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 kids underfoot. 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 well-organised, and 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. Here's an in-depth look at how I do it...
1 | SET UP A WELL-ORGANISED PANTRY
The most important step in this whole process is to make sure you have a well-organised pantry. Fridge and freezer organisation 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 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. However, you can see from the photo above that everything is in clear containers. The clear factor allows me to check at a glance exactly what needs to be topped up. These air-tight containers also keep the food fresher for longer. Because they are clear, I make sure everything is labelled - I don't want to be mixing up the icing sugar 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, which will lead to frustration, over-purchasing at the supermarket, and a waste of time and money. You don’t have to store everything in expensive containers though! Jars (like I used previously in my pantry) or any clear storage box will work perfectly. When you see what you’ve got, you know what you need.
2 | CREATE AN '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. This gets replaced with a new blank list after each shopping trip.
Whenever I run out of a food item, 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 silly, 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 for the week ahead.
And this shopping list also 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 everything 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!
>> GET THE STEP-BY-STEP PROCESS FOR CREATING
A MORE EFFICIENT AND ORGANISED KITCHEN THAT WILL SAVE YOU TIME AND ENERGY, IN 'CLEVER KITCHENS'.
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3 | CREATE A MASTER SHOPPING LIST OF YOUR HOUSEHOLD STAPLES
Speaking of lists, I have a master shopping list of EVERYTHING I need in order to keep my home well-stocked with the essential items. This includes pantry, fridge and freezer items; cleaning supplies; health and beauty items; and necessities for the kids. The only thing missing from the Master List is fruit and veg, as we tend to mix this up each fortnight and get it from the local green-grocer. 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.
When I’m doing my meal planning and creating my shopping list, I also use the Master List to make sure I don't miss anything. I physically go to the pantry, fridge, freezer, laundry and 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 weekly of items we go through quickly such as milk, yoghurt, bread and eggs.
I keep a laminated copy of my Master List, along with a supply of blank 'on-the-go' shopping lists in my household binder.
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 on the button below (and a blank one of your own to fill out to suit your family's needs) which you can adapt for your own personal use.
4 | CREATE ‘EXTRA’ STORAGE WHERE POSSIBLE
The fourth step in maintaining a well-stocked pantry is trying to create some extra storage space in your home - be it in the kitchen or another area of your home.We personally have this extra storage space in our hallway cupboard. 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 storage 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! How do you reduce stress in the kitchen? Do you have any 'extra' storage space you like to use for stocking surplus supplies?