Guest Author - Caitlin McLeod
Have you ever gone out to purchase a jar of cinnamon or a can of soup, only to return home and find you already have 2 jars of cinnamon and 6 cans of the same kind of soup? When the cupboards are cluttered, itís easy to think youíre out of one item, when in reality you just canít find it.
I once organized the kitchen of a lady who had 5 tins of cinnamon, 3 jars of pumpkin pie spice, and two nearly full bottles of Worcestershire sauce! We were able to consolidate some things, and I got to take home the extras. Still, had the cupboards been better organized, my client would have saved herself the expense of multiple items plus the time involved in searching for whatever she needed.
Letís get started. First, I recommend pulling everything out of the cupboardsóone cupboard at a time will make it easieróso that you can determine just what you have.
Next, take a good look at each packaged item; there should be a use-by date somewhere on the can or box or jar. That is the optimal time during which you can enjoy the food product; however, my research shows that unopened packaged dry foods will actually keep and be safe to eat for much longer than that date indicates, if stored properly (see link to chart below).
Foods are generally safe for 3-5 years beyond the use-by date; however, the taste and quality will not be the most optimal. Get rid of anything that is 5 years or more past the use-by dated.
Also notice whether a container is dented, cracked, rusted, or shows signs of leakage, mold, or insects. Those should be tossed right away.
OK, now that youíve tossed outdated cans and jars, what can you consolidate? Have you got several half-used boxes of salt? Or more than one jar of a certain spice? Combine them into one, and make room for something else!
If your shelves are cluttered with bags of dry beans, flour, rice, and so on, you can easily clean that up by storing such foods in clean glass jars. Canning jars, jam jars, pasta sauce jars, or my favorite, recycled jars that once held mincemeat (they smell good for a long time), all make excellent storage containers. Be sure the jars are washed and thoroughly dried before storing any foods. Dry foods should be stored in cool, dry cupboards, with little or no humidity, away from all heat sources. Certain foods such as grains, nuts, flour and rice can all be stored longer term in the freezer.
Now that youíve sorted all the products you have, itís time to wipe down the shelves, removing any spillage, dust, cobwebs, or sticky messes. You may be inspired to put down fresh shelf liner, or even paper towels to protect your shelves and pretty the space up a bit.
Once everything is cleaned up, sorted, consolidated, and youíve tossed what needs tossing, itís time to put it all back again. I recommend organizing cupboard shelves by usage. Such as, all grains and beans in one area, flour, sugar, baking powder and so on, on another shelf, herbs and spices together, canned goods on another shelf, and so on.
For the final touch, make yourself a paper inventory of each item you have, how much, and the use-by date. Whenever you make a new purchase, take a marker and write the date of purchase on the container, which will be easier than hunting for the hard-to-read use-by date. Plus, not every package has a date stamped on it. That way, youíll have a running idea of whatís on hand, what needs to be tossed or replaced, and how fresh your food is.
Now give yourself a treat for a job well done, and enjoy the newly organized space! It will truly simplify your life in the kitchen.