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Eliminate Food Waste While Keeping A Well Stocked Pantry

Have you ever tried to keep a well stocked pantry but realized that in doing this, you have a lot of items that never get used and go past their expiration date? If this happens to you, this article will help you to not only keep a well stocked pantry but also teach you how to eliminate food waste at the same time!

In my article,  How To Stay Organized At Home The Japanese Way, part of being organized at home is to have a Grocery List That Matches Your Family’s Needs whether it’s food, pantry supplies, personal hygiene items or cleaning supplies. A well stocked pantry does not mean that you have so many supplies that you need to have another room to put everything in order. It only means that you have the right amount of supplies that match your family’s needs. By doing this, you will also eliminate food waste because you will avoid having an items that have reached or passed their  expiration date before they even get consumed.

In this article, I will share with you step by step guidelines that will help you to come up with a grocery list that matches your family’s needs and will eventually lead to food waste reduction all while keeping a well stocked pantry.

8 Guidelines To Have A Well-Stocked Pantry

These 8 guidelines to have a well-stocked pantry will require you to start gathering data using the forms I created to help you to identify your pantry must haves.  The forms will help you to have a systematic way to gather data and make it easier for you to understand what you need and what you do not need. Thus to avoid any form of wastage whether its food, time, space or money!

1. Pantry Recipe List – List of Pantry Items That You Consistently Use

This step will require to write down all the supplies that make up your menu items for the meals that you ROUTINELY cook for your family, using the PANTRY RECIPE LIST. Write all of your particular meat recipes on the list  under “(type of meat) RECIPES”.  So where it says “type of meat”, place the type of meat such as chicken, pork, beef etc.. in that spot. Then list the corresponding pantry supplies that make up each recipe under the “Pantry Items” column. You can fill out the form by putting a check marked or put the amount needed as shown in the illustration below:

Note: The amount needed for each pantry item for each recipe is good information to have in order for you to know how much you need to buy in order to avoid running out of stock or to avoid overstocking.  But I will not discuss this in detail because it will be for another topic.

Use the OTHER PANTRY ESSENTIAL LIST form to write down other items that are not found in your pantry recipe list such as:

    • Items that you usually buy on a weekly basis such as store bought desserts, bread, seasonal fruits, coffee and others.
    • Items that have a LONGER SHELF LIFE  that are nice to have a more stock on hand (on a minimum quantity) for your occasional cravings like 2 cans of black beans for your black bean burger recipe that you only cook when your cravings kick-in or a bag of Asian glass noodles when your family misses Chinese take out.

By doing this, your pantry items are not only limited to what you usually cook but you will also have the items that will satisfy your occasional cravings. Once you have completed both forms all of the pantry items that you have listed on the pantry recipe list and other pantry essential list will now be considered as your pantry item MUST HAVES!

2. Remove Everything Out/Decluttering

After you have identified your pantry item must haves, the next step is to take inventory of what items you have stored in your pantry and the easiest way to do this is to remove everything out of the pantry. Take this as an opportunity to get your pantry organized. It’s like hitting two birds with one stone, taking inventory of your pantry items while performing the de-cluttering process to get your pantry organized! Besides, an organized pantry is a prerequisite of having a well stocked pantry.

Remove everything out, also known as the “Sorting Process” of the Japanese 5S System is always the very first thing that you need to undertake to get yourself organized. It is the process of identifying items that you need and items that you do not need. Throwing out things that you do not need to make a space for all the items that you need. Aside from that, by removing everything out of your pantry, it will give you an instant inventory of the following which will be vital information to having a well stocked pantry:

    • supplies that are about to expire
    • supplies that have already expired
    • supplies that you have not used for a while
    • supplies that you have overstocked

From doing this you will to get the following information that you will need to make a grocery list based on your family’s needs:

    • supplies TO KEEP
    • supplies NOT TO STOCK (supplies that you buy only when needed)
    • supplies that you should STOP BUYING (supplies you found that are not for you)
    • supplies that you need to BUY LESS to avoid overstocking

3. Pantry List – List of Your Existing Pantry Supplies

After you removed everything out from your pantry, examine all your supplies by filling out the Pantry List Form.Write your pantry items under the Pantry Items Column and its corresponding quantity or amount. Check the expiration date of each item to know the following:

    • Quantity of Items that near its expiration date (under the Near EXP column)
    • Quantity of Items that already expired (under EXP column)
    • Quantity of Items that within its shelf life (under the OK column)


4. New Pantry List – A Must Haves List To Have A Well Stocked Pantry

Now you need to compare the PANTRY LIST that you accomplished during the “Remove Everything Out” process to the PANTRY RECIPE LIST that you came up with when you listed your family’s favorite recipes in step 1. Use the PANTRY RECIPE LIST during the consolidation process by filling out the “NOTE” section.

    • All items listed in the PANTRY RECIPE LIST that are found in the PANTRY LIST should be marked under the “KEEP” column.
    • All items listed in the PANTRY RECIPE LIST that are Not found in the PANTRY LIST should be added in the PANTRY LIST FORM and marked under the “KEEP” column.
      • Exemption to the Rule – All perishable items should be marked as “NOT TO STOCK”, items that you only need to buy when needed, even the item is found in the PANTRY RECIPE LIST.
    • All items listed in the PANTRY LIST that are not found in the PANTRY RECIPE LIST should be categorize as follows:
      • Under the “NOT TO STOCK” column –  items that you do not need to have a stock or to keep on hand. These are items that you will buy as the need arises to avoid food expiration before they get consumed.
      • Under the “STOP BUYING” column –  items that you found that reached their expiration date before they were consumed, items that you identified that are not for you or food that you and your family ended up not liking.
      • For items under the “BUY LESS” column – items that you have on both your pantry recipe list and pantry list however you overstocked them so that some of the items are almost near expiration date or already expired.

Another Example:

Well Stocked Pantry

Let’s use the illustration above as an example. Let’s say that during the Pantry List data gathering you found out that you have inventory of 7 items namely, whole wheat flour, bread flour, tapioca flour, cake flour, self rising flour, baking soda and yeast, that you put under the baking category. Then when you compared this with your Pantry Recipe List, you realized that you have not been baking for a while or you just never have time to bake and ended up just buying a store bought dessert.

So the next step is to make a note of those items by filling out the “Note” column of the Pantry List and mark those items under “NOT TO STOCK”, items that you will only buy when the need arises. For the Whole Wheat Flour, you mark it under “STOP BUYING” because you found out that you did not like the item at all.

Well Stocked Pantry

After doing this, now it is time for you to create a NEW PANTRY LIST by transferring or rewriting all of the items that you marked under the “KEEP” column and some of the items under “NOT TO STOCK” category in the Pantry List into the NEW PANTRY LIST form.

    • Items under the “KEEP” category – these are the pantry supplies that make up your menu items that you routinely cook and menu items (items with longer shelf life) that you would like to cook once in a while or when the cravings kick-in.Well Stocked Pantry
    • Items under the “NOT TO STOCK” category- these are the pantry items under “PRODUCE” section that are found in your PANTRY RECIPE LIST but because they’re perishable items, you only need to buy them when you need them. Thus to avoid food wastage.

Identify the Allocated Stock Quantity or the number of bottles, bags, jar or pieces of your must have items that you want to have in your pantry and consider the following:

    • Consider all the items that you marked under the “BUY LESS” category during the pantry list data gathering. It will help to know what item you need to buy less to avoid food that gets expired first before it is consumed.
    • Consider how much you and your family consumed per pantry item, its shelf life and your storage space. Remember, if you want to stock up on your pantry must haves be sure to know that all of them will be consumed before they expire. However, if you do not have a space to store those pantry must haves, then it means that you only need to buy that item based on its allocated stock quantity. You can make a few exceptions every now and then but do not make this a habit. Buying too many items and going beyond your storage capacity will lead to a disorganized pantry. Remember, an organized pantry is the prerequisite of having a well stocked pantry.

After this step, you will now identify pantry items that you MUST HAVE in order for you to have a WELL STOCKED PANTRY. You will also notice when comparing your previous pantry list with your new pantry list that you will immediately know how many items that you do not need to buy or if you have the opposite (having an empty pantry) you will immediately identify what items you need to buy and what items to stock up on based on your PANTRY RECIPE LIST and OTHER PANTRY ESSENTIALS.

5. Find A Place For Everything and Everything In Its Place!

This is the perfect time for you to find a place for your pantry must haves and put everything in its place. See my article, Pantry Organization Ideas and Guidelines, to know the step by step procedure on how to find a place for everything, storing them and arranging your pantry essentials based on Function (group items with similar use or function), Frequency of Use (categorize each group based on how often you use them) and lastly, Location (allocate a accessible spot for items that you frequently use).

6. A Grocery List That Matches Your Family’s Needs

After finding a place for everything and putting everything in its place, use the New Pantry List to make a grocery list template. This is a list that consists of items that you consistently use for cooking your family’s food staples and some other pantry items that will satisfy your once in a while cravings menu also known as A GROCERY LIST THAT MATCHES YOUR FAMILY’S NEEDS.Having a grocery list that is based on your family’s needs will help to avoid having expired items in your pantry and supplies that will never put to use and are just occupying your pantry space. It will also help you to avoid impulse purchases of items that are on sale because you know how much you need and how much you can store in your pantry. Therefore, it will help you not only to have a well stocked pantry, but also help you to maintain an organized pantry.

7. Plan Your Family Meal Based On Pantry Recipe List

Planning your family meal ahead of time is always recommended especially if you like to spend within a certain budget aside from making sure that you have the right amount of pantry supplies when the time comes for you to cook your family’s favorite meal. The best way is to plan your meal on a monthly basis which will help you to spread out those meals to have food variety. Then after that, break this down into a weekly meal plan which will help you to know what and when to buy perishable items within a particular week. This step will help to make sure that you will able to use those items before they become stale.

Well Stocked PantryWell Stocked Pantry

8. Put Your Grocery List Into Action To Have A Well Stocked Pantry

Once you have planned your meal, grab your grocery list template and go to your pantry to check what items needs to be replenished. This is where your pantry label will play a big role in identifying items that you need to buy to keep a well stocked pantry.  Pantry labels when you used properly, will help you to know the following:

    • Pantry staples that need to be replenished – every time you see an almost empty basket assigned for a particular item, it indicates that you are running low on stock.
    • Pantry Labels will direct you to locate items as well as where the item needs to be returned or to put into place.

Use your grocery list template and mark the corresponding items that you need to buy. It will help you not to forget any items that you need to have and it will help you to always have a well stocked pantry!

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