A lean kitchen – Quality for life


One of my 30 days of quality commitments was to de-clutter a closet. As I was rifling through an uneven tower of canned tomatoes in the pantry, I decided it was the kitchen that needed this most.

I’m ashamed to say that after further investigation of the tomato cans, some of them had expired in 2011.  The root cause of this issue is the lack of any type of inventory control and no accountability.  We shove stuff in and grab the first thing we see.  To my credit, we did have macro category organization in place.  You always knew where the pasta was going to be!

Anyway, here’s what I did to get things organized:

Reduced waste

I took all of the pantry items out and checked the expiration dates.  I also took this as an opportunity to get rid of the ridiculously unhealthy items, like the leftover Halloween candy.  There was more stuff wasted here in total than I care to say.

Organized stuff

I put some consideration into the Pareto 80/20 concept when restocking.  What are the 20% of foods that we eat the most?  These were the items I put at center level for easy accessibility, like cereal.  Snacks went on the bottom shelf so that the kids could reach them easily without having to perform unstable acrobatics involving chairs.

Implemented an inventory system (FIFO)

Now that everything looked great, I wanted to make sure it stayed that way.  First in, first out is the ideal; anything we put up goes in the back and anything used comes from the front.   The training for this with my kids was quite interesting.

I did consider creating a master list of items that included base quantity info, but I decided the value wasn’t there for the amount of effort that would be required. Maybe in the future though?

Continuous improvement

I did spend some time trying to setup the iPad to manage the inventory and somehow manage recipes without a lot of effort.  As someone that doesn’t enjoy cooking, I would love to have that handful of comfortable options all stored in one place where you could search by ingredient or plan a weekly schedule.  Currently, there are books everywhere that may have one or two recipes with nothing else we’d ever consider consuming, or they include those recipes that you just know but forget about when you’re trying to organize food for the week.  This whole process is incredibly inefficient and requires attention. I haven’t found the solution I’m looking for quite yet, but there are a lot of recipe apps.

More kitchen…

After the pantry was finished, I was so motivated that I decided to keep going with a few of the kitchen cabinets that you’d otherwise want to be careful opening.  The Tupperware cabinet was a balancing act, for sure.  Not now though… It’s all organized. Every bowl has a lid.

Is this sustainable? We’ll see.


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