Project Simplify, week 2: the pantry & fridge

Feel better about getting a hotspot accomplished in your home? I do. Didn’t get a chance to tackle last week’s? No worries at all. Today, we’re starting a new one for the week.

Head to the kitchen, because this week we’ll declutter, clean, and organize the pantry and fridge. And I mentioned this during last year’s Project Simplify, but it’s worth repeating: there’s an aspect of physical, mental, and habitual clutter we’ll be clearing here.

This may seem easy to you—great. If you don’t feel the need to rework your food storage areas, focusing on another part of the kitchen—some cabinets, or your countertops, perhaps.

Or maybe you need to start from scratch, toss a bunch of stuff, and start with a fresh plate of real, quality, seasonal food.
Either way, there’s something for everyone in this week’s project.

Our food

I’m a big believer in eating seasonally, locally, and in putting actual food into our bodies, not stuff made in a lab. But eating this way doesn’t have to be complicated, nor does it require a complete conversion in lifestyle.

If you mostly rely on boxed, prepackaged food, might I encourage you to try two weeks of eating from scratch? Then repeat this two-week menu again—a full month of eating real food. See how you feel.

I love desserts as much as the next gal, but we make a big deal out of it when we make them, so that it’s special. We put on music, cook together, and sit down with plates and forks to savor our concoction. Don’t feel like you have to completely swear off chocolate for kale—it’s all about moderation and quality ingredients.

There are so many good resources available to help you re-think our food system—here are a few places to start. (Please note that I can’t vouch for every single thing endorsed or prescribed with these resources, but they’re good on the whole.)



Documentaries on Netflix:

My plan

We eat well, for the most part, but we could do better. Since we moved to Oregon, we’ve sorta been on survival mode—in all our moving, we’ve learned that it takes awhile to locate the best sources for food. Plus, it takes awhile to completely move into a house, so sometimes, creating new recipes and having a completely organized pantry isn’t always first on the list.

Our current home is temporary, and we knew that the day we moved in. I haven’t given much attention to the pantry and fridge, I’ll confess. But we’re moving soon—to a longer-term home (for us, anyway), and I know it’ll be easier to set up an inspiring cooking environment with a well-stocked, well-organized kitchen.

So my focus will be on shaping up our food storage, tossing the old stuff, and inventorying what we need. I’ll also use this week to research the right CSA, meat, and egg sources in our area.

Your turn

Like last week, you’ll have Friday and Saturday to upload your before and after photos. A number of you have asked if it’s okay to not have “before” photos. You don’t need to take any photos at all, of course—if you want to silently and steadily follow along from home, you’re most welcome.

But if you want to be entered for this week’s giveaway, then yep, you’ll need to show us both your before and after shots. Nothing complicated—just a quick snapshot is fine.

On Sunday, I’ll draw the winners for this week’s prize—ten copies of my friend Joy‘s new cookbook, the Joy the Baker Cookbook! I’ll share more details about this scrumptious book on Friday—I love it already. And I’ll also share ideas on how to organize your pantry logically, use what you have, and make it as easy as possible to eat well.

What part of your kitchen will you focus on this week?

Update: See my before and after photos from this week’s hotspot here!

Tsh Oxenreider

Tsh is the founder of this blog and just finished traveling around the world with her husband and 3 kids. Her latest book is Notes From a Blue Bike, and believes a passport is one of the world's greatest textbooks.

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  1. Don’t have this one done yet, like last week! I’m hoping to get my pantry + fridge in order, although it may end up just being the pantry. We’re heading to the east coast on Saturday, so its my last chance to participate in Project Simplify before it ends! The prize is very appealing, even though I eat archerfriendly, all of Joy’s content is just pleasurable to look at and read.

  2. In this casa it will be the neglected pantry and freezer. (They are both just as they were when the men moved them last summer…meaning shoved on a shelf however it fits! hehe)

  3. I need to clean out my plastic storage dungeon. My mother keeps giving me ridiculously specialized storage containers. One for capsicum anyone? And I never use them, and I hate to throw them out or pass them on in case she asks about them. I’m going to just go ahead and collect them all up and donate them. And then hope like hell she never needs to store a capsicum at my house….

  4. I like your style and how u write!
    It’s a dream to keep it all organised but with my family around not to manny chances.

  5. I can’t wait to get started! And just a few months ago I simply quit eating sugar and kept up my exercising routine and I’ve already lost 14lbs. I tell people that if they could just give up one thing, it should be sugar. It does way more damage than good. In replacement of it when we do need a little sweet something, I use Coconut Crystals. But I always say, don’t take my word for it, do the research yourself. Thanks for all the links!

  6. This week’s project is perfectly timed for me because my family is getting ready to start the 10 Days of Real Food challenge from the 100 Days of Real Food blog. My freezer and pantry are less than inspiring at the moment, so that’s where I’ll focus my efforts. I’ll also be doing a lot of “real food” shopping to get us ready for the challenge.

  7. How I love Joy’s website! I’d love to win.
    I need organization of my food storage – all the pyrex and plastic tumble out of my cupboards. This is the week!

  8. Now I am super excited about this week to win one of Joy’s cookbooks. I love her podcasts.
    I would add The Unhealthy Truth by Robyn O’Brien to the reading list. This helps explain why it’s so important to eat read food and read labels. Grocery shopping was never the same for me after that.

  9. I was unexpectedly out of town last week but I’m ready to get going on this project. The fridge is in desparate need of cleaning out and the counters…well they may or may not get done but we can hope!

  10. My whole kitchen needs a redo! I’ll start with the fridge/freezer and my pantry area and move on to my cabinets and storage. Coffee cups anyone? I have entirely too many. This is the week to send most of them packing! And this time there will be pictures! 🙂

  11. The Joy the Baker cookbook looks amazing! I’m going to work on reorganizing my pantry, and then my tupperware cupboard.

    I let Eleanor play in that cupboard, so it’s always a disaster & it’s difficult to find matching lids, but I’m going to try to come up with a method where she can have fun but I can still find things!

  12. We do a fairly good job of eating “real food” at home, but there’s always room for improvement! In addition to eating whole, I encourage everyone to research local options. For the past 3 months we’ve had weekly delivery of milk and eggs from a local farm. The taste is unbeatable and the cost is actually LOWER than what our grocery store charges for their organic milk and eggs.

    I’ve just cleaned out our cupboards and fridge, so this week I’ll be focusing on our laundry room, which doubles as our pantry. It’s been bothering me for a while and the weather is going to be perfect to throw open the windows and get down to business!

  13. I was just lamenting how badly my fridge needs some attention! This will be a good chance to tackle it!

  14. Since I am separating soon, I will wait for the cabinets redo to have half the stuff. Right now, chucking food and using up the rest sounds like a good plan!

  15. I so need to find the time to clean out both my pantry and my fridge. I try to do it a little bit at a time. On grocery day I clean out the old things from the previous week, but sometimes I get behind on that. I’ll turn my focus to the fridge this week. It needs a good scrub!

  16. I plan to tackle my kitchen pantry. It’s not so much a pantry as one shelf filled with random bottles, cans and knick-knacks, and it’s high so it makes it especially hard to search for that canola oil that I know I just have (but can’t seem to find and now must go out and buy another one of… sigh).

  17. I’m itching to organize the fridge and pantry this week, perfect timing! I may tackle the countertops as well.

  18. Perfect timing! I have been talking to my husband, the chef in our home, about trying to cook from scratch for two weeks. Looking forward to kicking it off with a de-cluttering and recipe overhaul.

  19. I really need to focus on my kitchen island and countertops. I think I have those…somewhere under all of that stuff. If I can also get to my cabinet that has a jumbled mess of mismatched food storage containers, that would be great, too.

    I am cautiously optimistic that I can get it done this week!

  20. I try to be like Flylady and clean my fridge every week- but I need to get a bit more radical- and stock a better pantry (for example- I have four bottles of vanilla…blush)

  21. Ahhh! I love Joy the Baker and want her book bad. Last week I participated but didn’t shoot any before and afters. I will be snaping my shots this week!
    Areas I need to work on cleaning out the fridge and getting rid of old food. The pantry could use some reorganzing. Things get out of place. The medicine cabinet is also in the Kitchen, it could use some attention. And also and overall cleaning of floors, cabinets, and appliances. This might take all week. Thanks for getting us motivated to organize and simplify our lives:)

  22. My blog partner, Amy Baranski, started this challenge with you last week and now I am hooked in as well. I can’t resist a good challenge!
    -I will clean out my fridge, as it has been on my list of things to do for a while now.
    -I will figure out a way to not only organize my containers, but to also make sure it is a way that is easy to maintain. I feel like I could do this chore daily and by nightfall, all the containers are falling out of the cupboard if it is opened.
    -I will make a menu for the week and stick to it. I used to do this all the time, and it feels really good to have a kitchen full of healthy, fresh food that you know will be eaten and not found rotting in the fridge two weeks later.

    Good luck, everyone!
    (Sorry for the double post, I got it on the wrong page the first time! ooops)

  23. Depending on where in Oregon you are located, there should be plenty of sources for good quality food! I certainly miss that, having moved to Las Vegas two years ago. It was a bit hard to find at first, because we lived in the Eugene area and they are all about small businesses. I had to go to so many different shops to find everything. Kind of a pain. Would have been nice if they had a Whole Foods, but they fought it and won. There are so many local sources of good quality meats and dairy, though. Lots of great farms or farmers markets as well!

  24. I’m not participating in the de-clutter deal cause we’re moving THIS WEEK actually, so it’s happening quite naturally to get rid of and organize our stuff. But, with that said, no photos cause it’d be how it was before…and then an empty cabinet! haha That would look more organized, but isn’t really fair I suppose 🙂

    Anywho, I wanted to say that I’m seriously excited to hear how you suggest organizing your pantry cause I’ll actually have one in our new house. It’s a bit of an upgrade, but I want to use my space well. So I am really looking forward to reading about that!

    For everyone participating in the de-cluttering project – way to go! You can separate yourselves from stuff! If it doesn’t have a soul, reconsider it. What was it that that book “The Last American Man” said? Something like Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rethink, Reject. Those last two are awesomely preventative!! 🙂

  25. My kitchen could really use a spruce! I’ll start with the pantry and hope to get to some cupboards and even recipes. Joy’s headed to my area in a few weeks, can’t wait to meet her!

  26. Depending on what part of Oregon you’re in, there are some great local resources. For example, Southern Oregon has fantastic local farms, great co-ops, and more. Let me know if you need any resources. I’d love to help out!

  27. I am eager to tackle the kitchen pantry, the overflow pantry storage (for when I buy things in bulk, like olive oil, flour, etc.), and my corner cabinet that houses our coffee, tea, and hot cocoa supplies. It’s a mess.

  28. I will be following this one closely. I would actually like to have glass doors on my pantry some day. Am I crazy?

  29. I actually just finished cleaning out and organizing my pantry and cabinets. It’s amazing how much I weeded out. It feels great! I now just want to sit and stare at the clean, neat shelves. 🙂 It makes daily living and cooking so much easier when everything has a place and everyone knows where that place is. Now it’s time to clean out and organize the kids’ rooms. Ugh.

  30. Excited about this one since I get to organize the space for the pantry. 🙂

  31. I am going to tackle my pantry! I think that eating locally is super important. We always get some of our fresh fruit and vegetables from a local CSA! We love Native Offerings farm (

  32. Aahhh, the pantry. Yep that will be on the list. How many times I’ve rummaged around that cabinet searching for something…and finding something else I didn’t know was there. Piles of bags of flour, sugar, corn meal…only 1/4 full or less.

    Thank you for the reminder

  33. Week two.. kitchen cabinets! Have to take pictures now…. Here we go!

  34. I love the project!

  35. I will definitely focus on my pantry shelves…I have a tendency to visit the bulk foods store, where I buy lots of things that go into identical bags with identical twist-ties. They start out with labels, but then the labels get mixed up. So, is that cream of tartar or is that baking powder?? Sour dough bread mix or icing sugar? Are those slivered almonds from two Christmases ago?? You get the idea. It is bad.

  36. I’ve seen some of those documentaries, but others were new. I’m going to have to check them out! Thanks!
    As to cooking from scratch I’m a huge fan! I was blessed, though, to have a Mom that ONLY cooked from scratch…I did not even use a box cake mix until I had my own home, and promptly decided I would go right back to scratch!

  37. I am excited for this week. This area is another place where I need to take a little time an attention to work my magic. Here are my before photos- warning you may never want to step foot in my kitchen.

  38. We moved last year and I kind of just threw stuff into our HUGE pantry (hugely tall, also really deep, which is a huge problem). Today I emptied out the top half, and moved the canned goods down a shelf so they’d be easier to get to. But the other shelves in that part are so high you need a chair to get to them. I want to adjust one down but not sure if I can (it might be too hard to get stuff off the other shelf if I do). So I’m stalled a little, with my counter covered with stuff! Guess I’ll have to find a solution soon 🙂 Thanks for the push!

  39. I have decided my hot spot within my kitchen this week that I am going to focus on is my plastic’s cupboard. I have one above our Fridge that holds the containers my husband uses for work that is falling out on my head when I open it, and another one for larger items that has a jammed slide out system cause so many lids have fallen and gotten in the way of the sliding mechanism. I told myself I would get to it this weekend but…..well its Tuesday and still not done! That is why I am loving linking to this project, it is giving me a solid deadline on my clutter.

  40. We’re just in our house and I sooooo want to get the pantry organized. We’re taking the approach of putting things back, not where we found them, but where we want them to be next time. Eventually everything will be where we want it!

  41. Just found you through a commenter on my blog. I am doing this exact thing! I started last week and am sharing on my blog. I will be sharing my before and afters here with you on friday. I will also be posting a weekly menu on Friday that is all about non-processed eating.



  42. Thanks for the challenge. I’ll take you up on the challenge & cleaning my fridge….tomorrow since I don’t have much time left. I’ve told myself for a month…You need to clean the fridge.

  43. Sorry that there are no photos to prove my Simplify Project of the week. I am patting myself on the back of getting it done. I have declutter, relined with shelf liner, 12 kitchen shelves, and one large cabinet of my pantry, and 3 kitchen drawers, with one large garabage bag tossed. Yeah!!!

  44. I keep coming back to this post because I’m interested in the resources you listed (books, movies, etc.) because I’ve been moving our family’s diet more toward whole foods. Looking into it though, the author of Nourishing Traditions doesn’t agree with Michael Pollen’s books at all. How do you reconcile that? The more I look into it, there are some very divergent opinions in the whole foods realm!

  45. Thanks for the inspiration to tackle my messy fridge! After 10 months of remodeling our kitchen, we still have several details to finish, but I’m trying to get organized even as we’re still working on it. Posted the week’s progress here:

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