Why take on this project?
Several years ago, I actually completed an overhaul of my pantry. I wouldn't say that my pantry has fallen back on hard times, but it just needed a go over and an organizational push in the right direction. Over the summer, I have really tried to analyze where our money was being spent and if there were any ways that I could be a better manager of it. I realized quickly that we were throwing our money away with the food we were also wasting. Since I didn't necessarily have a clear plan for weekly meals, we were also throwing a large chunk of money away on eating out. Our fast food lifestyle was definitely not good on our wallets or our family's health. Not only were we compromising the quality of food we were eating, we were not sitting down together as a family. And if there is one thing I learned this summer, it's that our meal time really demonstrates the pulse of our family. I can find out more in 20 minutes of dining with them than at any other time during the day. So after making this analysis, I was ready to attack my pantry and fridge and make them more family meal friendly.
MEAL PLANNING 101
This is something you will have to carve out a chunk of time for. Be prepared to do some planning and it will completely help you focus on your shopping trips and help you cut down on the time you spend in the kitchen during the week.
SETTING UP MY KITCHEN
I had an idea that if I could just create a space in my pantry for the meals I am cooking each day of the week, life would be so much easier. So that is what I did. I actually created areas in my pantry for different types of food: canned foods and dry foods, baking materials, spices, and cereals. The important thing for me, however, was being able to see everything in my pantry. I then bought 6 wire bins that fit perfectly on the shelves, placing a number tag that corresponded to my meal plan list on the front, which made finding ingredients a breeze. Now, if I am making roast on the first day, I can easily find all my cooking items within that bin. No more digging around the pantry trying to locate things. The best thing about this organization plan is that my family is not allowed to touch anything in the bins. So those beautiful Hawaiian Rolls in basket 3 are off limits. I sort of have to protect certain things from being eaten before their time.
Truly organizing the kitchen has transformed our weekly meals. Planning ahead for the week has seriously impacted my stress level, family time, and wallet in a positive way. I feel as if I have more time and energy to get a good meal on the table knowing that everyone is going to be satisfied. I feel it is important to put a disclaimer here. This does not ensure that everyone is going to love the meal. We have a rule that meals will be revisited if at least 3 out of the 4 people at the table like it. If someone doesn't want to partake in the meal for that evening, they are still obliged to sit with us for dinner and make themselves a peanut butter sandwich. Of course I would love to hear feedback or feel free to share your ideas on how you have organized your meal times.