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How to organize the pantry

Since the advent of supermarkets and warehouse stores, many food shoppers have embraced buying in bulk. Buying in bulk can help shoppers save money and avoid last-minute trips to the grocery store in search of missing ingredients, but all those extra items also necessitate more careful pantry planning.

People already short on space may need to reorganize their pantries to make room for items purchased in bulk. Purging a pantry of expired items and developing an organizational strategy that works may take a little time. But once a system is in place, cooking and meal planning should become a lot easier.

1. Declutter
It's difficult to get organized if you're holding on to items you no longer use. Therefore, go through the pantry and find any expired foods and half-eaten items that have gravitated to the back of the cabinet or closet. After you go through everything, you will likely find that you have much more room than you once thought.

2. Empty the rest
Before placing items back in the pantry, take inventory of what you have. Getting them out in the open will enable you to see exactly what's there and get an idea of what you purchase the most. This will help you set up food zones or purchase containers that will fit your pantry better. If you have unspoiled foods that you are unlikely to eat, donate them to a food bank.

Now that the pantry is empty, take this opportunity to clean and adjust the shelves.

3. Downsize from bulky packaging
Bulky packages may not fit in your pantry. Invest in plastic or glass containers with lids that will keep foods visible, neat and fresh.

4. Establish food zones
Establishing food zones is a great way to organize a pantry and make meal time more efficient. Group breakfast foods together and store pastas and sauces near each other. Use a basket for baking items, including smaller spices or things like baking powder that can get lost in large cabinets. Then all you have to do is reach in and find something easily.

5. Keep a running inventory
Routinely look in the pantry to determine what you need. This prevents overspending on items you already have and also ensures your pantry won't grow cluttered with repeat items.

Organizing pantries may take a little time, but a little organization can open up a lot of space and make it easier to prepare meals each day.

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