Last week I completed a new Store Cupboard Challenge, and as always working through the daily activities gave me pause for thought. This time around the theme was slightly changed to make it about tidying and re-stocking instead of simply creating more space, so some of the lessons I’ve learned from the exercise have been different from what I’d usually expect.
Day 1 was ‘Quick clean & categorise‘, and the main thing I learned was that a couple of drops of cooking oil can get everywhere on a shelf and they’re a massive pain to clear up, but a good scrub later and it was sparkly clean. A quick check of the cupboard contents showed that nothing had obviously gone off, and there were no problems with damaged packaging or bugs.
A few people in our neighbourhood have been complaining about all sorts of pests including flour weevils, bean beetles, pantry moths and mice recently, so that was quite a relief. If you haven’t emptied your cupboards for a while then I definitely recommend checking them properly, just in case.
Moving on to the use by dates on Day 2, I found some flour that had gone just past its best before date but it was still okay to use (‘best before’ isn’t the same as the more important ‘use by’), and there was a packet of veggie sausage mix and a bag of TVP that each only had a month left to go.
I need to get baking, and will probably make some kind of veggie lasagne or a stir fry in the next week or two, but it isn’t too bad compared with past tidying sessions so I’ve learned my stock rotation skills must have improved. It’s still been a good reminder that a weekly menu’s important in this house – I can make a sensible plan to use it all up in time.
There was also a small amount of gone-over – okay, slightly ancient – chutney and mayonnaise at the back of the fridge that unfortunately had to go into the food recycling bin, but all things considered there was very little waste.
Days 3, 4, and 5 were about checking the ingredients we have in different categories, so I added three or four things to the general shopping list, including jasmine rice to have with Thai style meals and frozen berries for breakfasts and desserts. I’d say apart from that we have all the basics covered for our regular meals, and for general healthy eating, and I was glad we didn’t need too many extras.
Splitting the food on the shelves into different categories really helps with getting an effective overview, and it saves time on rummaging around looking for anything specific when I’m in a rush or just tired after a long day. That’s probably been the most useful part of the tidying for me and I’ll make more of an effort with it in future.
Day 6, Saturday, was for inventory, planning and finalising the shopping list. I decided we didn’t need to use a full-on inventory app because it’s not like we’re feeding eight kids or running a bed and breakfast – we’ve stocked our cupboard but it isn’t overstocked and you can see everything in it clearly. I’ve definitely learned that keeping the shelves tidy is a money-saver for us, and it also seems to make a varied and balanced diet easier to plan.
However, if you have more stocked up, or it’s in several different places, some kind of spreadsheet, app, whiteboard or notebook would probably be very useful for keeping tabs on everything and preventing food waste.
My main planning was for the coming week of meals, including breakfasts, snacks, packed lunches and weekend food. I also picked up some bits and bobs for Christmas because I always like to spread the cost and the hassle over three months, rather than trying to get everything at the last minute. That’s the longer-lasting foods such as crackers, mixed fruit, cooking brandy, posh crisps, chutney and pickles sorted out anyway.
The shopping is done, instead of putting it off to an indefinite date and ‘getting around to it later’, and the obvious gaps on the shelves are gone so I think that’s mission accomplished here for the 2019 Tidy the Store Cupboard Challenge.