A well-stocked pantry is like heaven to any foodie. It’s where you find all the treasures for whipping up a great last-minute meal: olive oil, legumes, rice, a random can of pineapple, dark chocolate (my favorite, of course), you name it.
At the same time, an unorganized pantry can be a nightmare for a cook, self-professed foodie or not.
Pantry is, of course, a loose term. I don’t have a specific cabinet or a separate closet that’s called the pantry in my kitchen. I do have plenty of cupboards filled with foodstuffs though. So whether you have a designated pantry or just a bunch of messy cupboards, these tips can help whip your main food storage area into shape in no time—so you can focus on cooking, rather than an avalanche of chip bags and macaroni boxes that inevitably tumble on you every time you reach for the sugar.
Take a hard look.
What is long past date and should be tossed? What has been sitting there so long there’s no way you’ll ever actually use it? Donate what you don’t need (boxed mashed potatoes? the sixth can of pinto beans when you don’t even like pinto beans?) and sort the rest into tidy piles by food type.
Once you’ve removed everything from your shelves, give your storage area a good scrubbing. Odds are, dust, dirt, and random spills have made your shelves messy. Now’s the time to change that so you can start with a clean slate.
Get rid of excess packaging.
Once you’re finished cleaning, go back to that pile of food on the floor or table or wherever you put it. Remove items that are packaged unnecessarily from bulky boxes, bags, and the like so they aren’t hogging space. From now on, plan to do that right away when you come home with something you purchase in bulk.
Get the right containers.
I love the square and rectangular clear plastic containers with the snap-on lids that I use to store cereal and baking supplies. They keep things fresh, help me avoid unwanted spills, and make it easy to spot what I need at a glance. Plus, transferring things to reusable containers helps you stack and organize easily. See the magic the right containers can work over at Curbly. Another lovely idea: store your grains in glass jars—although then you probably won’t want to hide them away where no one can see them!
Now that you have those containers in place, what can you combine? Those three boxes of almost-gone pasta can all be dumped into one container. (Will anyone really mind if they get a few shells in their rotini?)
Find the right organizers.
Basics like chip clips and baskets may be all you need to whip your pantry into shape. I use baskets all over the place in my kitchen—a big one for bread items, a smaller one to corral all my spices, another for tea bags and such. However, sometimes it’s worth it to invest in more serious organizational tools (particularly in a big pantry). Whether you have the cash to spend or simply want to dream, I love what’s available for pantry organization from Williams Sonoma. Of course, all you really need are the myriad organizational tools available from The Container Store. And I’m also impressed with the selection at places like Target.
Group like items.
If you have room, designate certain shelves for certain items. You might have a shelf for snacks, another for baking, one for beverages, one for breakfast. Which items get used the most? Place them at or near eye level. Or if you aren’t dealing with floor-to-ceiling shelves, at least group similar items in the same area. Then get even more specific. Within your area for breakfast, for instance, place all the boxes of cereal together, the oatmeal options next to one another, and so on. Easy easy easy.
Make sure you can see everything.
“Out of sight, out of mind” may be cliché, but it’s also true. Position pantry items so they are easily visible, otherwise you’ll forget all about them.
I don’t own a label maker but have often contemplated investing in one. If you have one (or have been thinking about buying one too), put it to good use by labeling your pantry shelves. That way, if certain members of the family forget where things go, they’ll have an easy-to-spot reminder.
If you really want to get organized, you can’t beat this free, downloadable pantry inventory sheet from Organized Home. Once you download it, be sure to check out the article on pantry organizing on the site—it’s loaded with great info on building a functional pantry.
If you’re interesting in getting more great pointers on pantry organization, I have a few more links for you. Check out the great tips at About.com and from professional organizer Lea Schneider. While you’re at it, be sure to take a peek at a great real-life pantry reorganization from I’m an Organizing Junkie. It shows how easy it can be to get things in order, even if you don’t have the cash to spend on tons of nifty organizers.
Looking for more ways to get organized in the kitchen? Next stop: your recipes.
The Home Know-It-All
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