Pitch expired, stale, and unappetizing items, then group what's left into categories that make sense for your family.
- Trash it: If packaging is open and unsealed, you should probably toss it. Crackers, cereals, cookies, and other baked goods simply don't stay fresh for more than a few days unless they're sealed tightly. The same goes for anything beyond its expiration date. Throw or give away items you don't like or won't use. (This is your chance to get rid of the gluten-free pasta you hated or that jar of too-hot salsa.)
- Sort what's left: The categories you use while sorting can be anything, as long as they're meaningful to your family. Maybe snacks are separated into "sweet" and "salty" piles, or all sandwich-making supplies stay together.
- Write it down: While sorting, take the time to write down the categories on index cards or sticky notes. This may seem like overkill, but writing down your categories keeps you on task. You can always change the categories later if you need to.
- Stay out of the pantry: Resist the urge to start replacing pantry shelves and grouping items within the confines of your pantry. You'll get to that in Step 3.
- Arrange by date: Prioritize multiples of any item (canned soups or veggies, sauces, boxed cereals, dry pastas, and so on) by sorting one step further based on use-by date. Put oldest items in the front or on top of any pile. Signal which items family members should consume first by circling use-by dates.