October 11, 2018

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I recently got motivated to do a little pantry clean up. I used the same technique I discussed in my recent kitchen decluttering post – taking  everything out, dividing into frequency of use, then putting the most used items close at hand. Moving some stuff around and spending less than $15 made a huge difference on how my pantry functions. I can now find items right away. Everything is very nicely labeled (due to the fact this was the day after I got my recent label maker). You can check out the before, during, and after in my Instagram Highlights.

I used to have some shelf risers in here for my cans, but some items were still getting lost in the back. I still love shelf risers, as you can tell by the 3rd shelf (as well as my posts herehere, and here) but they were not cutting it in my pantry for the cans. So I got a tiered rack to help keep those cans in check. From the moment I put it in and added cans, I knew it was the best decision of the day!

The other thing that became obvious to me: I don’t bake much anymore. Back in the day, I was a baker – any excuse to make a cake or cookies! I had sprinkles, cute cookie cutters, 20 pound bags of flour. As I decluttered my own kitchen, I realized that it had been YEARS since I had used many of these items.

I may need to repurchase some items when I get back into baking as the kid gets a little older and is able to help. But for now, I’d rather enjoy the extra space in my home.

The Easiest Meal Prepping System

Easy meal prepping

Planning your meals will save you time by cutting down on the grocery trips and mental energy as to what you’re having for dinner. Now that we have a little one and I have Organizing CU, which includes adult things like business meetings and organizing sessions, weeknights can get busy in our house. Every Thursday night, my husband and I go through our upcoming schedules and discuss what is going on over the weekend and following week (such as date nights, guests, tailgating) as we decide how many meals we need to plan.

To make it easier, we have the same basic routine for our meals: brunch on Sunday morning, a bigger Sunday dinner, two simple meals during the week, and leftovers in between. He digs through the recipes and chooses some options. I keep notes in the upper corner of my recipes that let him know if it’s a weekend, weekday, or Crock Pot recipe so he can choose accordingly.

After picking the recipes, I check the pantry and make my grocery lists. My husband and I divide and conquer: he gets anything from the Co-Op in Urbana after work on Fridays while I will hit the regular grocery store for everything else whenever my schedule allows.

Sunday mornings are usually reserved for cooking. In addition to prepping my two Sunday meals, I also take care of my lunches and the breakfasts for my husband and daughter: an 8×10 baked egg dish with a variety of ingredients (broccoli and goat cheese; mozzarella and tomato; green chiles and cheddar). Each weekday morning, they get a hot, home cooked meal that I only have to heat up during the busy morning.

Meal prepping takes some time and effort when you first get into it. But eventually, you reach the spot where you’re not worrying about dinner at 3 pm and you have something simple ready to go. If your family likes leftovers, maybe you only cook two meals a week, but double it and freeze half for later. Maybe you end up with a themed week: Meatless Monday, Italian Tuesdays, Pizza Fridays. But I’ve found that a basic routine and some organization and preparation will make your entire menu much easier.

The Best Way to Declutter Kitchens

The absolute best way to declutter kitchens

Kitchens can be one of the toughest place to organize. You’re likely in there all the time, whether you’re a cook or not. It’s the place that people tend to gravitate towards, during a normal week or a party. It’s the drop zone for basically everything in your home: mail, paperwork, toys, dishes, bags. Though it’s certainly fine for a short-term storage, you need to have a permanent home for everything in there. I like to keep my counters clear of everything but snacks and toaster oven. That means everything else needs to have a space in my cabinets or drawers.

My husband and I combined our households when we got married so we had too much stuff. Though we had space for all of it, the kitchen felt crowded. We used to have about 10 larger dinner plates that we didn’t use; I kept them “just in case.” I finally realized that I’m not going to suddenly host a dinner party with seating for 10. I hosted Christmas at our house for about 15 people last year and guess what I used? Paper plates. (Sorry environment!) I’ve now had them out of our kitchen for about 3 months and I have not missed them a single day.

When working on organizing the kitchen, I like to start by pulling everything out and then dividing everything into several categories: stuff you use all the time (your “A” group), stuff you use pretty frequently (your “B” group), and the stuff you rarely use, but still want to keep (your “C” group). Of course, I recommend a “D”onate pile for all those things you forgot you had and no longer need!

The A group should be pretty obvious to you: dishes, cups, specific pots and pans. While you’re working on this, keep in mind that a type of item may have some A and some B or C. If you have fancy china, that may fall under C, while your everyday dishware is going to be A. Cups may be A and champagne glasses may be in B.

Next, you need to determine what areas of your kitchen are for A, which are for B and which are C spaces. The A spaces should be readily accessible. For us, that’s the bottom shelves in the upper cabinets, where we store plates and glasses. The B space is reserved for the high shelves, which require some acrobatics to reach. We keep some extra travel mugs up there. The C group gets put somewhere that we don’t go to often. In our house, it’s the bottom of our pantry and the shelves in our dining room. The bottom pantry has pull out drawers and I keep a popcorn machine, crock pots, immersion blender, etc. in those. The dining room shelves get the prettier items: trifle dish, cake stand, and the Dutch oven.

A quick note for parents: we keep all of our kid stuff in a big bin on a shelf within her reach: bowls, sippy cups, plates, etc. She knows where to get a plate to tell us when she’s hungry and she knows where it goes after it’s been washed. It’s never too early to start organizing!