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My freakishly OCD pantry organizing system

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

OK, I’ll admit it. My pantry was completely out of control. Over the last 2 years, I have changed the way I eat, adding dozens of new recipes and ingredients to my repertoire. And my poor pantry just couldn’t keep up. It was unorganized and overflowing, leading to a state in which I now own FOUR jars of capers, THREE jars of curry powder, and THREE bottles of apple cider vinegar, among other crazy duplications.
I have finally gotten things under control, and I probably went a little overboard in the process!

My basic principle is that I want all non-perishables on hand for all of the meals that I frequently make. That way, if I decide that I want turkey stuffed bell peppers for dinner tonight, I know that I need to buy turkey and bell peppers, and that I will find all of the other ingredients I need in my pantry (bread crumbs, egg, onions, cheese, seasonings, etc.).
So step one was to gather all my common (healthy) recipes, write them down, and put them in my book. This was not a new process for me, but I was about a year behind in getting this updated.

Step two was to purchase an assortment of pantry-organizing bins for ease of storage. I purchased Pantry-Binz and Fridge-Binz from The Container Store.

In step three, I grouped common ingredients together and stored them in the binz.

Step four was to determine which of the ingredients listed in my recipes I wanted to keep on hand in my pantry, and which I would buy fresh each time I made the recipe. I created a blue index card for each recipe, and listed each ingredient I would need to buy fresh when I wanted to make the recipe. The blue index cards are stored with the recipe. Why make a card? So that I can pull the card when I plan my meals, and take the card with me to the grocery store for an instant grocery list! (And because I KNOW that I have all the other ingredients on hand, I will never stand in the aisle of the grocery store again wondering if I have capers. Yes, I have capers!)

Step five: For each unique ingredient I determined I would keep on hand (over 200 items!), I made a yellow index card. Now here is where I may have gotten a little OCD. Each card lists the ingredient name, along with the minimum quantity I intend to keep on hand, the maximum quantity, the reorder point, the reorder quantity. Yes, I have a full-blown inventory management system for my food. It was very difficult for me to determine a reorder point and then to stick with it. I have a pathological fear of running out of food, so I really like to “stock up.” I must have suffered a famine sometime in a past life (or maybe it was just constant dieting?) because I get the heebie-jeebies when I run out of food (hence the overflowing pantry in the first place).

Step six: The index cards are stored in the binz with the food items.

When I use something from the pantry (or freezer), I refer to the card to see if I have reached the reorder point. If I have, I pull the card and put it in my specially designated tray. These cards, along with the blue cards from any recipes I intend to make, go with me to the grocery store. These are my entire list, and I do not buy anything that is not on the cards.

I do my shopping at two local markets, so I have also included info on where the food is located at each store. So if this week is a Kroger week, I can put my cards in order of where I will find things at Kroger, thus making my shopping trip quick and easy, and keeping me out of the ice cream aisle!

This system was a lot of up front work. Luckily I enjoy organizing things and creating systems, so this was a fun project for me. I realize many of you are thinking that I am completely nuts, and you are probably correct! This system has been in place for a few weeks now, and so far, I’m really happy with it! There’s still a ton of stuff in my pantry, but at least I know where it is and I can find it.

Happy Fourth of July!
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
  • DEBBIE1414
    Awesome job!!!
    3091 days ago
    Wow, that's a pretty intense system. My pantry is 5 spinning shelves and originally I had a system with certain things, liked canned tomato products on the bottom shelf, somewhere along the way things got moved around. I could have used your system today when I needed jalapenos and found out that hubby had used them up on Monday. Oh well, the recipe was good without them and I subbed a little hot sauce instead.
    I am going to check out the container store because I'm interested in the fridge bin. Would be nice for hubby to have all his "special" foods in one place that he could find.
    3218 days ago
  • GLMOM2
    Feel free to come organize my pantry!

    3225 days ago
  • SAMI199
    I love it! Organizing is fun & useful.

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    3229 days ago
    What a tremendous project. You should celebrate a job well-done. emoticon emoticon emoticon
    3233 days ago
    3234 days ago
  • LADYJ6942
    cool idea
    3234 days ago
    3234 days ago
    Are you available for hire???? I could really use that iin my kitchen. Thanks for the inspiration.
    3234 days ago
  • no profile photo CD7773457
    I had a friend that did what you did and she said she saved so much food. Plus took all the headache out of cooking. emoticon
    3234 days ago
  • no profile photo CD10677745
    I always like re-organizing my clothes closet and pantry. It feels so good when you know where everything is. I have been to the Container Store in another city. (we don't have one here) They have everything you can think of to organize every room in your house. It's a fun store to walk around and get lots of ideas.
    3234 days ago
  • LYNCHD05
    I think you should have your own TV show!!! What a lot of work and you have to be very organized to keep it up. good for you!
    3234 days ago
    I think that's very cool! Good for you!
    3234 days ago
    I have a small (very small) apartment with two closets - one of which is the "pantry" area. I needed to come up with some way to make more shelves or something so that i could store items like my toaster or scale and ended up getting those little containers with drawers in them - using them to store my dry goods. I also have them labeled and so forth. It's made my life a lot easier that is for sure. I also like to go to organizedhome.com for ideas as well. - the OCD personality in me loves it..
    3234 days ago
  • no profile photo CD12661721
    OMG!!! Can you come to our house, we have lots of STUFF you can organize for us! But seriously, OCD or not, good job!
    3234 days ago
  • no profile photo CD12681909
    the organizing diva in my loves this
    3234 days ago
    There is nothing wrong with your system I actually like it & on some areas I am going to copy what you have done.If you have any other organizing tips please post,
    Thank you for sharing
    3234 days ago
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