Organizing 101: Food storage
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Organizing food storage is satisfying because, at its essence, food is about nurturing. Knowing what you have, how much you have of any given ingredient, where to find it, and being able to access it easily not only avoids wasting food and time, but it also creates a sense of well-being. Here's a look at what should go where and in what container.
• Group containers by type: boxes, cans, bottles.
• Within categories, create subcategories by type (cereal, pasta and crackers, for example).
• Place large, lightweight boxes, like those for cereal, on highest shelf.
• Transfer bagged items like rice, pasta and bulk dry foods (which spill easily, are difficult to reseal, and are hard to stack) into stackable clear containers; label and date them. For staples, create permanent labels, which can be as simple as a date on masking tape.
• Use a can dispenser for cans of the same size. Stepped shelf organizers, Lazy Susans or nonwire add-on shelves work well for a mix of cans.
• Bottles fit nicely in door racks or on nonskid Lazy Susans.
• Choose from among many gadgets for spice storage (keep them away from light and heat), depending on your needs. If you're like me and have an eclectic collection of different-shape spice jars, tins and bags, put everything in two large clear plastic shoeboxes placed side by side on a pantry shelf. Things are visible and easy to retrieve.
• Transfer staples like grains, sugar and flour to clear containers (labelled and dated, especially if you bake infrequently -- dry goods gone bad can mean pest problems). I prefer square glass containers to plastic, which can give off a synthetic odour even after being washed. The square shape is space efficient, and if they're stackable, even better.
Get expert advice on shopping for kitchen tools.
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• Create sections for different types of food (juice and drinks, cheese and deli meats, dairy, other meats, veggies, fruit, condiments, leftovers).
• Put open bags of prepared food (deli meats, bagged cheese) into separate marked stackable containers.
• Store meat in separate bags in meat drawer, where temperature is coldest.
• Leave eggs in their carton so they stay fresh longer.
• Reserve door compartments, which are subject to wider temperature fluctuations, for condiments that don't spoil quickly (store cheese, butter and eggs in fridge interior). For condiments that don't fit on door racks, use a store-bought Lazy Susan.
• Put vegetables in crisper, where humidity levels are highest; fruit can be left at room temperature for a few days for optimum flavour.
• Keep pop in order with can dispensers.
• Date infrequently used products when you buy them.
One-stop shopping list
• Make a computerized grocery list that includes regular purchases (organized in the same categories and order as the aisles of your grocery store), with blank lines for other items.
• Post the list in the kitchen and highlight items you need as you think of them.
• When it's time to plan meals, review the list, scan the fridge and pantry, and add anything else.
Read Kathleen's tips on organizing those troublesome areas of the kitchen: plastic containers, pots and pans and junk drawers.
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