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12 tricks for organizing your pantry

by respaced on July 11, 2011

Have you taken a look inside your pantry lately? Really looked? What do you see? If you see shelves crammed full of food with little to no room for new food, clear containers filled with mystery powders and grains, and worst of all ANTS, it’s time for a pantry makeover! Here are some hints for making the most of your pantry:

1. First of all, find a 2-3 hour window of time. This is one project you definitely don’t want to quit midway.

2. Take everything out of the pantry. As you pick each item up, ask yourself if you and your family still use the item. Do you see yourself using it within the next month or two? Do you like how it tastes? Do you have a recipe that calls for that item? If you answered yes to all three, it’s a keeper. If not, put it in a Donate to Food Shelter pile on your counter.

3. Check expiration dates on all the food you are keeping! Sure, I keep pantry food that is a few months past its expiration date. I’m not hardcore about dates. But once it’s a year past, I chuck it.

4. For the food you are keeping, put it in a pile on the counter or table according to what it is. Think of how a grocery store groups its food: rice and pasta, canned vegetables, canned fruit, box meals, condiments, etc.

5. Wipe down your pantry shelves. Sweep the floor. Locate the source of the ants, if that’s a problem (they are attracted to sweet, sticky stuff!)

6. Designate each shelf of your pantry for a food category. Put the most frequently accessed foodstuff front and center. Adjust shelf height, if necessary.

7. You don’t need to decant all of your grains and baking goods into glass canisters to be organized. I know, I know, in the magazines they always show super organized pantries containing nothing but glass canisters, but that is an expensive, unnecessary extra step. In my experience, keeping food in its original container does not take up any more space than storing it in a glass canister. However, if you like that look, but can’t afford all of the containers, try using Gladware disposable containers instead. Be sure and label them, so you don’t forget what that white powder is six months later!

8. If you have a lot of canned food items or little jars, you may find the use of stair-step risers helpful. Using these risers prevents small cans of food from getting hidden behind larger cans of food.

9. Installing pull-out shelves in your bottom cupboards keep you from having to get down on your hands and knees to reach things in the very back of the cupboard.

10. Don’t forget to make use of the back of your pantry door. You can purchase narrow racks especially for pantry doors. Perfect for storing spices!

11. To ensure that other members of your family actually put things back where they find them, label those shelves. Trust me, this is the secret to keeping the pantry tidier for a longer time. That way, everybody knows where everything goes. No more excuses.

12. Voila! You are done, and now you have a nice, neat pantry that will actually allow you to find what you are looking for without moving 17 jars out of the way first. Do you have some other great tips for organizing a pantry? Share them in the comments below.

Boy, someone sure hit a sale on canned goods! Image courtesy of Octal at Flickr.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Donnie July 11, 2011 at 10:18 pm

This was a very useful post. I have to move things around in my cabinets because they are oddly shaped in an L shape. I sure don't know how things hide so well in there…lol….Have a great day.

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MaryJo @ reSPACEd July 13, 2011 at 6:44 pm

Hi Donnie,

Thanks for commenting! I have reorganized a few L-shaped pantries, and you're right, they are tricky. The back corner always seems to act as a blackhole for old cans and mysterious bulk food items in baggies!

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