Organizing Food Storage

Organizing your food storage means organizing several areas, most likely cupboards, refrigerator, and freezer, and possibly other areas as well. Some people have a pantry, a root cellar, a stand-alone freezer, or additional storage for bulk buying. Depending on the purpose, the size, the location, and the configuration of the space, you may use different approaches for organizing the various spaces.

Safety First

The first principle of organizing food storage is safety. This means that the priority is proper placement of items that need to be cool or cold, dry, out of the light, or in certain types of containers to maintain their quality and protect them from air and/or pests.

It also means that items with the closest expiration dates should be used first, which is easy to do if the items that must be used first are placed in front of items that have a later expiration date. This system requires that newly bought items of the same type with a more recent expiration date, should be moved to the back.

A third implication is that careful decisions should be made about items that need to be kept cold, with items that are not being used immediately being moved to the freezer soon to preserve their quality.

home institute 1 A fourth outcome is that repackaged food, which no longer has the label it came with, should be marked with its name, type, and a use by date, either from the label or using information from food storage experts, such as those at an extension service. One useful resource is Clemson University's website on food storage.

If the storage area has a history of pests, it may suggest that your organization should include repackaging of items that could be affected. It certainly won’t hurt flour, cereals, crackers, and the like, to be stored in air-tight containers, and if they are opaque, they can be clearly labeled so you can tell what’s in them.

Repackaging is also important for items that come wrapped in plastic but shouldn’t stay that way because they require air circulation. This may also affect where you store them.

Organizing Food Storage for Accessibility

One general accessibility principle is to put like things together. When a single variety of item is in a space, it can be organized in a different way than if there are assorted items in the same space.

Let’s take canned goods. If you have a whole shelf full of the same brand of soup, there’s less of a question of what’s on the shelf. In this case, you may wish to use columns, with each sort of soup in a different column: chicken noodle, vegetable, lentil, etc. If you have a variety of items, you need more clues to identify each one. In this case, it’s often best to place the tallest cans in the back row, the next tallest cans in the next row up, etc. so you can see where the baked beans, olives, beets, and green beans are.

Another technique for grouping items while making them accessible is to use smaller organizers within a cupboard or shelf, or even within the refrigerator or freezer. Useful organizers include:

• Lazy Susans
• Bins and Baskets
• Stackable Containers
• Shelf Dividers

Accessibility also governs the decisions about which items to place in the kitchen cupboards and which to store farther away, say in a pantry or basement food storage place.

Organizing Food Storage Over Time

The final thing to be aware of concerning food storage is that the household’s needs often change over time. The addition of a pet, the birth of a child, a child going off to college, a new roommate, an illness, etc., are all occurrences that can change the dietary priorities in the household. Reviewing the organization periodically can help make sure it’s still working as you would wish, or allow you to make alterations that will improve your system.

Written by Mary Elizabeth

Related Home Institute Articles

  • Closet Organizer Buying Guide