to remain diligent about what I have stored. Homemakers, this is one way you can truly bless and provide for your family in a tangible way!
Having these things in mind, I recently did a major pantry clean-out. It took me several days to get it done, and I made several observations along the way. I thought I would share here in the event it helps and encourages someone else.
The first thing I did was take everything out of my pantry. I vacuumed, wiped down the shelves, and mopped the floors. I knew it was temporary, but seeing my pantry empty was a bit unnerving! An empty pantry is what we want to avoid.
Once the pantry itself was cleaned, I went about sorting through all the food. I decided to go through everything in categories as I went about setting things back on the shelves. For example, I went through dry baking goods, then moved onto canned vegetables, then canned fruits, teas etc.
All of my jars and cans were wiped down to remove any dust. Things that were outdated were tossed out. Now, I did keep some things that are past their "best by" date to an extent. I am talking here about things that had been forgotten and were too far gone for me to feel comfortable eating or feeding to my family. As I went, I made a list of things that are getting old and that need to be used up soon.
I used a Sharpie to write expiration dates on the front of all my cans. I learned this tip from my parents after snooping in their pantry! (Anyone else like to snoop in people's pantries to see how they do things?) By doing this, I am able to see what needs using first. The items with the furthest dates get placed towards the back of the shelf, and the ones with the closest dates get placed up front. This system has been working very well for me so far. Now when we buy groceries, I immediately write the dates on the cans and am able to quickly place them on the shelves accordingly. Everything should now be much easier to rotate.
I repackaged many of my dry goods into glass jars. This created so much space, as it eliminated a lot of bulky packaging. Glass jars also keep bugs and critters out, keep food fresh longer, and allow you to see at a glance what and how much you have of something. Colton and I invested in the half-gallon mason jars years ago, but any recycled glass jar will work just as well. Here you can see my shelves of dry baking ingredients and cereals. I used a Dymo labeler to label the fronts of my jars.
Packaged snacks were also put into glass jars. On the shelf above the snacks, you can see coffee and my system for sorting tea bags. It is just an inexpensive set of plastic drawers from Walmart. I have the drawers labeled by category.
Other shelves hold my dehydrated goods, canned vegetables, pasta, dry beans, and potatoes. Pictured on the floor is vinegar in jugs, wheat in buckets, and not shown on the other end are jugs of distilled water.
And here is my pantry all put back together! It was a big job but well worth it.
Over the years, my pantry has evolved based on the needs of our family. I never expect it to stay the same, as I am always finding ways of improving my system. One of the most important things that I have learned is to only stock the foods my family likes to eat. I know that may seem like such an obvious thing, but sales and good bargains have tempted me many times to purchase things we ended up not caring for! What looked like savings ended up being a waste.
When the food shortages hit earlier this year, I saw many people buying things they wouldn't normally buy out of necessity. They needed food and it didn't matter what kind! Think of how much better it would be to be stocked with familiar and comforting foods that you enjoy in a time of crisis. It would not be such a shock to the system and routine.
The way that I have built most of my stockpile is by shopping sales, using coupons, and checking the clearance section of stores. Again, this only helps if you buy things you like and would normally eat, but if you know you'll use it before it goes bad, buy several, not just one when you find a deal. I can't tell you how many cans in my pantry have a yellow clearance sticker on them!
Normally I do a lot of stocking up around the Thanksgiving and Christmas sales. This year I am taking a bit of a different approach with everything going on in the world. I don't want to be dependent on sales or availability that simply may not be there this year! I've been making a list of things I am running low on and I just buy a few cans here and there when I am out shopping. This also builds up my supply without spending a fortune all at once.
If you want to learn more about building a pantry, I highly recommend A Working Pantry, The Bluebirds are Nesting, and Strangers and Pilgrims on Earth blogs. I have learned and continue to learn so much from these ladies!
I hope you have enjoyed my pantry tour and gleaned some helpful ideas. Do you keep a "deep" pantry? What is your system? If you have any tips on keeping, stocking, or rotating your food supply, please share in the comments below!