Want to know my number one tip for easier meal planning, healthy and nutritious snacks, lunches and dinners, easy baking sessions, and quicker clean-up? Without a doubt, it’s having a well-stocked pantry and fridge!
I know that not everyone enjoys cooking and meal planning - they are not the most thrilling activities in the world to me either. But being disorganised in the kitchen and the way you approach meal prep is a sure-fire way to increase your stress levels, especially with young kids. The 11th hour 'what should I make for dinner?' teamed with daily trips to the shops to grab ingredients are two stresses you can avoid with better planning. If you have a kitchen that is not only organised, but also stocked with all the basic supplies, I guarantee that your time in the kitchen will be easier. Plus you’ll be saving yourself time and money. And with the busy lives everyone leads, who doesn’t want that!
The way I ensure my pantry, fridge and freezer are well-stocked is a four-step process. Let’s have a more in-depth look.
1. AN ORGANISED PANTRY
The most important step in this whole process is to make sure you have a really organised pantry. Fridge and freezer are important as well (you can see my fridge organisation here, and freezer organisation here), but I think the pantry is most important because it holds the most items. It’s taken me quite a few go’s to get my pantry fully organised (and that’s often the way with any organising project), but it is now set up in a way that I know exactly where everything is and exactly what I need for grocery shopping.
I promise that I'll be doing a detailed video of my pantry soon on The Organised You TV. But you can see from the picture above that everything is in clear containers. This is so I can check at a glance what needs to be topped up, and it also keeps the food fresher for longer. Plus nearly everything is labelled - you don't want to be mixing up the bi-carb with the flour during baking! However you organise your pantry, the number 1 priority should be to make sure you can see everything. Tucking items away in lidded boxes or shoving them to the back of the pantry will mean things get lost leading to frustration, over-purchasing at the supermarket, and a waste of time and money. You don’t have to store everything in expensive containers - jars (like I used previously) or any clear storage box will work perfectly. When you see what you’ve got, you know what you need.
2. 'ON-THE-GO’ SHOPPING LIST
On the inside of my pantry door, hanging from a hook, is a clipboard with a blank shopping list attached, which gets replaced after each shopping trip.
Whenever I run out of something, I simply add it to the ‘on-the-go’ shopping list, which I take with me when I go to the store. And yes, I do highly recommend carrying a shopping list rather than just ‘winging it’ when you’re strolling the aisles! Sometimes I even bring the clipboard so I can mark everything off :) I don't care if I look like an idiot, it makes the whole process so much easier. Plus my son loves to be my special clipboard helper!
Having the 'on-the-go' shopping list means you're less likely to forget what you need. There is nothing more annoying than coming back from a shopping trip only to find you forgot to buy a heap of items you'd run out of. This goes hand-in-hand with meal planning. As I plan my meals for the fortnight or month, I add the ingredients directly onto this shopping list so I know I'll have the exact staples I need on hand for meal prep for the next month. Which in turn prevents having to return to the shops every second day for a forgotten ingredient.
3. MASTER SHOPPING LIST - THE STAPLES
Speaking of lists, I have a master shopping list of EVERYTHING I need to keep my kitchen, bathroom and laundry well-stocked with the essential items. This includes pantry, fridge, freezer, cleaning supplies, health and beauty, and items for the kids. The only thing missing is fruit and veg, as we tend to mix this up each fortnight. Since going sugar-free, I’ve found that we’ve cut a lot of items from the list, so it definitely makes shopping a much quicker process.
The master shopping list will obviously vary from person to person, family to family, but these are the essentials for my home. Feel free to download a copy below which you can adapt for your own personal use.
So when I’m doing my meal planning and creating my shopping list, I also have the master list to make sure I don't miss anything. I physically go to the pantry, fridge, freezer, bathroom and check off each item so I know I've covered all bases. Doing such a thorough check means I can get away with doing a fortnightly shop rather than weekly, and sometimes it even stretches to 3 weekly, with top-ups of items we go through quickly such as milk, yoghurt, bread and eggs.
I keep a laminated copy of this, plus a supply of blank 'on-the-go' shopping lists in my household binder.
There may be quicker or easier ways of doing this process, but this method works for me and it's always good to hear different ideas that you can adapt to suit your own needs.
You can grab your free copy of my own master list, and a blank one of your own to fill out to suit your family's needs, by clicking on the button below!
4. ‘EXTRA’ STORAGE
The fourth step in maintaining a well-stocked pantry is extra storage space, which we have in our hallway cupboard. In here, I keep a surplus stock of non-perishable supplies. For example, I buy a tray of passata, beans & tinned tomatoes as these are items we go through quickly and it is cheaper to buy them in bulk. I also store extra supplies of cereals, crackers, stock, tea and coffee, plus some cleaning supplies, rather than taking up valuable pantry real estate.
I know not everyone will have this luxury, but if you can manage to find space anywhere - even dedicating a cupboard (or section of a cupboard) in your kitchen, the lowest shelf of your pantry, or a storage cupboard in the house - it is a great option. It'll keep your pantry neat and organised, and also save you money as you can buy in bulk. Have a look around your kitchen and home to see if there is any way you could reconfigure to gain added space.
So there's my 4-step process for reducing stress in the kitchen! As I said, this does go hand-in-hand with meal planning so I'll be giving ideas and tips for this in the coming weeks too.
How do you reduce stress in the kitchen? Do you have any 'extra' storage space you like to use for stocking surplus supplies?