From pantry pit to pantry pretty: Give your pantry a make under

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Two things motivated me to enter my home's edible black hole, otherwise called my kitchen pantry and give it a make-under.  And I call it a make-under because I learned that I needed to simplify not multiply when it came to housing my food essentials.  One thing that got me motivated to do this was the sound of my kids' crunching unhealthy snacks that were all too easy to access, even though one could barely enter the cluttered pantry pit! 

Secondly, I knew I was wasting time and money  making unnecessary grocery store runs because I couldn't find that special spice or perfect pasta to whip up something quick and healthy for dinner.  I wondered if I took the time to really organize my pantry, if I could also streamline my food budget and my family's unhealthy snacking habits.  Although it was not fun getting started, the end result felt and tasted great!  Read on to see if there are some kitchen closet organizing tips that will get you back on track with a food budget that is healthy for you and your taste buds to boot!

3 Essentials For Entering The Edible Black Hole
Don't even start the process of the pantry make under without a donation box, a trash bag and recycling bin.  I found that a ton of plastic grocery bags were taking up a ton of room.  I was trying to be green and save the bags until my next grocery store trip, but I forgot about them once they hit the black hole.  I called the Phoenix City Works program to see if I could toss the heap in my recycling bin because they do have a #2 on the recycling symbol and that digit is listed at recyclable.  Well to be clear, even though the bags are a #2 plastic, they can't be put in your blue bin because they jam the recycling machine.  So, my new routine is to put the bags back in my car once I empty out the groceries.  I actually put them in my front seat so that when I return to the grocery store, I am reminded to carry them in and place them in the grocery store's recycling bin. 

I also found a cool contraption called the SacSoc at Safeway for $3.99 that is a plastic bag holder and dispenser.  I hang in on the back of my pantry door.  It has really cut clutter.  See the segment to see how this works.

You are probably more likely to grab a donation box when cleaning out a clothes closet, but grab one for the pantry make under, too.  I found five extra lunch boxes they were not being used that I am betting some other kid will be excited to have. 

I also found stuff that I can donate to myself!  Forgotten pink candles that will work perfectly on my daughter's next birthday and two table cloths that will cover my table for a team hockey party that I am having at the house.  I have noticed that each and every time I declutter, no matter which room I'm working on, I score a couple of lost items that will save me money and a run to the store in the future!

Pantry Pondering:  Three E Questions To Ask Yourself
As you make-under your pantry, ponder several questions with each item. Think expired, extra and easy access foods.  First of all, is the food expired?  Look under cans for expiration dates.  I was surprised to find that I was housing some stuff that was way past its prime! 

Secondly is the food an extra food that your family is probably not going to eat.  If so, donate it.  I filled up a box full of snack bars that we bought, but didn't like.  I also discovered duplicate cans of chili that both my husband and I purchased and other items that I wanted to try to eat, but won't like gluten-free pasta!  You can then deliver those foods to St. Mary's Food Bank.  For more information and locations call 602-242-FOOD or visit the website at firstfoodbank.org.

Third, think easy access.  How accessible do you want certain foods to be?  If you have a family to feed and find it challenging to police their snacking, place certain treat foods high above their reach.  Perhaps you have a teenage athlete that needs healthy carbs and proteins throughout the day.  Consider organizing a pantry area for the teen and a lean shelf for Mom, whose metabolism is moving much slower than her offspring!

Also under the extra category, find foods that you bought some time ago and give yourself a cook it challenge.  You may be able to cut your grocery bill in half by building a dinner around items already on hand.  And not only will you cook with it, but you will continue to declutter as you use those foods.  Pasta is a good example of this as well as cans of green chilies or cream of chicken soup.  Make homemade Mac and cheese for those elbow noodles that you forgot about and green chile enchiladas for the small cans of chilies that have gone unused.

Great Get Organized Gadgets

After taking a budget-conscious trip to Bed, Bath & Beyond and to The Container Store, I brought home a few items to streamline my stuff that had taken over my pantry.  One of my favorite finds from Bed, Bath & Beyond is a super wide shoe box with a magnet clear cover door that would usually house boots.  I made it work for a big bread box that will keep several types of loaves together, fresh and easy to access.  Check out the segment to check out this cool idea for a big bread box.

For my sea of spices, I love the Copco Expandable Cabinet Organizer because it has levels and like the box says, is expandable.  Check out the segment to see how cool this is and how it makes adding spice to your life's recipes a simple step versus my old system which had me searching for certain spices for days!  I also like the tea bag holder from The Container Store so that when guests are here, they can easily select a favorite teabag to enjoy.

For shelf liners, I used old place mats to save money.   But when I ran out, I found a big roll of material that you cut to size.  The product is called Con-Tact Grip Ulta Shelf & Drawer Liner.  I found the material easy to cut and easy to place.  I sure wish I would have done this when we first moved in because my shelves are somewhat stained from five years of uncovered food storage!
To save space, combine similar foods into one package.  I found three different boxes of oatmeal that house individual packets of oats so I was able to combine the packets in one box.  I did the same thing with hot cocoa packets and with snack bags.  Because my pantry had been overcrowded before, I often bought things twice because I couldn't see that I already had that particular item on hand.  So having an organized food storage area saves you money in that way for sure!  And be sure to recycle those empty boxes.  Also look for school redemption stamps as well.  Many schools work with food companies that donate funding to educational institutions that turn in the seals.  I found five emblems and filled a baggie for my 2nd grader to take back to her school.  Another plus of cleaning out that pantry!

I will admit that it took me over two days to get it all done.  So, you may plan to do it in stages so you don't get frustrated when you run out of time!  Giving my pantry pit a much needed make-under is definitely helping me to keep my beauty and life on a budget.  When I am less stressed making meals for my crew on the run, I swear I look better and I know I feel better!  So, go for it and treat your pantry to a new look.  I'll bet you will be surprised that your busy family notices and even comments that they like the pretty pantry better than the previous pantry pit!