kitchen food storage tips

Pantry food storage in clear jars.

Of course, food takes up a large amount of your kitchen.

Kitchen food storage breaks down into three categories: food that goes in the pantry, cold foods that require refrigeration, and frozen foods that go in the freezer. 

Let's go over each of these areas in turn and look at ways to streamline and organize them.

Create a Kitchen Food Storage Center

No pantry? No problem. If you don't have a built-in food pantry, assign some cabinets to the task to create a kitchen food storage center.

Ideally, choose a few large cabinets close to your refrigerator and stove. Most kitchens have a lot of cabinets and drawers, but they are usually a chaotic mess.

You buy marinara sauce, just to find three jars hidden behind the olive oil. The solution?

Organize your storage, so you know what you have and where you have it. Group foods by type. Don't just stuff items into the first open space you see. Instead, stock foodstuff in the same place each time, grouping like items. 

In my pantry, I put crackers, chips, and other snack foods on the highest shelf not easily in reach;  cereal and other breakfast items on the second shelf.

Pasta, pasta sauces, and boxed pasta and rice mixes on the third shelf; canned vegetables and fruit on the fourth; and soups and canned beans on the bottom.

This way, I can tell at a glance what I have and what I need to buy. If there's no oatmeal on the second shelf, I know there is no oatmeal in the house.

Put rarely used items on the tallest shelves and in the back of cabinets. Put your family's favorite foods in the middle, at eye level. Heavy items such as cans go near the bottom.

Space-Saving Tips for Kitchen Food Storage 

  • Use lazy Susans, pull out shelving, and wire racks to maximize kitchen food storage space. 
  • Repackage shelf hogs. Get rid of half-empty cartons of cereal and place the cereal in smaller air-tight plastic containers. Then label them with the contents and the expiration date. Unlike wine, foods don't get better with age!
  • Place drawer liners in drawers to keep contents from slipping and sliding around. You'll berewarded when you carefully divide everything up, using varying sizes of  storage containers to house your stuff, and the stuff actually stays that way.

This also makes it easy for you to wipe off the dust that naturally settles there.

Store bulk purchases - you know, the 17 boxes of pasta, 40 cans of chicken noodle soup, and 100 rolls of paper towels you got for a steal at the club store - in the garage or downstairs in the basement.

Call this your overflow pantry, and use it to replenish your supplies as needed.

Kitchen Food Storage: in the Refrigerator

Essentially, no food benefits from storage. You want to eat everything as fresh as you can. Since we can't all tromp out to the garden to harvest produce for each meal, here are some guidelines for helping your fridge function at its best.

  • To keep food from spoiling in the refrigerator, the temperature needs to be between 34 F and 40 F. You can't depend on the little gauge (1-5) in the fridge. Get a refrigerator thermometer. 
  • Some parts of your refrigerator are colder than others. The meat compartment at the bottom is designed to store meat, so put meat there. Not only is this the coldest area, but if a package leaks, it won't contaminate other foods.
  • The door is the warmest part of the refrigerator. This is the best place for nonperishables (sodas) - not perishables like eggs.
  • Don't put hot food in the refrigerator. Bring it to room temperature before refrigerating it. Hot food can cause refrigerator temperatures to drop. 
  • On the other hand, don't leave food out too long, either. Refrigerate prepared food within two hours of cooking (one hour in the summer).
  • Don't overload the refrigerator. Parties are a dangerous time because you cram a lot of food into the frige, and then you're continually opening the door. Turn the temperature down during these occasions to keep the food cold. 
  • Cover foods tightly. Leave meats in their original packaging to prevent spreading bacteria.
  • Don't store breads, cookies, or most types of cakes in the refrigerator; they will become stale.

Frozen Food Storage

Freezing food will keep it from spoiling, but the quality will still deteriorate over time. Use frozen foods as soon as possible, and follow these guidelines:

  • Don't refreeze foods.
  • Mark the date on foods when you put them in the freezer.
  • Don't rely on the little freezer gauge (1-5). Buy a thermometer instead. The freezer should be kept at 0 F to 5 F.
  • Freeze only fresh foods.
  • Wrap foods tightly.

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