She reorganized the pantry to reduce food waste at home

With the help of a label maker, this mom is reorganizing foods by expiration date instead of type.

It’s 7:30 a.m. and my label maker is stressing me out.

Actually, it’s not the label maker’s fault. I didn’t sleep well the night before, which is what happens if I read the news at bedtime.

Plus, when I walk into the kitchen this morning, I encounter the disaster I made the day before. Stuff is everywhere — art supplies, paper towels, boxes of cereal and canned goods. There’s no place to sit at the table because every inch is covered.

A mother’s most basic role is to feed her children, and that job seems more challenging than ever. Some people are facing devastating income loss, many of us are cooking each meal at home and everyone is encountering new guidelines at the grocery store like one-way aisles and seniors-only hours.

Then, there are challenges happening in America that are entirely out of a mother’s control, like COVID-19 impacting meat packaging plants in Washington and frozen food plants in Oregon. No wonder I’m worried about the disruption to our nation’s food supply chain.

I push a stack of old grocery sacks off a chair, and sit down at the kitchen table, determined to fix my label maker. It’s stuck on a label that says: “EXP Summer 2021.”

See, my grand idea for conquering my worry is to reorganize my pantry by expiration date, instead of type. That way I will reduce waste and also have a better handle on how much food I have on hand. We can’t eat cash or political promises, but we can eat pantry goods.

My kitchen is set up to accommodate one week’s worth of groceries, not two. Storing a normal amount of groceries, plus a couple of weeks extra, means thinking outside the kitchen.

My 1984 house doesn’t have a pantry, but it does have a small storage cabinet near the family room. Normally I use it for art supplies and cleaning products. Now I’m converting it to a food cupboard.

I grew up in Southern California where it was drilled into me the importance of being prepared for earthquakes. The pandemic is a different type of disaster impacting our economy, and I want to be ready for rising prices and food shortages. I also want to support my local food bank.

There… success! I push the print button and a label spits out. I continue to organize the cupboard and plan.

If meat becomes too expensive or unavailable, what will people buy instead? Probably protein foods like tuna fish, nuts and beans. That might mean those prices could shoot up next. I made a mental note to add a small amount of those items to my next grocery list, just in case. Then I take a step back and inspect my work.

There are not many things I can control right now, but it gives me peace to know that I have peanut butter and jelly.

Jennifer Bardsley publishes books under her own name and the pseudonym Louise Cypress. Find her online on Instagram @the_ya_gal, on Twitter @jennbardsley or on Facebook as The YA Gal. Email her at teachingmybabytoread@gmail.com.

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