Well, label me thankful for food organization!

They say there are people who eat to live and then there are people who live to eat. Without a doubt, I fall into the latter category so, naturally, Thanksgiving is my jam. With a week to go until the holiday, I wanted to give you some ideas on how to purge your pantry, clear your cupboards, and free your fridge in time for that turkey.

This is actually so much easier and less time consuming than most people realize. So let’s grab a PSL or pumpkin beer and get to work.

The first step in almost every single organization project is to pull everything out. And I mean, everything. Use your counters, kitchen table, island or all three as your workspace. Have the garbage can or a trash bag nearby because, trust me kids, ya gonna need it.

Let’s take a bite out of those dried goods first.

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  • Check the expiration dates on all boxes, cans, and jars. You do have a little leeway with some foods, such as pasta. But generally, if it’s been expired 6 months to 1 year, I wouldn’t take the chance. I tend to buy only what I need (will touch on the importance of a grocery list below) so almost never have to throw out food.

  • Ok, it’s not expired but it’s not tasty either. If, for example, you know those crackers or cereal have gone stale, why are you holding on to them? You’re not going to eat them and neither are your kids. I prefer products like Ritz fresh stacks and separate cereal containers to prevent food waste. I also tend to store some traditional pantry items in the fridge to help extend them, such as bread and nuts!

  • Hopefully you’re throwing out the old as you’re going along and now can see what’s leftover. Personally, I’m huge on pairing like with like. Let’s take a look at your cans (ugh, not those cans, c’mon now!). Sort the soups with soups, veggies with veggies, and so on. Not only will this ultimately give a clean look, you’ll be able to find what you need in a snap.

  • Time to organize the keepers. So I get it, everyone has a different size kitchen. I used to have a massive walk in pantry in my old place and now I have a few itty bitty shelves to work with. You gotta do what works best for you. Ideally, the items you use the least should go higher and those you use the most within eye level/arms reach. Cabinet risers are aMAZing little inventions to maximize space, especially for smaller items such as spices.

  • What if you have way more food than you think you’ll be able to use? Timing couldn’t be better because food pantries are in an even bigger need for donations this time of year. Make a box of extra non perishables and drop them off at your local grocery store, library, church, or anywhere you know is accepting them. Organized AND giving back, what could be better?

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Now let’s take a long, romantical walk to the fridge.

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  • Same deal here - pull every item out and now, guess what? You have a totally empty fridge and I bet you see some sticky jelly stains (or tequila..no? Just my fridge?) so now would be the perfect time to wipe the insides down top to bottom.

  • Time to check those dates! I’ll admit I’m guilty of one area of food waste and that’s salad dressings. I buy them with good intentions but then wind up either making my own with oil and vinegar or none at all because, you know, it means I have to eat a salad. Unless you fly through them, I recommend not even purchasing. Milk is another big one. I rarely used to use it but now chug protein shakes so I buy the big guy. I also use almond milk which definitely has a longer shelf life than dairy (and is so, so much healthier IMO).

  • A little word to the wise when throwing out perishables. Unless your trash is going out that day, wait to do this part. What you can do if you’re on a roll and don’t want to wait for garbage day is dump everything expired in a bag (hopefully it’s only a handful) and leave in the fridge until it’s time to take it to the curb.

  • For produce, I highly recommend items like flip pods to keep em fresh! I always have lemons on hand so can attest these lil guys work! If you’re into juicing, consider using as much as possible then freezing the rest before it goes bad. Label the packages you store them in (ziploc bags are clutch) so you’ll know which to use first.

  • Recently, I started using fridge and freezer bins and have zero clue why I didn’t sooner. Lazy susans are also an option but I find the square or rectangle bins make it easier to maximize space. Just as in your pantry, store like with like whether you’re using containers or not. Drinks should be in one spot, meats/cheeses in another, condiments in their own (the fridge door is usually the best way to go here). Like anything else, the order should make sense to you and your family so get creative and enjoy the process of finding a home for everything...yes, even those pesky vegetables.

Whew! Now’s the time to stand back, admire your work, and reward yourself with a snack. What I want you to remember though is this: your food supply can always look as organized as it does now with a little consideration in the future. Use items you already have on hand when making dinner (if you need some inspiration, check out www.myfridgefood.com) and don’t buy more than you need especially just because it’s “on sale”. If you know it will get eaten in your house, sure, go for it but sales run all the time so don’t freak out like World War Z is about to occur.

Right before I head to the store or order Peapod, I quickly scan what I have, make a note of what I need, and do my very best to only buy those items. It saves me money in the moment by having a lower grocery bill and in the long run by not having to throw unused items out. Maybe it was growing up with Catholic guilt, but I truly view it as a sin to waste food when there are people starving in our own backyards. Thanksgiving is the time of year where we reflect on appreciating what we already have and if we have food in our home and in our belly every day, we are doing pretty damn good.

Just one last note! As Thursday is our weekly designated post day, we want you all to enjoy a very happy Thanksgiving next week and will see you here on Friday instead. To be more specific, Black Friday. So while most are racking up things and credit card debt, we'll be focusing on something quite different altogether...