It’s spring cleaning time! As you work to refresh your home, don’t neglect your pantry. The fact is, keeping your food storage cabinets organized can help streamline meal preparation, eliminate over-buying, and reduce unnecessary trips to the grocery store. And as a partner of the Together Counts™ program for active, healthy living, we at the Canned Food Alliance understand that it can make you feel refreshed and rejuvenated – research actually shows that physical clutter and disorganization can negatively affect one’s mood and even ability to focus.  To help you get a jumpstart on your pantry, we consulted with Rachel Paul, MS RD, to put together the following tips and tricks:
- Remove all items from your pantry and, as you do, check “best buy” dates. Toss anything that is clearly expired. Many canned items have a “for best quality use by” date stamped on the top or bottom of the can. After that date, the product may still be safe to eat, but may not taste its best. Wipe down your shelves before placing anything back in.
- When organizing your food storage, arrange foods so you can easily see them (stacking canned vegetables, fruits, soups and proteins) and group similar foods together. Consider purchasing tiered shelf risers so you can see items in the back of your pantry.
- If you find you are out of staple items, such as canned beans, tuna, tomatoes, fruits, broths/stocks, be sure to add them to your shopping list for your next supermarket run. Keeping a well-stocked pantry makes preparing quick, nutritious weeknight meals easy and low-stress and helps avoid over-reliance on take-out or pizza delivery.
- When replenishing your pantry, be sure to shelve newly purchased items behind existing items of the same food to be sure you always are using the older ones first (first in, first out).
While it may take some time to clean and organize your pantry, you will be glad you did. A well-stocked and easy-to-navigate food cabinet saves time and money. And it is oh so satisfying to the eye!
 McMains, S., & Kastner, S. (2011). Interactions of top-down and bottom-up mechanisms in human visual cortex. J Neurosci, 31, 587-597.
For recipes and more information on organizing your pantry, new research and the nutritional benefits of canned food, visit Mealtime.org. While there, sign up to receive Canned Food News, the CFA’s monthly e-newsletter.
Rachel is the founder of The College Nutritionist, and aims to help college students and young adults navigate through dining halls, dorm rooms, and kitchenettes. Rachel is a doctoral fellow and public health dietitian in the Department of Health & Behavior Studies at Columbia University, and is examining mass nutrition communications, new technologies, and weight-related effects. Rachel is also an Adjunct Instructor at Queens College and works in private practice counseling for the New York Nutrition Group. Rachel serves on local and national levels in various societies including the Society for Nutrition Education & Behavior and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
For more smart ideas in the kitchen check out these other reads from Together Counts!