Has your freezer and pantry felt growing pains over the last few weeks? You are not alone! When shelter in place restrictions started in Santa Clara Country I knew I needed to regain control of these two spaces in particular so that I could manage meal planning with far fewer shopping trips.
Pre-Coronavirus, we typically shopped every three days or so, stocking up mostly on fresh produce and fish. The pantry offered breakfast options and snacks to pack in lunches, some staples but not a ton. The freezer was loaded with quick lunch and dinner options, easy appetizers, frozen fruit and veggies. We were busy people back then, both working 12+ hour days so it was all about convenience but that is not the case today. Now that we are both home I’ve basically turned our kitchen into a Google home office cafe and cooking show on Instagram, ha!
Back when life was normal I stocked the freezer with quick lunch and dinner options, easy appetizers, frozen fruit for smoothies and veggies to put into pasta and risotto. It was jam packed but I really didn’t have a handle on what was inside. I found myself restocking handy things but not things for a particular purpose like I need to now. As I started meal planning for meals that would last 2 weeks with extra portions to go into the freezer for future weeks I realized I needed to make space.
Our freezer is quite small, a simple two tiered drawer at the bottom of our fridge. Typically when extra space is needed in any zone it’s critical to purge, but with this project the idea of letting food go to waste wasn’t a good option. That’s when the idea of removing items from their hefty cardboard packaging came to mind. I was actually in bed and it was keeping up that night. If our house was bigger and Chris wouldn’t have noticed that I was reorganizing the freezer in the middle of the night I would have just gotten out of bed to test my idea. Needless to say, I was out of bed extra early the next day to get started!
The first step to any project is always to pull everything out of the space and sort it into like categories. This progress is always eye opening because it quantifies what you actually have. During this process with my freezer I realized that I was in better shape that I thought and that I DIDN’T to buy any more frozen items. Actually, it gave me permission to start using things up to make room for some of the larger recipes I was hoping to split up and freeze half for the future. It was also a scary realization that I stopped cooking larger meals long ago and that most of what I buy is prepackaged and really not that healthy. I suppose that’s the trade off with convenience.
Once the space was empty I vacuumed out the nooks and crannies and disinfected the space. Nothing feels better than a clean slate!
Now for the fun, my idea of taking boxed frozen meals out of the box to save space. It was just as satisfying as I dreamed it would be. I applied painters tape with the directions to the outside plastic and my theory was proven to be true, it cut the storage space in half.
I set up a new system with convenient meals and appetizers on the top, protein and protein replacements on the bottom left (we do not eat meat), frozen fruit, veggies, and bread on the bottom right. Over the last few weeks I’ve been heating up a frozen lunch for Chris here and there to start to use them up. They are useful for a quick lunch for me on the go or dinner for one of us when the other is traveling but they are not efficient to have around at the current moment.
Ah, so much better and so much more functional!
But speaking of functional, well – not functional, look at this disaster! I blame it on Chris! I totally blame it on Chris!
Ha, well, he did do all of the cooking prior to Coronavirus but I suppose we are all at fault. As we started to stock up a bit more with the shelter in place restrictions, the system that we used to have fell out of shape big time! Typically we have food only on the top three shelves but in the photo below you can see that it spread in an unorganized way.
Of course, I pulled it all out, sorted items into categories and started with a fresh system that has been more efficient and functional. It will also be something that we can maintain knowing that emergencies like the one we are experiencing can happen again.
No new products were used during the process, instead, products were shuffled and repurposed. The tiered shelf that I stack my cans on is the best $12 you can spend in a pantry, hands down. If nothing else, it’s visually appealing and that goes a long way when it comes to home organization and the reminder for maintenance.
The new system has entertaining overflow on top, canned goods and soups on the second shelf, grains and potatoes (in the basket) on the third shelf, then breakfast and snacks shelf number four. Shelf number five has snacks that you need to do a squat to get out. Literally, if I’m going to get out a bag of chips I need to get some exercise while doing it. Below that on shelf number six is the baking zone. With my current role in at the Google home office cafe it’s become one of the most popular shelves in the pantry!
I moved these cute canisters front and center because they make me happy and I’ve been using them a lot more. They are from Target and they contain flour and sugar.
These canisters are also from Target but they don’t sell them anymore. I recommend canisters because they help keep food fresh and they also give the feel of a candy shop. Anytime you can add fun and visual appeal to a space you should do it!
These baskets are from The Container Store. I bought them originally for project we organized in Lake Tahoe, the didn’t end up being used but I just loved them so I kept them for myself They look like an actual basket but are heavy duty plastic so they can be washed out easily. Of course they are no longer available either, sorry about that!
Overall, the few hours that I spent on this project as paid off 100 times already. I haven’t been to the grocery store since, which has been about 2 weeks and I still have enough food on hand to get me to early next week. Win! I’ve focused on using up my fresh fruits and veggies, knowing exactly what I’ve got on hand in both my freezer and my pantry has helped me get creative with meal planning.
I hope you are hanging in there and you can use some of my tips to help your home feel more organized and functional. If you are looking for easy recipes to make with a basic pantry don’t forget to check out the Kuzak’s Closet recipe tab. This blog originally started with recipes featured weekly. The Kuzak’s Closet Pinterest page is also loaded with ideas!