For me, organization is a big issue. On the one hand, I need it in order to feel in control of things. On the other hand, it isn't natural to me. Whatever organizational skills I have were passed on to me by my husband, who was the most organized person I ever knew. Therefore, I need a lot of help organizing my food storage, my kitchen, my quilt room - everything!

Here are some things I found helpful, and maybe you will, too.

  1. Clean everything in the cabinet! I know, it sounds like a lot of work, and it is. But come on, how long have you been pushing stuff in front of other stuff? How long has that can of beans been at the back of the cabinet? Take it ALL out! Wash down the shelves. Look at what you have.

    Throw away stuff that's well past it's date. Don't take chances with your family's health. Not all bad food has a bad taste or smell. I never worry if a box of spaghetti is six months past it's date. If there are no bugs in it, I use it anyway. (If there are, I'm disgusted!) A can of vegies or soup is a different story. I'll use it a month or two past, but I'm not taking chances any farther than that.

    What about that can of xyz you thought you'd use, but you haven't cooked it in a year? Eat it tonight or throw it out - you're never going to eat it. Chances are good that things that just sit in your cabinet are taking up space you need for things you actually use.

    Wash down all the cans and jars, too. Organize things. (Great time to get those can racks!) Put them back in order, with newer items in back and older ones in front. I'm actually planning to move to storing all my canned food on racks in the basement, and not in the cabinets. Boxes will stay upstairs, or perishable items, or items actually in use, such as the currently open peanut butter.

  2. Think about how you use the things in your cabinet. Do you keep all the flour, sugar, baking powder, cake mixes, and other baking goods together? It will save you time, if you do. You won't be hunting things for minutes at a time. What other things do you use together? Is your spaghetti sauce (or the makings for it, you from-scratch cook, you!) next to the spaghetti? Organize your food in ways that make it more usable and more accessible to you.  Is yours the mish-mosh mine was?

    Are you a spreadsheet kind of person? You could keep track of what you use on a spreadsheet and then know exactly what's in the cabinet and what needs to be replaced. I'm not saying that will work for everyone, but I know those who wouldn't grocery shop without that information!

  3. If you can't see those little dates on the bottom of the can, take a black Sharpie and mark the top or the bottom in bold numbers! If there is no date (and I come across some of those, or ones that have a code that's impossible to figure out), then write the date on the item when you buy it, as a rough guide. Trust me, you won't remember later!

  4. Okay, now the cabinets are organized and you know what's in there. How are you going to use it? Do you shop by what recipes you are going to use this week, or do you wander the aisles? Do you have a list for the store, or do you shop the specials? I'm not saying one is better than the other, but it is always a good idea to have a list of what you need.

    I'm not the woman who sits down and plans my menus a week in advance. Paul did that, since he was the cook. I'm more free-spirit cook. (There's a nice printable planner on Hey, Nana!.) However, I do have a magnetic pad on the fridge door. When I use something, I write it on the list. I stock the things that I know I'll eat. I do look at the grocery ads, but I'm also not the person who is clipping a dozen coupons to buy a dozen boxes of my Cheerios. It's great if you are that person, and I admire that. I just know I'm not going to spend the time. I'd rather sew another quilt block. However, you figure it out, do find a way to make a list.

  5. I have rules. A) If it isn't on the list, I don't buy it. That means that if I need flowers, I have to have flowers on the list! B) I don't shop when I'm hungry! When I had young children, I didn't shop when they were hungry or tired, if they went with me. C) I don't shop when the store is crowded. It makes a tiring job that needs a lot of thought into a very frustrating proposition when you are running into people constantly, or the very food you need is blocked by someone's cart.

If I think of more tips for shopping and organizing your cabinets, I'll add them at the top of this.