How to Organize Your Pantry
The kitchen pantry is where you store food and other cooking essentials, so if it’s not organized properly, it isn’t being as useful as it could be. An organized pantry makes finding what you need to cook and eat much easier, and creates additional needed space for necessities. Organization of your pantry shelves, cabinets or closet can also save money by wasting less of the food that often remains hidden amid all the clutter.
Keep reading for tips and ideas on how to get your pantry organized.
Step 1. Take Inventory
Before you begin, take note of what you currently have in your pantry. Make a list using a pen and paper. Having a written record of what you have can help you see what you use and give some insight on how to best organize it. Note how you have previously filled the shelves. You most likely put at least a little thought into it then and stocked the shelves in whatever way came naturally. You might be amazed at what starting over and purposefully reorganizing everything can do.
Step 2. Empty It Out
Remove everything from the pantry. Take some care now to sort items into groups as you remove them, so that you have a head start on reorganization. Check all item expiration dates and throw away anything past its prime. The number of food items you bought and forgot about, while they sat there taking up needed space, may surprise you. Donate any items you find that are still good that you might not use. Throw out anything else that you find you don’t need.
Step 3. Clean the Pantry
Thoroughly clean the pantry, top to bottom. It’s inevitable that there will be some small spills over time, leaving sticky or messy spots on shelves and other surfaces. The longer these minor messes are allowed to sit, the more likely it is that they will attract vermin such as ants and rodents. Clean all shelves, racks, storage containers and walls with an antibacterial or anti-microbial household cleaner and a sponge or rag. Clean the floor with an anti-bacterial floor cleaner and a mop.
- Every month, dust or wipe down shelving and canned items to cut down on buildup of dust, crumbs and other messes, which also can help to keep vermin away.
Step 4. Install Any New Storage Solutions
Now that everything is out of the pantry, use this opportunity to revamp or replace your current storage solutions. Think about layout and what works best for your kitchen space. There are many pantry shelving system options available for purchase, so do some research and decide what you like and what works best for your pantry.
You can also build and install your own pantry shelves. Just remember to secure any new shelving to the wall studs. Use a stud finder to locate them and mark their positions with a pencil. The shelving/storage system hardware can be fastened securely into the stud using a power screwdriver or drill. When installing store-bought storage systems, remember to always follow all manufacturer assembly instructions.
- Consider installing racks on the inside of the pantry door for easy access to spice jars and other items for cooking.
- Solutions such as can storage dispensers can be useful in storing certain canned goods that you use often. They are convenient because they make space for other items and allow you to grab a can you need as if dispensed from a vending machine.
- When planning and installing your shelving, keep in mind a basic layout of how you will store your goods so that you can plan to leave enough headroom for tall objects like cereal boxes, etc.
Step 5. Organize Food Items
Sort pantry items into general zones or groups: canned goods together, boxed foods with boxed foods, snack bags together, etc. Then sort by sub-groups within the larger groups — canned items: soups together, canned vegetables together, and so on. Prioritize group location by putting frequently used items closer to the pantry entryway or where they otherwise will be closest and easiest to access. For example, keep items like spices and herbs close to the pantry door for quick use while cooking.
- Sort spices and herbs alphabetically or by any other system that will help you find what you need quickly and easily.
- Empty cereal, sugar, grains, coffee and flour into sealable storage containers to keep them fresh longer and to make efficient use shelf space.
- Invest in an in-pantry lazy Susan.
- Keep your shopping list in or near the pantry so you can easily take note of items that you need before you run out.
- Keep items that might drip, causing sticky spills, such as maple syrup, in baskets or on trays for easy cleanup of inevitable spills.
Items that you need but are used sporadically should be shelved on the farthest and highest or lowest shelves, or behind regularly used items. Keep items used daily, such as coffee, cereal, bread, etc. together in a group. Sort items used weekly, like rice, canned goods, pasta, and baking needs in another zone. You can further break down groups into sub-groups, like canned vegetables and canned fruit, for example. Specialty items used monthly or on special occasions should be kept in the pantry in areas out of the way, on higher or lower shelves, as mentioned above. Heavy items should also be kept on lower shelves or on the floor if items are particularly heavy. Another approach is sorting pantry items by meal, with breakfast items in one area, dinner items in another. This works well if you plan out your meals for the week ahead.
Stock your shelves the way supermarkets do: first in, first out. This will help you use your pantry items in the order that you bought them. It’s common sense but often is overlooked for items like pasta, rice and canned goods — perennial items that can last a while on the shelf. This cuts down on waste from spoilage of items that are hidden behind the newer purchases. Keep a close eye on freshness dates when sorting.
In the end, you should organize the pantry in a way that works best for you. As long as you approach it strategically, you can make your pantry work smarter.
That’s it! Now your kitchen pantry is organized and ready to make preparing meals more efficient and enjoyable for the whole family.