Here are a couple of simple ways to help organize your spice area and your pantry:
1. PURGE your spices. If you don't date them when you open them, start doing it from now on with a sharpie on the lid. Keep in mind that spices don't "go bad" - they just loose their potency and flavor.
I went through mine and found those few in the back that I needed for some random recipe that didn't work out and I've never chunked the bottle. If it is still good, see if a friend or neighbor uses it and pass it along to them. If not, trash can here we come!
2. Take stock. This is also a good time to take stock of what you have to avoid duplicate purchases and also to think ahead..."oh, I'm making pickles soon....I'll need Alum and Cinnamon Sticks, etc..."
3. Make note on shopping list. While you are taking stock, make a simple note on your shopping list of spices you are running low on, need to replace, or need to stock up on.
4. Wipe it down. While everything is out of the cabinet / area, clean it well.
I organize my spices two ways. First, I have my basic spices on a simple three tier spice rack (most used up front and less often used in back). For the ones I use ALL of the time (salts, peppers, minced onion, garlic powder, vanilla,) I have a turntable which I love. This system works the best for me.
5. Cluster together mixes / boullions / odd shaped spices. These little guys can get lost in between cans and in the back of cabinets. You can use a simple basket or plastic container to corral them for easy finding and also taking stock for recipes / shopping. For my McCormick / Lipton packets, Tastefully Simple mixes and boullion packets, I found a cute divided clear container at IKEA. I love the three divided sections to keep things separate and also that it is clear so I can easily see my stock.
I also love that it snaps shut and is closed because I'm weird like that!!!
It fits nicely on the same shelf with my spice rack and turntable - right by the stove for easy reach.
1. Pull EVERYTHING out. Yes, everything! Clear your kitchen table and counters off so you have lots of room and have a trash can close by.
2. Clean each shelf. (OK, self-explanatory!)
3. If you've never lined your shelves, now would be a good time to do that. If you do have them lined and they have seen better days, consider replacing them.
4. PURGE! One of my favorite words! Again, be ruthless - do you still have items from a "trial and error" recipe? Did you buy a big box of a cereal that really tasted horrible, but it ended up back in the pantry? Are there items that are still good, but you don't use, that you can share with a friend?
5. Check expiration dates.
6. Donate to a food pantry. If you have unopened non-perishable food items that you are not going to use, place them together in a bag. Second part......walk out to your car and put the bag in so you can drop them off on your next trip out!!! If second part is not followed, you will have a bag full of food sitting in a corner of your kitchen or on the counter for the next few months creating clutter!! (My other favorite word).
7. Sort your food by category. For instance, mine are:
Baking (flours, sugars, baking powders/soda, cake mixes, etc..)
"Helpers" (Suddenly Salad, rice, instant potatoes, etc...)
Fruit (pears, applesauces, raisins, etc....)
Pastas and pasta sauces
Snacks (cookies, crackers, etc...)
By separating all of your food items in groups, it will make it easier for you to find needed items and again, to see what you have in stock vs. what needs to be noted on the shopping list.
I also have started taking some food products out of their cardboard boxes and putting them in separate containers. (I know you've seen the magazines where it is all color coded and matchy - that is really not the reason I started doing this. Hubby and my oldest son ALWAYS take the last one out and leave the box!! This drives me crazy! I would look in the pantry, think we have something only to find out later, we don't. Taking it out of its package has saved me a lot of headaches!)
8. Label your areas. This will not only be a good reminder for you to keep it this way as you put away groceries or cook, but will be a "flag" for others to put stuff back where they found it.
You don't have to spend a lot of $$ on containers - I've used clear plastic boxes from the dollar store. I'm not doing it to impress - I'm doing it to make it easier on me!
9. Oil the squeak! If there is anything about how your kitchen is set up that annoys you and you can change it by rearranging, purchasing a product, fixing something - do it!! For me, it was the top two shelves above my pantry. When we were building our house, it didn't take into consideration being vertically challenged and those shelves are a bit out of reach. I basically use the top one for extra stock and sauces. However, when I needed something off the top shelf, or if I needed to see if I had any Ranch dressing left, if it wasn't in the very front I would have to go into the mudroom to get the step stool. Climb up on the step stool, get the jar, climb down, go put the stool away. OK - I know - not life changing - but it was annoying me, and has been for the last four years. Finally I did some research and found these:
No, I'm not promoting them or making any $$ by recommending them. I just really find them to be exceptional. These turntables can be loaded with a lot of weight and still spin freely. I needed that for my situation (mayo, ketchup, dressings, salsa) - these things are not light!
So I purchased two. One for sauces and one for extra stock items. "Oil your squeak!" What little thing justs "urks" you?? Think of a solution / product to help / re-arrangement to make your life easier!
Now it is easy for me to "spin" and grab what I need. Or to "spin" and see if I need to note dressing on my shopping list when I take the last one.
I hope you can implement some of these ideas into your own kitchen. I would love to hear how they work!!