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Stock the Pantry

With a few pantry basics—and a few foolproof tips—your family will never go hungry again!
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By Jen M.R. Doman

Say adios to wasting money at the drive-thru because you need a quick meal and you've got nothing to make! Keep your kitchen stocked with all the right foods to make a delicious meal in a hurry. It's easy with these tips and ideas. Quick tip: Keep a printed version of these pantry, refrigerator and freezer charts on your fridge!

CUPBOARDS: Four easy tips to organize your pantry

  1. Group similar items together. Then label the shelves (pasta & grains, soup, tea) so you've got a visual cue about what exactly you're running low on.
  2. Stock the top shelf with dry foods that are specifically for guests that pop in. Things like assorted crackers, jarred spreads, anchovies and olives can be quickly used to make something in a hurry.
  3. Contrary to popular belief, spices do have a shelf life. Once a year, toss any spices that have lost their original smell.
  4. Put pastas, dry beans, rice and flour in clear air-tight containers. Label them with the date you purchased them. Dry foods that have been kept too long start to lose their color and can form grain mites. (Yuck!)

REFRIGERATOR: Four steps to a perfectly organized fridge

  1. After a shopping trip, place newer items at the back of the fridge. That way, older items in the front will get used first — before they expire.
  2. Give it a once-over once a week. To avoid science experiments from taking over your fridge, once a week throw out any items that just don’t belong anymore, like uneaten leftovers.
  3. Help out your diet. If you're dieting or just trying to eat healthier, put lower-calorie foods on the shelf that is eye level, and richer foods on lower shelves.
  4. Recreate your supermarket’s storage system. If they don’t have something refrigerated, do the same at home. (For example, tomatoes and most fruits don't need to be refrigerated, but most vegetables do.)

FREEZER: Four ideas for stocking your freezer

  1. Need more room? If storage containers take up too much space, use foil instead. Then add a strip of colored tape to label what's inside (i.e., red for steak, blue for fish). Quick tip: Stickers don’t work as well as tape in the freezer.
  2. Not enough shelves? Just add one! Measure the length and height of your freezer and install a freestanding shelf that’s typically used in a cupboard.
  3. Consolidate. No need to have three bags of peas — put the same items together.

Make the most use of your well-stocked pantry, fridge and freezer with quick and tasty recipes.