My decluttering frenzy has moved to the pantry, spurned by another invasion of the dreaded pantry moth. I thought my supplies were well defended but those pantry moths can infiltrate a sealed jar easier than a spy passing through enemy lines.
As I waged a strategic assault on my very full pantry, I noticed I had no less than seven types of rice: white, brown, arborio, basmati, medium grain (in both white and brown), and wild black rice.
90% of the time we eat white rice or brown and the constant attention means these rice types (and a couple of other varieties) are safe and un-infested. But those seldom used varieties lurking in the dark depths of the pantry were easy targets (despite the sealed jars) for the pantry moths to slip in unawares and colonise. Before I knew it, occupation was complete.
My pantry was no longer well-stocked; it was cluttered. Cluttered with rarely eaten foods now being happily consumed by the moths.
I love this definition from Small Notebook about what makes a cluttered pantry. Point number 3 directly related to ours:
When your pantry is full of food, but you look in there and decide “you have nothing to eat.”
When your pantry is full of food that you would rather not eat as long as there are other choices available.
When your pantry is full of food that is “good to have,” but your family doesn’t eat it, and you won’t use it in a normal week.” [source].
The difference between a cluttered pantry and a well-stocked pantry
A well-stocked pantry is one where you have an ample supply of foods you regularly eat – at least on a weekly or fortnightly basis. A cluttered pantry is full of foods you rarely eat.
If you choose to buy in bulk, stock up on just those few foods you eat on a regular basis. This way you know you’ll cycle through your supply regularly, meaning less waste. And you’ll be able to keep a close eye on it.
If you’re not sure which foods to stock up on (which spices do you use regularly, for instance, and which ones are quietly going stale in your pantry?), go through your family favourites list and have a look at the pantry staples you use most often.
Simplifying your pantry
Once you’ve decided which items to keep stocked, clear out the whole pantry and give it a good clean out (pantry moth or not).
Get rid of any foods that are out of date, consolidate any duplicate packets.
When replacing items in your pantry, make sure everything is in its own sealed container. I’ve been using recycled jars for many years, but as they have failed to protect our food, I’ve invested in some food storage containers (found at half-price :)).
Rectangular containers will save you space in the panty. The important thing is to get containers that seal tightly and are big enough to fit a whole packet of food so you avoid half-empty packets in the pantry.
Finally, create a menu plan that uses up all the ingredients you no longer want to store in your pantry – enjoy the variety without the waste.
Eating diversely while keeping your pantry simple
Speaking of variety, eating a wide variety of foods is healthy – it provides you with a wider variety of nutrients. How does this mesh with a minimalist pantry?
The trick to avoid eating the same thing every day while keeping a simple pantry is to use your menu plan to plan a wide diversity of foods and only buy what ‘specialty items’ you need, in the amount you need, from week to week (of course, if you find yourself eating it every week, stock it in your pantry in bulk and save).
Buy just the amount you need for the week from the bulk bin – supermarkets now have bulk bins or visit your local bulk food store or health food store for a dizzying array of dry goods. You can store these small amounts in the fridge until needed.
A simplified pantry is one that is a lot less overwhelming. Less food is wasted, and less clutter means a more peaceful meal prep time. A simple, minimalist pantry doesn’t mean an empty one, however, it is one where the stocked items have been carefully chosen and deserve the title ‘staple’ as opposed to once in a blue moon food.
Melissa Goodwin is a writer and the creator of Frugal and Thriving who has a passion for living frugally and encouraging people to thrive on any budget. The blog is nine years old and is almost like her eldest baby. Prior to being a blogger and mum (but not a mummy blogger), she worked as an accountant doing other people’s budgets, books and tax.