It’s no doubt that our pantries play an integral role in our family’s life. They come in all shapes and sizes and they all have one thing in common, they need to be organized in order to save you and your family time and money. With our busy lives the reality for pantries is that they often fall victim to what I like to call “the shove and close method”. If you and your family are prone to putting things away on the first glimpse of a shelf the answer if definition. Yes, definition is what organizing is all about.
The following tips will help reclaim you space and restore order to one of your household’s busiest areas.
- Schedule the time. Large pantries can take up to six hours to organize.
- Assemble your tools: a large garbage bin for expired items, a donation box for the local food bank (let go of items your family no longer enjoys before they expire and turn into garbage), a container to relocate all the things you’ll find in the pantry that don’t really belong there, a tape measure, a shopping list for organizing supplies you’ll need once you determine what you are keeping and where it will live and a label maker.
- Identify your pantry’s “prime real-estate”. These are the shelves that are most accessible to you. Your go-to items should make their home on these spaces.
- Sort the items you have removed from your pantry into like groups discarding anything that is expired or unwanted. If you find holiday items while you are organizing, set them aside to be stored with other holiday items in a remote location. Most pantries are not large enough for holiday storage and should be used only for food and kitchen items.
- Take a moment to look at your empty pantry and decide where the things you are keeping should live. Remember, seldom used items should be placed on the hardest to reach shelves and often used items should be very accessible. Don’t forget to consider the door and wall space. Often times wire racks can be added to these spaces to accommodate extra items. At this point, if you are able, it is a great time to make a trip to the local organizing store or discount department store to purchase containers to organize with. If you are unable to make the trip during your organizing time, take measurements to shop with later. Resist buying items in advance unless you are really good about returning unused purchases and know exactly what is in your pantry and what you will keep.
- My favorite products are baskets that fit your shelves to contain bags of pasta, rice and grains. Baskets are also great to contain bulk purchases of lunch snacks. Label one sweet snacks and the other salty snacks and dump the boxes of small packages into them. Kids love this!! I also love turntables that fit the shelf for oils, vinegars, marinades and condiments (turn tables make items on high shelves accessible). They are also good for liquor, vases and any other tall, round items like airtight containers of flour sugar etc. I use plastic containers with lids and labels to contain small items used for baking such as sprinkles, cookie cutters, and birthday candles.
- Load up your pantry. Place things according to how often they are used. Heavy appliances should be on lower shelves and seldom used things up high. Avoid using the floor space if at all possible. Having a clean floor helps keep the dust at bay and will make your pantry much more appealing.
- Label everything and explain to your family the new system so they will understand there is now an assigned space for each item.
- Hang a shopping list in or nearby your pantry. When you see your running low on a family favorite jot it on the list. This will save a lot of time and money at the grocery store.
Pantries can run the gamut from functional to beautiful and they are one of my favorite things to organize. Once you have restored order to your food storage the key is to maintain it. Avoid bulk purchases if you have a small family. If you have a small pantry and you need to buy in bulk consider storing the bulk items in a warehouse area either in a basement or garage until you need to restock your pantry. When you see your pantry looking disheveled, take a moment to straighten it up and discard any stale or expired items. With a little elbow grease, definition and new habits you too can take your pantry from pathetic to pampered.