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

Talk to us

More in Life

Pandemic brings the Adventure-O-Meter to an all-time low

From near-misses with crow poop to scoring bleach at the pharmacy, this is what passes for excitement.

Unusually large flocks of swifts visiting Monroe this summer

Vaux’s swifts, which migrate in spring and fall, are roosting at the Wagner chimney after gorging on insects, a local expert says.

2020 Toyota RAV4 TRD Off-Road gives lineup extra trail cred

The newest model to join Toyota’s compact SUV family builds on the existing RAV4 Adventure model.

Rick Steves’ memories of fado, the mournful blues of Lisbon

For an authentic experience, you have to seek out the city’s rustic neighborhoods after dark.

The hardy fuchsia “Voltaire” is one the few fuchsias that can take full sun all day. (Nicole Phillips)
Eight perennials to add to the garden for summer-long enjoyment

July is a great time to fill in those blank spots with long-blooming perennials. (Yes, it is OK to plant in the summer.)

Outdoors classes and activities around Snohomish County

Some of the events listed here are contingent on whether each jurisdiction… Continue reading

PUD program now helps 10% more customers pay their bills

Changes to the PUD’s Income Qualified Assistance Program ensure more people will get the help they need.

Author events and poetry readings around Snohomish County

Events listed here are contingent on whether each jurisdiction is approved to… Continue reading

Hosta ‘Krossa Regal’ has blue foliage from late spring through early fall. In summer, tall flower spikes bear lavender blooms. (Richie Steffen)
Great Plant Pick: Hosta ‘Krossa Regal’ aka ‘Ginba Giboshi’

This hosta has blue foliage from late spring through early fall. In summer, tall flower spikes bear lavender blooms.

Most Read