We challenge you to find a pantry without a single box of expired cereal in it. (If that’s your pantry, hats off to you!) But for everyone else, the pantry can easily become the black hole where snacks and spices go to hide until six months past their expiration date. We asked Tasker Maggie E how she tackles pantry organization. Make expired cereal a thing of the past in a few simple steps.
Start by emptying the pantry and checking each item’s expiration date. It can be hard to gauge the freshness of dry ingredients, so use the below as a handy guide.
- Replace every 6-12 months or by use-by date.
- Mix 1 tsp with ½ cup hot water and check for immediate bubbles.
- Replace every 9-12 months.
- Mix ¼ tsp with 2 tsp vinegar and check for immediate bubbles.
- Replace white flour every 12 months.
- Replace whole grain flour every 6 months and store in freezer.
- Crush a small amount into your hand and test freshness by taste and smell. If the flavor is weak, it’s time for a replacement.
If a package contains multiple servings that will be used over time (think rice, pasta, flour, etc.), Maggie transfers the contents from the original packaging into clear containers with tight-sealing lids.
“Label them with a label maker or even cut the label from the original packaging and insert it in the front of the container,” Maggie says. The contents will stay fresh longer, and you won’t buy four boxes of brown sugar because you forgot you already had some at home. Bonus: it’s much easier to neatly measure dry goods from a container than a floppy paper bag.
As with your fridge, group like items with labels facing forward so you know exactly what you have. “Each time you buy new food, bring the existing stock forward and place the new products in back,” Maggie advises. Then once a month, survey your ingredients again for expired and unused items you won’t use. Donate unopened, unexpired products and compost or recycle expired ones.
Unless you’re a Kardashian, space is precious when it comes to pantries. But you don’t need a fancy storage system to keep contents in order if you repurpose everyday items to maximize space. In general, we use “maximize vertical storage” as our motto. For us this looks like under shelf baskets, over-the-door storage, and hanging opened bags from the shelves above with clips. Some of Taskers’ favorite storage items include pencil holders, magazine racks, shower caddies, Lazy Susans, and even shoe organizers.