Let's Eat

How I took control of spiralling food bills by decluttering my kitchen storage

A home edit has helped Rebbetzin Ilana Epstein bring things under control


Even though the rate of food inflation has slowed, many foods — including cheese, fruits, vegetables and bread — are still 20 to 40 per cent more expensive than they were two years ago. The need to save money on groceries remains an issue for most households.

I’ve written advice vlogs for financial charity Mesila and articles for the JC, so could consider myself an expert budgeter, but even so, I was still regularly clearing half the contents of my fridge into the bin.

The weekly kitchen inventory I’d recommended had been abandoned because it was simply too intimidating to face the mess that was my pantry, fridge, freezer and spice drawer. I’d reverted to the same weekly shop regardless of need plus I was buying additional items.

I realised what was letting me down was my lack of food storage organisation. The lightbulb moment came over Pesach when (with limited storage space) the basic ingredients I needed were organised and in front of me, ready to be cooked — like an ingredient tool kit. Could I translate that idea, with ingredients arranged by importance and frequency of use, rather than the black hole my fridge and pantry had become?

As I searched online for inspiration to organise my physical space, my Instagram feed flooded with ideas. I discovered American account The Home Edit with its colour-coded organisation; four-step process (edit, categorise, contain, maintain) and Netflix show. I was hooked.

I consulted old friend Debbie Paster, founder of home-decluttering business Simplify. Her method was to start by emptying the contents of the cupboards/fridge/pantry, then lay everything out in front of us. We could then see exactly what I had. The next step was to categorise it into food types — rice/pasta; spices; tins; baking supplies and so on.

She told me if I could see what I had, it would help me avoid buying multiples. We then measured the empty space and the food that needed to go back in so I could get storage containers to fit.

Slowly I introduced organisation — storage bins, boxes, dividers and labels. I trialled each item to make sure it worked for me before moving onto the next.

And it did! Five months into my starting this journey our food bill is slowly coming down. I can see how these incremental changes, will reap rewards, both for my pocket and my sanity and the planet’s wellbeing. My latest addition is a storage bin for the fridge door that holds fresh-cut herbs in water and makes them last twice as long as they would in their packaging.

One take away from this experiment is that it’s not enough to do a big purge and edit once a year. I have to live it every day — give it daily care — to really make it work. It also brings me so much joy — I’ve found myself wandering aimlessly into the kitchen; not to graze but admire my pantry.

Find Ilana and Debbie's top tips for reorganising your kitchen storage here.

Ilana Epstein works for Jewish Futures and is the Rebbetzin of West Marble Arch Synagogue

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