How to Overhaul Your Pantry in 10 Easy Steps

You'll never have to hunt for a can of beans again.

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10 Ways to Overhaul Your Pantry

How long have those breadcrumbs really been back there? Did those canned beans expire five years ago? Why are there loose pieces of elbow macaroni everywhere? If it’s time to give your pantry a refresh, here are 10 steps to get started.

Step 1: Practice Quality Control

Shelf stable pantry items can — and do — go bad! Rifle through what you’ve got in your pantry and toss anything long past its expiration date.

Step 2: Part Ways

You really thought you’d eat all those canned soups and baked beans when you bought them, but it’s been six months and they’re still collecting dust. Take inventory of items that aren’t expired, but you know you won’t be eating, then donate them to a local food pantry or set aside for the next community food drive.

Step 3: File By Category

Organize your shelves (or sections of shelves). Arrange similar foods together so you can actually keep track of what you have. Store spices with condiments and oils with vinegars. Designate specific areas for canned foods, dried grains (pasta, quinoa, rice, oats etc.) and a shelf for the kids’ snacks.

Step 4: Be Spice Savvy

If you keep spices in your pantry, dust them off and toss ones that have been in there since 2001. (We know you have 'em.) Ground spices tend to lose their luster after about 3 years; dried herbs after about 1 to 2 years. Give them a whiff to be sure they are still aromatic. If not, they're past their prime.

Step 5: Achieve Baking Bliss

Keep baking staples like flour, sugar and baking powder buttoned up. Since these items look similar and often come in bags and boxes that can tear and leak, transfer to plastic, labeled containers for organized baking bliss.

Step 6: Keep It Kid-Friendly

Keep healthy snacks like nuts, trail mix, dried fruit, applesauce, popcorn and pretzels at easy a reach for your little ones. Stash special treats out of reach so it's up to you when kiddos get to have a special snack.

Step 7: Learn to FIFO

Adopt this food safety technique in your pantry. The method of "First In, First Out" or "FIFO" means keeping older items in the front so you use them first. Place newer items behind them because you have more time to keep them fresh. Use this for cereals, canned foods and condiments. A good FIFO system can help cut down on food waste and help you stay organized.

Step 8: Practice Safe Storage

The cool and dry pantry is good environment to stash food storage items like resealable bags, plastic containers, aluminum trays and take out boxes. Keep them organized by size and easily reachable for when you need to pack lunches, take food to a friend, or pack away leftovers.

Step 9: Buy Healthy Staples

Some of the healthiest pantry items to keep in hand for cooking include (in no particular order): canned tuna and salmon, canned or dried beans, plant-based oils, natural nut butters, nuts and seeds, vinegars and whole grains like brown rice, quinoa and whole grain pasta.

Step 10: Stock Up, But Not Too Much

Now that your pantry is spic and span, reload it with the foods you TRULY use on a regular basis. Buy extra when on sale, but keep the inventory manageable. When you do open an item be sure to store properly to keep it as fresh as possible.