Spring Cleaning:  Sprucing up the Pantry

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By Cindy Edwards

An organized pantry is a key ingredient to a well-run home—especially if you are a busy mom.  When your shelves are haphazardly crammed with items, it can be hard to see what you actually have.  Spending just an hour cleaning and rearranging your pantry can improve your effectiveness in the kitchen—and save time and money.

Imagine being able to pull out a recipe, and, within seconds, know exactly what ingredients you are missing.  A well-stocked and planned pantry allows a cook to take a quick inventory and avoid harried, last- minute trips to the grocery store in the midst of meal preparation.

Here are a few quick and easy tips for organizing your pantry.

1. Remove everything and wipe down the shelves.


2. Check expiration dates and throw out anything too old to use.
3. Purchase airtight/sealable jars for sugar, flour, pasta, cereal, etc.


4. Organize your shelves according to frequency of use and group items in sections.  (spices, oils, vegetables, etc.)


5. Make a list/inventory of what you have and what you need.
6. Reserve a special place for items that you can buy in bulk. (paper towels, tissue, etc.) 

My top ten pantry staples:
1. Flour
2. Pasta
3. Sugar
4. Olive oil
5. Tomato sauce/diced tomatoes/frequently used canned vegetables
6. Chicken broth/soups
7. Spices
8. Tuna
9. Peanut butter and jelly
10.  Vinegars

Consider going to a large discount warehouse and purchasing certain products in bulk. Remember, this saves money only when it is an item that you use frequently and one that will not spoil quickly.  I just stocked up on a case of canned tomato sauce because I know that I use it almost every week. However, I do not buy perishables in bulk unless I know that I will have company. I also do not buy large cans of soups and broths because once they are opened they expire in a matter of days.

Easy “Pantry-Style” Chicken Tortilla Soup
You will need:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onions
2 cans (14.5 oz.) chicken broth
1 can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes
1 pound chicken breast, cooked and chopped
1 can (14.5 oz.) favorite beans (I use black), drained and rinsed
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 cups crushed corn tortilla chips
1/3 cup cilantro leaves, dried or fresh

Heat oil in medium pot and add onions. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Add broth, tomatoes, chicken breast, beans and spices.  Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.  To serve, ladle into bowl and top with crushed chips and cilantro.  Enjoy!

* I keep a bag of chopped onions and chicken breasts in my freezer, which makes this soup extra easy and quick!

Spring is here, so set aside a day for spring cleaning.  Throw out the things that you have not used or donate them to a charity or shelter. Whether it is your pantry or your closet, let this change of seasons motivate you to get organized.

As always, thanks for reading.

Properly yours,


Cindy Edwards embodies everything pretty, perky and proper about the South. She's a wife, mother, volunteer and freelance writer. Cindy volunteers enough hours to exhaust most by serving on the Board of Trustees for the Telfair Museums, the Savannah Book Festival Board of Directors and the University of Georgia Honors Advisory Board. She has also served on the Boards of the March of Dimes and Young Life Savannah. Cindy has been married to her college sweetheart, Dr. Joe Edwards III, for 25 years and is the proud mother of two sons: Joe IV, a senior at the University of Georgia, and Jack, a freshman at Ole Miss. No matter how busy, Cindy always makes time for a competitive game of bridge.
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Reader Comments:


I am just beginning to cook again, now that I'm retired. Your list of ten ingredients for the pantry is helpful to me. Now I just have to reorganize my miniscule pantry (three cabinets) and get going.

By Allie from Albany on February 05, 2014


Love these tips Cindy! Can't wait to try this recipe - it's a great one for the entire family.

By Winslet on April 25, 2013


Great tips...I am going to put this on my to-do list asap. Can't wait to try the "pantry-style" chicken soup as well. I look forward to your next blog. Michelle

By Michelle on April 22, 2013


Thanks for another useful blog. I look forward to each one. You've inspired me to scrutinize my pantry! Thanks, too, for the recipe.

By Viki Curtis on April 21, 2013


Great ideas and such useful information. Thanks Cindy!

By Linda on April 20, 2013


Cindy, I always enjoy your blog. This is a good one re cleaning and organizing. After 54 years of married life, I think I've finally gotten it down. Since Eston and I both are retired, it takes both of us to keep the house in order but we both enjoy each others company and that's a good thing. Keep writing and we'll keep reading. Blessings from our house to yours.

By Ann Price on April 18, 2013


This blog has many useful tips. I like your idea of buying in bulk and then storing in air tight containers. Organizing the pantry will save time when looking for ingredients for a recipe and organizing a clothes closet (especially children's closet)will definitely be helpful to save time in the mornings. The ten pantry staples and items for chicken tortilla soup recipe are already on my grocery list. Thanks for the yummy recipe and great ideas!!! Looking forward to the next post!!

By Anne on April 17, 2013


Spring Cleaning! It's always spring in Savannah. And I'm always cleaning but it is futile. But people that know me know they're gonna get what they're gonna get by on dropping in on me. I could be painting a mural, painting pictures with bottles of paint in every room. And southern, well Dale's family came over with Oglethorpe to plan the city. I'm not the best cook ( I like to put cream cheese and 1/2 and 1/2 in my mashed potatoes ) but I've inherited recipes from long time ago, long. I feel like a Hoarder with all the historical stuff I have boxes of stuff my attic, closets, under beds, etc. I could have my own little Savannah and surrounding areas Historic Society. Well, society might be a little over stating it. But Cindy, of all the things around Savannah that I'm proudest of is teaching my children that there is a true Southern value, and their Grandmother would not be happy if she found them rude, crass, selfish,not giving back to their community. Hope Jack is well and the Docs not working too hard. XOXO, Jan PS this is my very first BLOG. This is a blog isn't it. J

By Jan Johnson on April 14, 2013


Very useful tips! My pantry is in dire need of attention so thanks for the encouragement. You have an open invitation to reorganize mine! 🍴

By Bernice on April 13, 2013

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Paula, I love watching you and your family. I miss seeing your show, I watched you everyday. My son lives in Charleston S.C. He took me to the Lady & Sons to eat. Oh my goodness! People are always telling me that I look just like the cooking lady Paula Deen. I always tell them that you are my hero. May God Bless You Mary Ann
Mary Ann Tharp in A Summer of Burgers on August 15, 2014 at 10:48 pm

Add a few spoonfuls of parmesan cheese to the flour and cornmeal breading and it kicks the tomatoes up another notch. Bev
in Crispy Fried Green Tomatoes on August 15, 2014 at 10:33 am

I just bought Paula's Peach Salad Dressing and wondered if anyone has a good recipe that they use it in?
Melissa in Taste Testing 101 on August 13, 2014 at 8:36 am

Congrats Bobby. Loved the family picture miss you Paula on TV will be watching online. Jack is getting big. Looks like his mom but Matt aka moose has your face. Your eyes cheeks hair even falls to his face like yours except to the left. Good luck on your next venture. You give us other 60+ yr women strength to move on. Keep up the good work.
Carol Bryant in Love at Last on August 11, 2014 at 6:12 pm