With spring time upon us, its time to start the dreaded spring cleaning! Well at least its dreaded for me… and as much as I dislike the process, I LOVE the results! This year I am organizing the kitchen as I clean and I’m starting with the pantry!
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If you haven’t organized your pantry in quite some time, the best way to start would be to empty the WHOLE thing. This way you can give every nook and cranny a good cleaning and then take stock, toss items that are out-dated, and donate items that are still good but you know you won’t use. You should now have just the items you plan on putting back in your pantry.
Plan Your Strategy
How do you want your pantry to look? Of course, you may not have a huge walk-in style pantry, or even a full size pantry closet, I don’t! I’ve got a large shelf on one wall of the kitchen, but it suits our needs and the space available. Whatever you have in your kitchen to store your food and other kitchen items, for this purpose, we’re calling it a pantry.
The good news is, even without a fancy pantry, you can have great storage and a very functional pantry area. Start by looking at magazines, on Pinterest, and around the web for unique designs. But, most importantly, you want to look for inspiration to create an organized pantry for your particular needs. Let’s get started putting your pantry back together.
Put items together in groups that make sense to you. Here are some suggestions:
- Canned Foods
- Baking Goods
- Oils, Dressings, Vinegars
- Pastas, Rice, Grains
- Jarred Items like Olives, Pickles, Sauces
If you have a small pantry, try to arrange it so you have the most frequently used items stored up front and center. If you buy large bulk items, you may want to store those in another area. It all depends on how much room you have in your pantry. Technically I have 3 different pantry areas, the large, less frequently used items and the bulk of our canned goods are stored in closed cupboards in the garage. Our spices are in a cupboard near the stove and everything else goes on the pantry shelf in the kitchen.
Perhaps your less frequently used items must be stored in the same area with the things you need every day. Consider dividing your pantry in half, front and back, and using organizing shelves, racks, and containers. Put the more often used items in front and keep the less used items in back. In order to more easily reach the things in back when you need them, put the items in front in containers that you can easily remove when you need to.
Storing Large Bulk Items
If you buy large quantities of dried food items, find food-grade quality five gallon buckets and store your bags of beans, rice, etc. in the buckets with a tight fitting lid. Store these items on the floor or stack them in a separate closet area. Keep a smaller airtight container in your pantry with some of the dried food items for your more frequent cooking needs.
Mason jars work well for storing dry foods in your pantry. You can see the contents, the lid is airtight, and they are reusable. Mason jars come in a variety of sizes so you can group similar items together, putting each food item in a smaller jar, and then putting all the jars together in a clear bin or basket.
Your pantry may have fixed shelves, or just may not have enough variety to adjust the heights quite right. Stacking organizers are one of my favorite ways to organize, and are made to create multi-levels on each shelf. You can build a couple higher levels toward the back of the shelf to put smaller items on. Then when you put larger items in front, the items on the back are on a ‘stage’ and you can easily see them peeking up over the row in front.
Behind the Door
One of the most often overlooked areas of ‘real estate’ for storage in your pantry is behind the door, you know… if you have one. Whether you have a full size closet door or you have regular cupboard doors, take a look at the space you have between the back of the door and the outside shelf edge. Even on a cupboard door, you have at least an inch or two. On a full size closet door, you might find three or four inches, if not more. Back-of-the-door storage come in all sorts of arrangements, from pockets to baskets to shelves to hooks. Measure that space you have available and use it for narrow items like boxes of tin foil and plastic wrap and storage bags, or narrow shelves for spices. This is where your creativity really comes in handy.
Clear Storage Containers
Plastic storage containers are always nice, but using clear ones makes them especially handy in the pantry. You can easily see if you have flour, sugar, cereal, chips, crackers, or something else in the container even before you pull it out and take off the lid. Look for square or rectangular containers to best utilize the space and all the corners. Stick big labels on them to inventory what’s inside for even more organization and convenience. Chalkboard labels are my favorite and don’t have to be removed if the container is going to be repurposed or filled with something different!
An assortment of decorative baskets is nice when your pantry is visible. You can get baskets with covers so you can stack them. If your storage area is open to everyone’s view, create pleasing arrangements of baskets on the shelves. You can even hang wicker or woven baskets from the walls with the proper fasteners. Look at craft stores and resale shops for some of the best prices on baskets. You can also find cloth-lined, leather-like, and wooden boxes that make pretty and useful storage. If you still want to go with plastic storage, but don’t want your pantry items visible, choose solid color plastic bins.
After the time and effort you put into getting your pantry organized, you don’t want it messy again. Now is the time to make sure you have all family members on board. Train everyone to respect “a place for everything and everything in its place” and your beautifully organized pantry will stay that way. Fortunately (an UNfortunately) for me, I’m pretty much the only one that does the cooking… so if it gets messed up, there is no one to blame but me!
One day I’ll have my dream kitchen and walk in pantry that I can organize to my little ocd-heart’s content! In the mean time, I’ll continue arranging and organizing the kitchen and pantry that I have! These tips and tricks definitely make it an easier and smoother process!