Why Your Cluttered Pantry is Costing You Money – And How To Fix it

Small PantryIs your pantry a hodge-podge of items in disarray? Could you quickly grab key ingredients to make a pasta dish or aren’t you sure you have any tomato sauce on the shelves? For me there is nothing more frustrating that not being able to locate certain items to make a meal when I know that I just purchased them. I also feel badly when I clean my pantry and discover that I have 5 bottles of oregano, all stuffed into different little corners. It costs money to keep buying ingredients only to have them become lost in the pantry abyss. Since I cook almost all our meals at home, I’ve had to be diligent on keeping my pantry in tip top shape and in making sure I can easily find what I’ve intended to cook.

I’ve used a simple organizational method for my pantry for a while now. It is not high tech and doesn’t cost a lot of money. So with the thought that an organized pantry will allow you to stretch your food dollar even further, here are some ideas that have worked for me:

1. Remove everything out of the pantry. I mean pull out all the stuff, even if you can’t tell what it is. I usually pull out everything and put it on the kitchen table. The next step involves checking expiration dates, spoiled items, etc.

2. Discard items that are out of date. Check every single expiration date and items that obviously look like they can’t be eaten. Canned goods usually have a very long shelf life. However, opened bags of cereal and chips may have gone stale. Likewise, if you have items that you know you are not going to eat but the expiration dates are still good, arrange to donate them to a local food bank who will gladly take them.

3. Before returning items to the panty, make a plan where they will go based on use. Either sketch it out on a sheet of paper or make a mental map of locations. I keep all the items I use the most on the shelf that is at eye level. These are the flours, spices, pasta noodles, etc. Cereals go up on the top shelf while snacks that the kids like go on the lowest shelf so everyone can reach them. On the very bottom of the pantry is where I store baggies, foil, paper plates, etc.

4. Group like items together. I don’t have labels on the shelves, although I do think that is a good idea. As I return items to the pantry based on the plan I developed, I place all like items together. Canned goods are located on one shelf, but grouped by type (i.e. canned vegetables are together, soups, tomato sauces). Breads and rolls are on another shelf. As I mentioned before, all cereals are on the top shelf. Staple items are on the middle shelf since I use them the most. I have all the flours together in one area, cooking oils in another, spices placed together in a clear bin which allows me to easily see what spices I have. This makes for a very visual pantry and it’s easy to see what ingredients you have for any given meal.

5. Train everyone who will be responsible for replacing or removing items where they should go. With my system of locating like items together, everyone knows where grocery items go. In fact, the kids help to put the groceries away after my weekly trip.

6. Perform periodic maintenance. I’ve found that about every 2 months I need to do a maintenance check that everything is where it needs to be. With a very busy family, sometimes things are not returned to their proper place so we really need that periodic maintenance.

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Start Saving Now For Your Summer Vacation

Summer VacationNow that the holidays are nearly over, my thoughts are turning to Summer. I know it sounds silly to be thinking of Summer vacation now, but I know that the next few months are going to pass by quickly and if I don’t make our plans now for Summer, I will be way behind when I finally get around to it. I have to jockey everyone’s schedules to make it all happen and it usually takes months of planning to do it.

Planning your summer vacation now makes sense for a couple of reasons. First, it gives you something to look forward to. If you’re planning a beach vacation, during stressful times you can remind yourself that in a few short months you’ll be relaxing on a beach. A trip to another city is sure to provide opportunities for new cultural experiences. Whatever type of vacation you prefer, knowing that a vacation is coming soon is certain to help break up the monotony of your regular life.

Getting your summer vacation planning started now also helps you get prepared for your vacation. That summer vacation may encourage you to start a new diet to lose those five extra pounds before you put on a swimsuit. A trip that includes sports activities like hiking may require a little effort to build your endurance before the big getaway. Even that trip to another city may require some planning to make sure that you fit in all of the attractions that you’d like to see.

Finally, and possibly most importantly, planning your summer vacation now allows you enjoy your vacation without incurring any debt. After you’ve decided where you’d like to go, you’ll need to estimate the cost of your trip. Then, divide the total cost of the trip by the number of weeks that are left before your trip. By putting this amount into savings each week, you’ll be able to pay for your vacation in cash.

Imagine the peace of mind that will come from having saved enough money ahead of the time for your vacation. People who are unable to pay for their vacations before leaving home put everything on their credit cards. Each time they have to pull their cards from their wallets they inwardly cringe at the thought of the bills that will be waiting for them at home when their vacations are over. Fortunately, that won’t be a problem for you. By making a plan to save enough cash to pay for your vacation ahead of time, you’ll be able to totally forget about finances for the duration of your holiday.

Planning your summer vacation now is a great winter diversion. Planning ahead of time makes you more prepared to enjoy your time away from the real world. Just be certain to include planning for the financial aspects of your vacation, too.