A Recipe for Success: Two 30-minute Kitchen Makeovers

These tips were originally published in The Neat Sheet newsletter (Nov/Dec 2008) from That’s Neat! Organizing.

1. The Fridge: November is national "Clean out your Fridge" month. This is nobody's favorite task, but it is important for several reasons: getting rid of expired foods can keep your family safe and healthy; knowing what is in your fridge can keep you from purchasing duplicate items and save money; and cleaning out your fridge and freezer will free up space for holiday cooking.

Get started following these easy steps:

  • Gather supplies: gloves, sponge, cleaner, masking tape and marker for labeling items, and garbage bags
  • Take everything off the shelves and out of the drawers in your fridge. Wipe clean each shelf and drawer.
  • Pick up everything that you took out of the fridge; throw out any unidentifiable leftovers and expired foods.
  • Group the remaining items into similar categories such as drinks, dairy, veggies, and leftovers.
  • Put the items back in your fridge, keeping the groups together. Many fridges are designed to help with this by having drawers for meat, fruits, or veggies.
  • Follow the same process with your fridge shelves, keeping things together like peanut butter and jelly or marinades and sauces. Adjust the fridge shelves if necessary. Also, use plastic bins or a lazy susan to keep small items from getting lost in the back of the fridge.   
  • Now tackle the freezer using the same process. Take everything out, even food in the way back, and throw out anything that has been around for a year, or has a layer of permafrost. If you have food in containers, label each one before you put it back. Get into the habit of writing a description and the date on everything before it goes in the freezer. For two nights in the coming week, plan a meal using up foods in your freezer and fridge.

2. The Pantry: A well-stocked pantry is a must for cooking, but a well-organized pantry means you can actually find what you need quickly and easily (and help avoid those last-minute trips to the grocery store). Whether your pantry is a whole room or a few cabinets, try this quick fix.  

  • Gather your supplies: sponge and cleaner, small plastic bins, garbage bags, paper and pen.
  • Take everything out of your pantry and clean each shelf.
  • Sort the items into categories such as baking, spices, canned vegetables, pasta, and cereal.
  • For each category get rid of expired foods, items that are stale, and any empty containers. As you purge, make a shopping list of things you'll need to replace. 
  • Put items back, keeping categories together. Place foods that you use often, such as cereal and snacks, within easy access. Place foods that you use less often (or don't want the kids to reach) on higher shelves.
  • Use containers to keep small items together. Products such as Expand-a-Shelf can also help you find items in the back.
  • Consider labeling sections of the pantry to make it easier to find and put away items. You may have a section for snacks, pasta, or cereals.

Enjoy your re-organized kitchen!