7 kitchen pantry organization tips and ideas
Has your pantry turned into a game of spice-and-go-seek that usually ends in headaches and guilt? Do you see wrong-sized bins and myriad of packages, from cans all the way to cellophane-wrapped cookie boxes, as you walk into your walk-in? How long has that cookie mix been sitting there - is it longer than a year? If you’ve answered anything but a “no” to these three questions, fear not. Those dream pantries you’ve been seeing in magazines and pinning online aren’t as far out of reach as they might seem. Here are seven kitchen pantry organization tips and ideas you can implement in your pantry, no matter how small.
1. A fresh canvas
Take everything out of the pantry! Yes, everything. And yes, you need to do this. Half-eaten packages of food, expired food, empty wrappers, and extra baking supplies can take over a pantry pretty fast. And if you’re anything like the majority of homeowners, your pantry gets worked overtime on holidays. You need to create a fresh canvas and start over. First, place everything on a convenient surface so you can start sorting. This can be the kitchen counter, floor, table, etc.
Pre-sort your foodstuffs into three categories:
- Food to throw away. The rule is the same as when purging your closet: if you haven’t used it in over a year, the chances are that you will not use it in the future. Toss anything that has expired, half-empty snack packages that probably won’t be finished, dry ingredients providing a home to worms and moths, and anything else that has been sitting too long.
- Food to donate or give to friends. Is there anything that no longer fits into your current diet? Perhaps you’ve gone gluten-free?
- Food to consolidate into a single container. Do you think you’re out of sugar every time you shop when, in fact, you have two opened bags and another new one crammed in your pantry?
Finally, do a deep clean of your space to lay the foundation for a perfect kitchen pantry organization. If you are feeling ambitious, why not even give it a little redo? This might be a bit trickier if you are renting an apartment. Consult your landlord about installing some wall-mounted shelves or creating some sort of faux built-in shelving system, or making a few upgrades to the existing one. It may not be a large walk-in pantry, but it will be the pantry you so desperately need.
2. The "like with like" method
Photo from The Home Edit
For a masterfully organized kitchen storeroom, you will have to decide how to group your items. If you’ve been corralling like items together – e.g., cooking oils next to one another, soup cans in one place, spices in the same spot – you should stick with the tried and true. The “like with like” is an efficient method of kitchen pantry organization as long as it’s based on your needs and habits and not just something you saw on a cooking show.
But why stop there? There are two more ways of subdividing your foods that you can try out. First, you need to think about the frequency of use. For example, make the spices you use daily easy to reach by placing them in an easily accessible spot. It’s also a good practice to reserve eye-level shelves for pasta, cereal, and other staples and store your rarely used appliances and foods higher up and at the bottom of the pantry.
Second, consider your routines and designate different zones within your pantry. This one is gold, especially if you love morning smoothies. Set up a space with everything you need in one spot, so you’re not grabbing lots of stuff each time you power up your blender. Some other examples include a coffee station, a school lunch station, a breakfast foods shelf, and an exercise fuels bin stocked with sports drinks and energy bites.
3. Decide on the vessel
Pretty glass jars are great if you want to avoid the eyesore. The problem is - if you like to use a measuring cup to scoop out a dry ingredient from its storage container, but the jar’s mouth is a bit too narrow for that, you might need to resort to pouring. Consider your preferred method of removing an ingredient from a container before choosing the vessel to store it in. If you want to use a measuring cup, make sure to source wide-mouth containers.
The same applies to all containers: it is best to wait until you know precisely what you need before purchasing them! If you’d prefer to gather bins and baskets you already have around your home, that’s a good starting point – you can always add or switch them out later on. Meanwhile, while you are making a clean sweep of the place and taking inventory in the process, make a list of baskets and clear containers you need. This way, you won’t pour money down the drain for storage items that don’t work for you.
4. Decanting has nothing to do with aesthetics
While uniform glass storage jars lined shelf after shelf certainly provide that clean and streamlined look, aesthetics is not the point of decanting. The real reason is way more compelling. Decanting dried goods like nuts, beans, cereal, dried fruit, and seeds has health benefits. When you leave opened food in its store-bought packaging, you risk staleness, contamination, and spoilage because it's not sealed properly. By transferring foods to air-tight containers, you're more likely to extend their shelf life.
5. Go green
Kudos to all zero-wasters who have ditched the trash can almost entirely. If you wish to start a foray into creating an eco-friendlier lifestyle, start in your kitchen.
- Dump single-use plastics
You may have already adopted a habit of eating more sustainably. But do you find yourself throwing away tons of single-use plastic products you used to store, wrap, freeze, and package food items? 91% of plastics are never recycled, so our collective plastic addiction has a significantly negative impact on the environment. If you wish to reduce the number of single-use plastics in the kitchen, reusable silicone bags, beeswax wraps, silicone covers, and glass containers are lifesavers. But don't stop there.
- Switch to eco-friendly lighting
Kitchens belong into the category of the hardest working areas of our homes. We prepare our meals a minimum of three times a day, and this naturally leads to lighting remaining on non-stop in our kitchens and pantries. So, why not take a cue from eco-friendly homes and storage facilities, and use green lighting in your storeroom? In self-storage facilities, lighting has to stay on twenty-four-seven to maintain safety and security.
6. The FIFO system
Photo from The Home Edit
While going through your pantry shelves, you will need to keep food safety in mind. Most of your shelf food will likely remain safe even past their "best used by" dates. However, you may still want to cycle out anything that has been there for some time and lost its quality. "FIFO" (first-in, first-out) is a great system to help with this. Any multiples you may have in your pantry (think beverages, cartons of chicken broth, extra boxes of cereal) should be stored so that the older stuff is in front or on top. This system ensures that you use your foods first and before the expiration date. This brings us to our next tip for systematizing your kitchen pantry.