Is this the usual reaction when opening the door to your pantry. It was for me. Maybe not being able to find that last can of tomato paste to make spaghetti sauce now! or over purchasing things you already had.
Everyone’s pantry is unique because everyone’s floor plan is different in their home. If you are not able to build out your dream pantry, you have to work with what you’ve got and that means you will need to put some serious thought into what an organized pantry looks and feels like to you and make that work in your space including your budget.
I definitely had some challenges and still do as a pantry is a living organism and it will never be perfect, but we can get real close!
So here’s what I did…..
- My 1st attempt to organize the pantry was to clear everything out of the space and start with a blank slate.
- I then put like items together; appliances, baking pans, baking supplies, canned goods, etc. so I could organize the space properly.
- Then I change that blasted red light bulb ( my boyfriends idea of cool ) to a cool light bulb so I can clearly see what a mess I had and how to move forward.
- Then I took measurements of all the permanent shelves including length, depth, and height as well as the floor space and the height all the way up to the shelf.
- I decanted as many dry goods that I could and made a list of others I wanted to do the same.
- I added shelving and ordered 2 shelving units
- I also purchased a can goods rack and tried to use what I had 1st before spending a bunch of $$ on organizing stuff.
This 1st round worked out ok, and it did look better than it had, but I wasn’t satisfied. I then tried to figure out what was missing, what wasn’t working still, and I wanted it to be inspiring and nice to look at in case I left the door open ;-).
TOSS. KEEP. PURCHASE
This list will help move things along as you go through each item and placement back on the shelves. For the TOSS: You can also do this step even if you will be working with a professional. It will cut down on time and labor expense, plus you know your pantry better than anyone else.
What to toss:
Expired items. Check spices too if they are located in a separate area.
Does not fit new dietary needs (these items can be donated to a local food pantry or friends and family)
Just haven’t used it in 6 months or more
What to keep:
Fits dietary needs
On the Pantry Basics Must Have List
What to Purchase:
Replacing expired items
Replacing items with better quality products
Products fitting a new dietary lifestyle
Refer to the Pantry Basics Must HavesList, Pantry Must Haves that will Transform Your Cooking, The Most Luxurious Pantry items you never Thought You Needed Everyday, Homemade Mixes that will Give You Life, The Top 7 Baking Spices you Need but Probably Don’t Have
Tips and lists for a Vegetarian Pantry
Tips and lists for a Vegan Pantry
Tips and lists for an Entertaining Pantry ( A Holiday Guide )
CLEARING. SPACE PLANNING.
Clearing may be the hardest part. It is the physical manifestation of getting started. Don’t let this step go by the wayside. It will be tempting to start and stop somewhere in between, but this could be dangerous in letting in excuses not to finish and creating a bigger problem and a mental letdown. KEEP GOING! Make sure you schedule this on a day when you have no other appointments or commitments and early enough to finish. Rally for some help from friends and family but get them on board with your dietary plans so that your TOSS/KEEP list is adhered too from jump.
Your PANTRY ORGANIZING Guide
An empty lined garbage can
Extra garbage bags
Empty boxes for bulkier and/or heavier items
A container/box for donations and giveaways
Extra hands on deck
It’s hard to plan a space if you can’t see it or know what else you need to fill it. Now that your space is a lot lighter, you can decide how much more space is needed if any and the arrangement of items that make sense to you cooking methods and habits. Example: Do you love to bake? Your baking items should all be in one area and within reach. Have a lot of snack items? Put these at eye level for all members of the household to get at easily. Beverages should also have their own area and usually do not need prime pantry space.
At this point. You will either be gutting and re-designing your space or deciding to use the space you have. Also, consider purchasing a pre made or an IKEA type book case to avoid purchasing a costly shelving system if it makes sense and is not taking away space.
What to decant:
Anything in a large bag or box like snacks, grains, rice, cereal, nuts, dried fruit, salt
Wet ingredients like olive oils and vinegars
What to fill:
Anything that has an airtight lid. What you choose will be based on personal preference and the “design look” of your pantry. A uniform look makes for a neater and eye catching pantry. Keep all containers the same in their appropriate area instead of random items that give an un organized feel. Popular choices are mason and clamp glass jars which come in all sizes from 2oz to 36oz. Great for organizing spices, grains, rice, homemade mixes, baking items and protein powders. Wide mouth jars are best.
You may need to purchase larger containers for things like pasta, large containers of snacks such as pretzels and crackers, cereal, cookies. Again, keep the same “look” aka same manufacturer or style when choosing. Example: For pastas, all clear containers with stainless steal lids, mason jars instead of a mix of jelly/jam jars or solid containers for spices and flours.
Baskets and pull out containers can be used for single serve packages like chips and cookies, other boxed items, organizing ‘one theme’ items such as baking decorations, dish towels, generally unattractive items. Choose baskets with handles and the same coloring and materials.
To label or not to label. Labeling is so important for containers that you can’t see into. Even if you think you will remember what’s in there, putting one on will not only look amazing, but will pull the entire design together with anything else you label. You will reach for what you need in record time and any one will be able to put things back easily without you having to oversee it all.
All spices should be labeled. There are too many that look alike. Labeling also gives your pantry a uniform look and adds to the design details and that ‘wow’ factor of a well organized pantry.
The type of labels is a personal choice and depends on your containers. Here are some tips:
*Mason Jars: Put round labels on top of the lids instead of the front for non-staple items. When you use up whats inside and will no longer refill it with the same item, you can just simply change the lids and use the jar for something else.
Put round labels on top of the lids instead of the front for non-staple items. When you use up whats inside and will no longer refill it with the same item, you can just simply change the lids and use the jar for something else.
*OXO or clear air tight containers: Labels with clear backing can be any size. Solid labels should be on the smaller side.
*Baskets, Boxes, and Bins: Yes, these need labels too. don’t stop at just filling them. You want to be able to reach at a glance. Sticky labels or tags are good here.
*Magazine Holders: Magazine holders are a way to store many pantry items and items for the fridge and freezer.
Think about all the categories that need organizing. Each one will need their own special containers and places to live according to size and even weight like big bags of dog food or cases of water for example. Items like those should live on the floor, then build up your space from there.
- Potatoes and onions need to breath, but also can’t be put in the same bin.
- Water bottles and cases are bulky and heavy and can sit on the floor but taken out of the cases and into large containers or baskets
- Plastic wraps, foil, parchment paper, baggie boxes and handy scissors can be stored on a door organizer
- Can goods can be stacked upright with cascading shelves or on their sides on a rolling shelf unit. This includes sodas.
- Boxes of tall pastas can be tricky if your shelves are not that high. These usually can go on the very top shelf.
- Cutting boards can easily be slipped on the end of a shelf vertically for easy access
- Appliances can be stored on a top shelf out of the way of everyday things
- Create a Snack Zone for easy access
- Contain salad dressing and seasoning packets in a decorative jar or flat container and use dividers
- Small size bags can be put in open bins and labeled accordingly
Generally speaking, Least used items go towards the top shelves, most used at eye level, and bulky items at the bottom. Shelving will play a big part as to where things will go back on the shelves. If you are not adding, re-shelving, or completing gutting and customizing your space, Size will matter as to what goes where. Just remember to group like items together.
Always be aware to use a ‘First in, First Out’ system so you can use tings before the expiration dates. If you want to take it a step further you can write down expiration dates on a worksheet near by to keep track.
Putting like items together makes sense. You find things faster and your pantry esthetic will be more pleasant looking.
Baking Supplies, Pasta, Rice, Grains, Beans, Cereal, Breakfast items, Can Goods, Boxed items, Snacks (Snack Station) / Lunch bag items, Beverages, Bulk items, Quick Entertaining foods crackers, dips, etc., Meal Planning Week baskets/bins, Ready to go meals ( homemade soup mixes, etc.), Paper Products, Tools and Appliances, Dinnerware / Cookware, Pet Food / Supplies, Homemade Preserves and Pickles
Don’t keep anything else in the pantry that’s not food related if there’s enough room to do so.. Remember this is not a catchall space. It will take the entire household to be on board to keep your new organized pantry together. This will be one area to brag about and show off, but most importantly, keep you organized and less wasteful.
THE ULTIMATE SPICE GUIDE FOR THE NOVICE AND ADVENTURE COOK
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