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Earlier this year we took part in a 60-day no-spend pantry and freezer challenge. It was a real eye-opener - and a major money-saver, especially once I got organized with a pantry cleaning checklist.
Since we live off the grid in kind of a remote area, we have some unique challenges. Especially when it comes to buying, growing, and storing food plus getting rid of food waste. Our pantry (actually it's one wall of our battery room) was a big old overstuffed mess.
So I developed a plan, whipped up a pantry cleaning checklist, and created a whole pack of inventory lists. It's part of our resource library and you'll find a link to it at the bottom of this post.
One of the first things I did to get ready for our challenge was to sort through everything we have. I didn't do a full-out cleaning of our pantry, cupboards, fridge and freezer - it was January after all. However, I began to realize that if our pantry was better organized we'd have a better chance of using things up before they spoiled. Now that spring has rolled around, it's time to pull out that pantry cleaning checklist and get to work.
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Pantry Cleaning Checklist: Get Organized to Spring Clean Your Pantry
Whether you have a walk-in pantry, a slide-out pantry, or simply a wall of pantry shelves, give yourself at least a day to fully declutter your pantry, reorganize and spring clean your pantry.
Step #1: Gather Your Supplies
Before you start, gather the following:
- damp rag
- garbage bag
- rubbermaid totes (if you're clearing things right out of a walk-in pantry
- printable pantry inventory lists OR laptop/tablet to record each item
- measuring tape
Step #2: Clear Everything Off Your Pantry Shelves
If your pantry is anything like ours, the tops of your cans might be dusty. Wipe them as you go, and check best-before dates on all cans and bottles. Toss out any expired pantry items.
If you have shelves of home canning and preserves, check the seal and dated labels on all mason jars to make sure they're still safe. And check for mice droppings! Spring and fall cleaning times can uncover evidence of unwanted pantry visitors that could get into your food supplies.
Tip: Don't sort the cans, boxes, packages, etc. yet according to contents- that's coming. Just get everything off the shelves for now.
STEP #3: Wipe Down the Walls, Shelves, and Wash the Floor
Do a quick wipe of all shelves and walls using a clean, damp terry cloth rag and your favorite cleaner. I use a mix of 50 percent water, 50 percent vinegar, and a few drops of Thieves essential oil.
Step #4: Line Your Shelves
So this step is optional. But like a homestead kitchen, a pretty homestead pantry is just a joy, don't you think? Look for vinyl shelf paper (or upcycle your own using wallpaper scraps) that's durable and easy to apply. Measure twice and cut once. And don't forget to smooth out those air bubbles so the shelf liner lies flat.
Step #5: Plan Your Pantry Zones
No two families will have exactly the same pantry needs. It depends on your family size, food preferences, and whether you home can or buy most of your groceries.
If you have lots of cupboard space in your kitchen or even a root cellar, a small pantry might be all you need. However, if your family grows your own food, and enjoys pickling and fermenting, you might need more space!
Whatever the case, when you take the time to plan "what goes where" in your pantry, you can maximize your space, and you'll also find it easier to see what foods you have quickly when you're trying to throw a quick, cheap meal together.
Measure and note the height and depth of your shelves. This will help you organize your pantry zones. A pantry zone is an area where you group certain foods together. In our pantry, we have zones like:
- tinned fish (mostly tuna, some salmon)
- canned tomatoes
- baking items (sugar, salt, baking powder)
- coffee (we have a LOT of coffee cans)
Your zones will look different, depending on your family size and food preference. Some families prefer to organize their zones according to meal type. So you might have a snack zone, breakfast zone, lunch zone and supper zone.
#6. Make The Most of Wasted Space in Your Pantry
There's no better time to make shelf adjustments than when you're spring cleaning your pantry. Take a look at the shelves. Are your pantry shelves spaced too far apart? If so, make the most of the wasted space by adding in a small shelf with legs that sits on the existing shelf.
This gives you a second shelf to store short items, like smaller mason jars, canned fish or condensed soup. Or invest in the clip or slide-on square mesh/grid baskets that attach to the underside of a shelf to hold light items such as dried soup packets or crackers.
#7. Buy or DIY Pantry Storage Containers
Pantry storage containers come in various sizes, shapes, materials, and prices. If you're like me, you'll find ways to recycle other large tins, cans, boxes, etc. to use on your pantry shelves.
I prefer DIY pantry storage containers to save money and reduce waste. Yet I know it can be hard to find just the right sizes to maximize shelf space (look for square containers) and keep your food fresh.
If you have an open pantry, baskets are pretty (but they can be expensive). Think about what you're storing in them as it's hard to keep food fresh unless it's sealed. We tend to use a lot of mason jars in various sizes, but struggle to find inexpensive larger containers that fit our narrow shelves.
#8. Label Your Shelves
This might seem like a strange item for a pantry cleaning checklist, but labeled pantry shelves help keep things organized and save time when you're unpacking groceries or storing new preserves. Keep descriptions short and general - ie. pasta, rice, canned vegetables, canned fruit, etc.
#9. Re-Stock Your Pantry
The last pantry spring cleaning item on our pantry cleaning checklist is to restock your pantry shelves. Arrange items by zone and by expiring date or age. Put the newest items or those with the most distant expiry dates at the back of your shelves. Keep those items that are oldest or closest to expiring up front.
When you're trying to save money, reduce waste, and become as self-sufficient as possible, it's critical to have a good handle on your food supplies. A well-organized pantry can help you succeed.