BY MILLY DAWSON
HAVE YOU EVER scrounged around in a
cabinet and discovered an unopened box
of crackers that expired two years before?
Or how about an unintended science
experiment in the fridge? It happens, and
it can feel bad to waste food, money and
the energy it took to shop.
Cumulatively, about ;; percent of all
food in the U.S. is wasted, costing the average American household about ;;,;;;
each year, according to the Natural
Resources Defense Council. You can avoid
such waste, save money and enjoy cooking
more by taking simple steps to keep your
pantry and refrigerator neat and tidy.
Group like items together
Costco member Geralin Thomas, the
owner of Metropolitan Organizing in
Raleigh, North Carolina, and the author of
Decluttering Your Home (Firefly Books,
;;;;; not available at Costco), recom-
mends stealing ideas from food retailers:
“If you bake, have a baking section in the
pantry. Have a section for breakfast foods
and another for canned fruits and veggies.”
Costco member Vicky Countess, vice
president of operations at The Countess
Group, a marketing consultancy in
Longwood, Florida, follows this principle.
“One area of the pantry is all grains and
pastas. One is snack bars. One is beans.
Compartmentalizing is the main thing to
stay organized,” she says.
Use clear, labeled canisters
If your pantry is big enough, use containers that can hold bulk foods, Thomas
suggests. Otherwise, transfer some of the
oatmeal, brown sugar or what-have-you
into canisters that will fit on your shelves.
Store the rest of each item in its package
right behind the canister, if room permits.
If not, have only one overflow area for
quantities of food that won’t fit in the pan-
try. See-through canisters work best, since
you can tell when you need to buy more,
says Countess. Thomas suggests labeling
with washi (Japanese paper) tape, paint-
er’s tape or masking tape.
Compartmentalize your fridge, too
Designate certain areas for dairy
items, cheeses, meats, condiments, etc. “I
use labeled baskets and bins in the fridge,”
says Costco member Suzanna Kaye, o wner
of Spark! Organizing in Orlando, Florida.
She helps her young daughter find healthy
snacks easily by filling one bin with small
bags of baby carrots, yogurt tubes and individual cheeses. Kaye also suggests placing
leftovers on a lazy Susan in the refrigerator
to keep them from being forgotten in a corner and left to spoil.
Monitor inventory carefully
If you don’t know what you have on
hand, you can’t really know what you need.
Before grocery shopping, check which
food items in your pantry, fridge and that
overflow area are soon to expire. “Then
plan meals around just those items,”
Also, get creative with leftovers.
Mashed potatoes can make wonderful
potato pancakes. Roasted chicken can
make a lovely broth, to which you can add
leftover noodles, pasta, rice or veggies.
Maybe you have some fresh greens or
mushrooms that won’t last much longer.
Cook and freeze them for later use—and
then remember to use them.
Donate items before they expire
Be realistic. We all overbuy sometimes.
Let food purchases you no longer want feed
someone who is hungry, says Kaye.
Keeping a tidy pantry may sound trivial, but when millions of people eat the
food they buy rather than wasting it, their
good habits help foster a healthier planet.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of
the United Nations says that food waste is
a tremendous emitter of greenhouse gases.
The next time you find leftovers looking like a science experiment in the fridge
or pasta sauce from the year ;;;;, go ahead
and feel bad about it, says Kaye: “Decide
you don’t want to waste food, time or
money any more. Then forgive yourself
and make changes to be more organized.
And when you do that, celebrate!” C
Milly Dawson is a Florida-based writer.
FOR YOUR TABLE
You can ;nd a variety of kitchen storage
containers in select warehouses, with an
expanded selection on Costco.com.
A tidy pantry
save money and