Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Works for Me Wednesday #2

We all know how helpful this little mantra is for home organization:

"A place for everything, and everything in its place."

But I had never thought of applying this maxim to refrigerator and pantry organization until some of my kids got old enough to help make meals and put groceries away. Suddenly the systems that "worked for me" were no longer working!

So I carefully organized everything on my pantry shelves. Boxed goods were given their own place on one end, and the canned items were arranged by category. Then I wrote the appropriate label, with a washable marker, on the edge of the shelf: "Fruit," "Soup," "Lunchtime Options" (includes baked beans, spaghetti rings or ravioli, yams, 3-bean salad, hominy), "Fruit Spread" (I buy tons of these at a time on my infrequent trips to Trader Joe's), "Chili Ingred's" (diced tomatoes, tomato paste/sauce and chili beans--I use these in a lot of recipes), and "Misc." (olives, relish, peanut butter, etc.). The boxed goods are divided into "Pasta" and everything else.

In the fridge, I figured that the door is the prime real estate and should be used for the things we use most often. So I gathered up all the little odd jars and sacks of things that used to end up in the door, and I put them in a small shoebox at the back of the most inconvenient shelf. I rarely need horseradish or baking chocolate squares, but when I do, I can dig them out. Meanwhile, the door is freed up for things like peanut butter, fruit spread, mayo, mustard, and our salad dressing collection.

I didn't label everything in the fridge, but I did label (with ink pen on little white stickers) the exact place on the door shelf that I want the peanut butter and fruit spread kept, and also the parmesan cheese. (I don't know about your family, but every time we sat down to a spaghetti meal, someone would always have to spend the first two minutes of the meal searching the fridge for the parmesan!) I also keep minced garlic and prepared ginger, in jars, in the door, so I won't have to hunt for them when I'm making dinner. (And here's an extra tip I'll throw in for free: My friend who took a Cordon Bleu cooking class told me that the chef told them that the minced garlic in the jar is every bit as good as fresh for most recipes!)

I also labelled one refrigerator shelf, "Leftovers/Eat Quick," but that plan has only been partially successful, because if we're clean out of leftovers, that shelf fills up quick, and then the leftovers get shoved in wherever.

Important caveats: Although we probably waste less energy searching for things in the fridge, I cannot promise that my system will keep people from opening the fridge and staring aimlessly into it while they wonder what's for lunch. I can promise no reduction in utterances of the phrase, "We never have anything good to eat around here." This system will not guarantee that your groceries will ALL be brought in from the van, or that they will end up on the proper shelf.

But there will be NO EXCUSE!

Despite these minor glitches, I have to say that this system works pretty well for me!


Lynnae said...

Thanks for the great tip! My pantry is a mess. I think I'll try your system!

Anonymous said...

Love it! R always complains that our left overs get shoved to the back and they go bad before anyone eats them. He's constantly organizing the pantry -- breakfast on one shelf, condiments on another, cans on another, and boxes on the other. Thanks for the tips -- my fridge definitely needs attention.

Sis in law in FL

tonia.sparrow said...

Great idea about using your door space more wisely. Isn't it funny how we all do the same things? (Like putting the silverware right under the pullout cutting board?) *grin*

Great post. I'm inspired to organize.