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Managing Food Storage
10 Tips for managing & organizing your food 

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June 10, 2020
With these tips you will be able to organize your kitchen so that you can easily find your food, manage the expiry dates, store your food properly and have what you need in a convenient and easy-to-find location.

Store Like with Like

Store the same type of foods together in one place. For example, put cans together, put cereals, crackers, soups, spices, all with each other in the same place. This is your first storage grouping.

Store food with similar shelf lives together

Put foods that have a similar shelf life together. For example, dried soup and sauce mixes might have a silimar shelf life. Cereals, cookies and crackers have a shelf life of 9 months to 1 year very often. Nuts as well. This is your second larger grouping.

Store foods you the most between waist and eye level

You want to be able to easily reach the foods that you use the most without reaching or bending. Put these foods at a convenient height in an easy-to-access area. Put foods you use less on the lower or upper shelves. This way you save your back and knees. This is your third larger grouping. 

Store foods that you use the most in your core kitchen area

In your kitchen there will be a core prep area, where you have your counter and ideally this prep area is close to the stove, sink and fridge. People often store their dishes in this area, which is fine, but also storing some of your key, most-used foods in this area or as close as possible, makes it easier for you. In my core prep area, I store oils, herbs and seasonings. This is your fourth grouping.

Use storage containers to organize groups of foods

Using open-top buckets or containers to keep your group 1 foods together is helpful. Especially if you have cupboards that are deep. I use buckets to group my soups, my beans, my crackers, my cookies, my teas, and it really helps these foods stay in one place instead of the foods falling all over the place or migrating to the back where I can’t reach them. Especially for foods that you don’t use as often. 

Use storage containers to maximize the use of vertical and horizontal space

Using storage containers is also useful to use the full height of your shelf. Get storage containers that are the height and depth of your shelf so that you maximize the use of the storage depth and the height. Then label the containers as it is easy to forget what’s inside.
There are all kinds of storage containers that you can get. The ones like at this link on Amazon, that are made of plastic and are sturdy and light-weight. I get these in various sizes so that they fit into my cupboards where the shelves are at different heights. And for smaller items, liked canned foods, I use smaller containers.

Define zones in your fridge & freezer

I’ve divided my fridge into several zones:
• Top zone for the storage of grains, seeds, nuts, coffee, and foods that have a long shelf life, but that I use regularly;
• Middle zone left for the storage foods with a short shelf life that need to be cooked or eaten with a few days to one week. This is also where I put foods that are thawing if I have room;
• Middle zone right for the storage of tall items like juice, pickle jars, milk, etc.;
• Bottom zone for the storage of bulky foods with a longer shelf life like bags of sweet peppers, cucumbers, spinach, and eggs.
I use the crisper drawer for some veggies but is not big enough for all of them, so I put vegetables that need a more protected type of storage like celery and open veggie packs in this drawer.

Why do I organize my fridge this way? The middle left storage zone is key because it is just below eye-level so I can see the foods that only have a few days in the fridge, and I won’t forget about 
them. Anything that needs to be cooked or eaten within a few days go into that zone. If I put it somewhere else, I will not see it, I will forget it’s there and eventually it goes to waste.

Whether you have a chest or upright freezer, assign areas of your freezer for different types of food. I have a chest freezer and it is divided into 4 zones:
• Bottom right is where I store raw foods that will be used in cooking meals;
• Bottom left is where I store cooked foods that area ready-to-eat after thawing;
• Bottom middle is where I store bags or boxes of fruit and vegetables;
• Top left and right are little boxes where I store things I will eat quickly like containers of cooked rice or small things like butter. 
In my chest freezer, the compressor is in the bottom right so that part of the freezer is higher and acts like a shelf. That is why I put my cooked foods, mostly in stackable containers on that side. The left side is deeper and that is where I shove all the raw food. That is what largely determined what I put where in my freezer. 

Put newer items in the back

Whenever, I go shopping and put my groceries away, I put the stuff I just bought at the back of the cupboard or the bottom of the freezer. This is called FIFO, First In First Out. That way, you move the older items of the same thing to the front/top and the newer is at the back. This will cut your waste.
There is also FEFO, First Expired, First Out. That is also a good strategy. When you put your food away it is good to check the dates on what is already in there and then put it back by newest date at the back/bottom and oldest date at the front.

If you do this every time you put your food and if you follow these tips so that your food storage is organized, it will not take much time to put your food into the cupboard at the back. 

Put open items in the front

Whether this is in the cupboard, fridge or freezer, if you have an item that is partially consumed and needs to be used more quickly, always put it in the front so that you don’t forget about it. 

Put older items in the front

Any food that is getting closer to it’s date, store it in the front of your cupboard. 

How to put this in action 

Look at your cupboards and their location

Where is the center of your workspace where you spend most of your time? Note the cupboards closest to you. Then note the cupboards that are at waist, chest, or eye height. This is where you will put the foods you use the most.
Note the cupboards that are furthest away and the ones that are high or low. This is where you will put the foods you use least. 

Make a map

In your mind or on paper, draw a map and name the foods that you will put where. This way you will have a plan to follow. If you find better ways of organizing your food, adapt the plan. Change is fine.

Reorganize your cupboards

Following the plan, move your food around to match it. If you need to get containers to optimize the storage, do so, but you can still implement the plan in the meantime.

Is this a lot of work? It is a bit of work, but it will really help have easy access to your foods, find what you need easily, use your food within it’s shelf life so that you cut waste and cut your grocery bill. Pick two cupboards and two tips to implement per week and practise them, so that over a month or two, you will have your system going and it will become automatic. Good luck.

Tip Summary
1. Store like with like.
2. Organize like with like to be in groups with similar shelf life.
3. Put the foods you use the most between waist and eye level.
4. Put the food you use the most in or very near to your core kitchen prep area.
5. Put the things you use less further away and either high or low.
6. Use storage containers to organize groupings of food so they stay in place.
7. Use storage containers to maximize the use of the horizontal and vertical storage space in your cupboards.
8. Define zones in your fridge for different items. Especially, define one zone for foods that need to be cooked or eaten within a few days. This zone should be at eye level so that you can see everything that is there and you won’t forget these short shelf life items and you will take care of them before they spoil.
9. Define zones in your freezer for different types of food: raw foods, cooked foods, foods in bags and bulky boxes, light, small foods that get lost easily. This will make it easier to keep track of what is in your freezer.
10. Put newer items in the back and bring older items forward. This way old food doesn’t stay stuck in the back and go to waste. Using storage containers makes this action easier.
11. Put open foods in the front of your shelves so that you use them up before opening something else.
12. Put open foods in air tight containers or wrap them tightly. This preserves the quality of the food.
13. Look around your kitchen and figure out where to store the foods you use the most, a lot and the foods you use less. Designate specific cupboards for these categories.
14. Make a map of what will go where.
15. Start the re-organization and get your kitchen setup according to the plan.
16. If you have a lot to change to implement, start with a few tips and get used to them, then go on to more tips. Take the time you need. 

Check out my video on this topic  HERE

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