You may think your pantry is fine as-is, but organizing it could save you time and money. If you know where everything is, you save time by not having to look through shelf after shelf for a simple can of diced tomatoes, and you save money because you won’t accidentally buy food items multiple times. You’ll also get an idea of what your cooking habits are and where you can cut back or purchase more. Here’s an easy to-do list for how to organize your pantry and gain control of your kitchen.
Assess the mess
Remove everything from the pantry and place the contents on a dining room table or the kitchen counter so you can see everything. Place duplicate items next to each other. Then wipe out the shelves with an all-purpose cleaner, making sure you get rid of any cobwebs in the process.
Decide what goes and what stays
Chances are, you have multiple food gifts, such as jams, jellies, boxed mixes and drink mix powders. If you haven’t used them in a year, throw them away. There’s no sense in keeping food items, which have an expiration date, for sentimental reasons. The same reasoning should go with unusual items you “have been meaning” to use in a recipe. If it’s expired, you don’t use it or you don’t like it, throw it away. If you have too much of something to use in a reasonable amount of time, donate it to a food pantry.
Stock your pantry with the basics
A home cook should always have certain items on hand to be able to throw together a meal in minutes with a few supplementary items from the refrigerator or freezer. Plus, you’ll be prepared to feed your family in case of an emergency, such as the electricity going out in a storm. According to “Real Simple,” you should always have olive oil, vegetable oil, balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar, salt, pepper, spices, herbs, canned tuna, canned or dried beans, chicken broth or concentrate, tomato paste, jarred marinara sauce, red and white wine, pasta, rice, all-purpose flour, sugar, potatoes, garlic and onions.
Group like items together
To better find what you’re looking for, group the following items together:
- Canned beans and soups
- Canned tomatoes
- Baking items
- Sauces, oils and vinegars
- Spices and herbs
- Grains, such as rice, and dried beans
- Cereals and oatmeal
- Snacks and junk food, such as chips, crackers and cookies
Then label each area, using a label maker or just a piece of duct tape written over with a permanent marker, to make finding what you need a breeze.
Purchase pantry organizing tools
Measure your space (and write down the measurements) before you buy anything so you can be sure everything will fit. Then store bulk grains, dried beans, cereals and oatmeal in large see-through containers to best utilize space. Place tiered shelves with wire bottoms in the pantry to help you see the contents both above and below. Also, look for racks in varying heights that you can slide in food storage containers or spices and herbs side-by-side. Better yet, if you have an actual pantry door instead of a louvered door, purchase a back-of-door spice rack or even a shoe rack with clear pockets to store spices, herbs and extracts. If you have the space, hang a three-tier, wire basket from the ceiling to store potatoes, onions and fruit.
Vow to keep it up
Cleaning out and organizing your pantry won’t do much good if you or other family members don’t maintain it. When you purchase groceries each week, immediately place them where they belong. Once a month, declutter and regroup items in the pantry to ensure everything is in its place.
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