Pantry Organization

Quite possible the biggest road block we hit in the day is the dreaded “what’s for dinner” question. Not so much that the kids are asking, but neither Jon nor I have made any plans for this meal. As a family we all sit down to this meal 90% of the time, it is not generally so much what the food will be but the experience, that being said, no one enjoys waffles or cereal or an afterthought meal thrown together EVERY night. So what we need is a plan, an organized plan that can smoothly get us through this meal.
Problems that we need to address: ‘The Rut” we need to expand beyond the same old recipes that we have as tried and true stand bys, “The Time” unfortunately with a family of 6 we often do not have a large amount of time to prepare a meal with loads of steps, and hoards of dishes in the aftermath, and lastly “The stash” Jon and I are known offenders of grabbing a few things from the store on most days of the week, this has provided us with a nice supply of staples that we can usually creatively come up with something that will pacify everyone hunger for dinner, but can also lead to waste in excess and no again no firm plan.
Jon is gone for 2 full weeks this month, which gave me the push I needed to detour all 3 of the above problems. I planned out 5 days worth of meals, breakfast, lunch and dinner, including new recipes for dinner and shopped for all of the weeks needs, ( minus a few items that I will buy fresh the day of for a certain recipe). I brought the entire horde of groceries home and went to put them away in our pantry….

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Whoa!! Where in the world was I going to put all these groceries??? What in the world was I thinking, whose stuff is this in the hallway pantry?? The cart was obviously in front of the horse on this plan….

First Problem “the Stash” aka the pantry was no in desperate need of being solved….I set to work immediately.

It took me 3 days, and 2 trips to target since they ran out of the certain bin that I needed, but I successfully made our pantry into an organized, planned evening meal, stash closet in an OCD fashion that I did not even know I was capable of executing.

Our pantry is in a hallway making it very difficult to get a good straight on shot without crawling into the wall, but I think you get a good idea of what is going on with the Stash:

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Top Shelf: Food dehydrator, bread maker, small hand mixer and small crock pot, these are appliances that we do not use on a regular basis.

Lower 2 Shelves: Each of these has 3 green plastic bins, each bin has a designated food, from left to Right: First Shelf: Soups/broths, sauces/dressing, pastas, Second Shelf: baking mixes/cake mixes, canned fruits and veggies (we don’t buy many of these, most of the time we buy fresh), rice.

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Bottom Space: Kitchen aid mixer, large Crockpot and water bottle hoard. We use these appliances at least once a week, and the kids can grab and fill a water bottle anytime. With all our activities I need these to be easily accessible for them.

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The dinner plan is in full effect with these clear bins, I can fit 6 across the top of my second from the top shelf. I have clips on the front of everyone. This is where I clip a dinner recipe and then I put all the dry ingredients needed for the recipe in the bin. Simple I just grab a bin and there are the ingredients and recipe I can either use fresh ingredients I have or pop to the store the day before or morning of and dinner is set.

Here is another bonus to this project, I realized that some of the food on our shelves had expired, that is waste that I am going to try and avoid with proper planning. There is an over flowering box of items ready for the spring garage sale, and a small grocery bag of items to donate.

blog 011 copy              I guess marshmallows do expire??!!  Who knew!

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All for sale!!

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Easy, Beautiful, Inexpensive Teacher Gift

In the words of a dear teacher friend, “please no more coffee mugs…they are great….I love coffee…not that much”. So I asked her what she would really want from her  students as a thank you.

Gift cards to places like Barnes and Noble, this way she can buy books that she can add to her classroom. Also teachers like to read adult non-curriculum books during their break.

Gift cards, to places like Panera or other little shops so she can pick out a fun treat during the summer. Pick one out to a fun boutique in your town, does not have to be much even $10.00 is a treat.

Movie passes so she can see a movie during the summer.

A bottle of wine, or other spirit, perhaps a parent should bring this in, yes teachers like to relax a bit too.

A hanging plant or potted plant that she can put outside to bloom all summer, or get really crafty and put together a small container herb garden.

So here is what we did, we went to Savers’….of course, to buy a vase. There is almost a whole aisle full of flower vases that are donated, the budget 99cents. Whatever one they wanted.

Next stop, Trader Joes’, LOVE this place and their flowers are amazing. $7.99 for each bouquet.

We cleaned the sticker off the bottom of the vase, the kids all trimmed the flowers to fit their vases:

I helped Tanna with her cards…she hepled cut them out;

Solomon went out to the yard and got some Hosta flowers to fill his vase in a bit:

Then they made their own cards, this is truly the sweetest part. I think flowers brighten everyone’s day, I know they will be enjoyed for a bit, and not left on a shelf, and totally not included the paper we had here for the cards, 99 cents for the vase $7.99 for flowers plus a little for the taxman = $9.70….handmade card = priceless…of course.

We also dabble in couponing…amazing Kellogg’s deal!

I always feel like the cook who has a spoon in every single pot….I really just am inspired by so many people and ideas which combined with my love for learning and challenging myself, I set out to mater couponing.  I have to say it is very exciting, but immensely time consuming to really get the deals like they are starting to spotlight on television. 

Because it takes so much time, it like many other proverbial spoons got put back in the drawer, a knowledge that I possess but only take out of the drawer on special occasions. 

This week at our Hy-Vee I hit a little jackpot, the spoon went back into the pot.  They had an in store coupon $4.00 off milk when you bought 4 boxes of Kelloggs Rice Kripsies cereal.  This reminded me that I had peelies for free M & M’s candies when you bought 2 boxes of Rice Krispies, these were peelies that I acquired from Target.  Also to sweeten the pot I had $1.00 off fruit with the purchase of 2 boxes of Kelloggs cereals.  I knew I could do a bit better and went to the Kelloggs website to look at the coupons available and sure enough they had $1.00 off 2 boxes of Rice Krispies.

So let’s recap my arrangement before going to the store:

$4.00 off milk WYB 4 boxes Rice Krispies

2- $1.00 off 2 boxes Rice Krispies

2-$1.00 off fruit WYB 2 boxes Kelloggs cereal

2- Free M & M’s WYB 2 Boxes Rice Krispies  up to $2.99

I also had the Rice Krispies coupon from the newspaper Red Plum insert from April 17th.

There were enough coupons for me and my husband to each do a transaction.

Total for all of this………..

$25.80!!!

The bags in the front were $1.00 each and are poppy seeds from teh bulk section, I think we got about 6 pounds for $2.00!! 

The total bonus to this is that these boxes were marked with codes that can be redeemed on the Kelloggs website here.  Each box has one code 4 codes earns you a $5.oo pre paid visa gas card.  I already entered and sent away for my free $10.00 in gas!!!