Clutter unfortunately doesn’t just stay in our closets or behind closed doors. It can invade our refrigerators, freezers, and pantries as well – a place we and our family members access several times a day.
Why does it matter that we have an organized and clean refrigerator and pantry? And what does any of that have to do with our health and wellness? Well, it has A LOT to do with it! Have you ever been so overwhelmed by your refrigerator that you just grab whatever is easiest to eat- regardless of how it impacts your health goals? Perhaps you have a hard time cooking a healthy dinner at home because the kitchen is just too chaotic and unorganized and you don’t even know what food is there. This is why it matters that we maintain a clean and organized refrigerator and pantry situation. The more aware we are about what we have in our kitchens (and what we buy and put in there) the easier it will be to stick to our healthy eating goals.
Maintaining a clean and organized refrigerator and pantry will not only make going to the refrigerator less stressful but it will also save time and energy when putting a meal together, especially at the end of a busy day. Stress-free meal preparation will not only save our sanity but also save your health goals. And of course, there is the money factor. In addition to saving time and mental energy, keeping an organized fridge and pantry will also result in money saved. Less food will be wasted because you won’t forget what you have and you won’t overlook ingredients and re-buy, hence helping you save money!
Here are 4 Steps to get you started on creating an organized refrigerator.
Step 1: Remove everything from the refrigerator and freezer and wipe down all shelves and drawers using a mild soap and hot water. This will give you a fresh start and also help you take inventory of what you have in there (and what items need to be tossed because they are expired).
Step 2: Toss any expired foods.
Step 3: Adjust your shelves. Most new refrigerators/freezers have adjustable shelving and drawers- take advantage of that! Since most of us buy the same items time and time again, find a place to store said items in your fridge and adjust your shelving accordingly. This will help you stay organized and optimize the space you have.
Step 4 (Optional): If you are really wanting to maintain a clean, organized fridge space, you can line your shelves and drawers after you clean everything and before you re-organize. Be sure to use a heavy-duty, water resistant shelf liner. Using a liner can help make clean-ups from spills easier and cleaning out your crisper drawers from fruit/veggie debris a lot easier too.
Here are 10 quick tips on how to creatively organize your refrigerator so that it can stay that way and decrease your stress, help you stay on track with your eating goals, and put more money in your pocket. It’s a triple win!
- Store the same things in the same place every time you grocery shop. This way you will always know where to go to find the ingredient you are looking for and you will know when you need to buy more/replace the item.
- Group like items together- condiments, meat, vegetables, cheese, etc.
- Stack to save space, especially if you are storing bottles or cans. Try a bottle/can dispenser so you can get the most space out of stacking your cold beverages.
- Keep your most often used items front and center and easy to grab. You can also keep healthy snacks (pre washed and pre-cut veggies, fruit, etc.) front and center so you are more likely to grab those when opening the fridge for a snack.
- Use your fridge doors for condiments, butter, cheese, juices, etc.
- Use clear containers to keep like items together. You can even purchase ones with handles to make it easy to pull out and take to a prep area. Maybe you have a sandwich making bin with all of the ingredients to make sandwiches for lunches. You can also use labels to label your clear containers. Be sure to use clear containers so you can easily see what is inside. You can shop some of my favorites here.
- Stick kid snacks at eye level where they can easily reach without making a mess. Perhaps you even use a special bin for the kids snacks to keep them separate and organized in the fridge.
- Use drawers to separate items, especially produce.
- Always rotate items when you grocery shop…bring the older item to the front and the fresh items behind it so you can use the older items before the expiration date.
Moving onto the pantry…We are going to apply several of the same principles and strategies when it comes to creating an organized pantry.
If you don’t have a built in pantry or a pantry-type closet in your kitchen, that is ok. You can easily repurpose a piece of furniture like a glass cabinet, hutch, or bakers rack and turn it into a pantry.
3 Ways to Achieve an Organized Pantry for Optimal Health
Step 1: Clean out your pantry just like your refrigerator. Take EVERYTHING out and wipe down the shelves and drawers. After your pantry has been cleaned out, wiped out, and expired items tossed, it’s time to create a system BEFORE putting everything back in.
Step 2: Begin to group things into categories- baking items, breakfast items, snacks, candy, etc. Be careful not to over categorize- really focus on the basics. Once you have your categories, you can begin to find a place for each category of items. Think about what you use daily and be sure those items are more accessible.
Step 3: Now is when you will figure out what baskets, bins, and containers you will use as you reassemble your pantry.
Use baskets, bins, and containers to your advantage. Baskets are great to put chips, boxed snacks, bars, etc. You can even put jars/cans in a basket if your pantry is more visible and you want it to be more visually appealing and tidy. Baskets are a great tool to help maintain cleanliness and organization in your pantry. I love these baskets. I also highly recommend the OXO pop top containers. They keep food fresh and are easy to wash. These containers can be used for virtually anything in your pantry (or even elsewhere in your home).
Use glass jars for pantry staples. Transfer common ingredients (especially baking ingredients) such as flour, sugars, spices, pasta, rice, granola, nuts, etc. into large glass jars with lids. Mason jars work great and are an affordable option. One idea is to take the jars to your local grocery store that sells bulk items (i.e. grains, beans, nuts) and replenish your staple items from the bulk bins. This will be a more cost effective option versus purchasing these items pre-packaged.
Add shelving. If you have a pantry with a door, you can add one of these over the door shelving units to add even more storage space to your pantry. These are particularly great for spices, cans, and other small items.
Everyone’s pantry and refrigerator situations are a little different, but I hope these tips inspire you to clean out, organize, and set yourself up for success. Our home environments have such an impact on our health and our ability to maintain our goals. Systems, routines, and organization play such a crucial role in us being able to maintain our health and keep moving forward with our goals so that it truly becomes a sustainable lifestyle.