To many, a pantry is a necessary evil. We have to have a place to store our dry goods. The bad news is that a pantry can easily get out of hand.
While a cluttered pantry doesn’t seem that bad, having a messy pantry can lead you to spend more money, waste more food, and make fewer healthy choices.
When your pantry is organized, you feel better about cooking and know exactly what you have on hand.
The good news is with a bit of organizing, the right containers, and a commitment to maintaining your pantry, your pantry can help you make healthier choices, save money, and waste less food.
Get the Right Materials
Have you ever skimmed a home improvement site or maybe even a kitchen site and seen the enviable pantries on display? If you’ve ever stopped to study them, you’ve likely noticed that they have one thing in common - they have very few items in their original packaging. That’s because it’s very difficult to manage and organize a pantry with everything in its original box.
Along with containers and a few other accessories, you’ll get your pantry organized in a snap.
Uniform Airtight Containers
The first purchase you should make is clear, uniform containers. They should also be airtight to keep your items fresh for longer. You’ll find options made of plastic or glass. Each has their merits, so consider your needs and desires before purchasing.
You want clear containers because that makes it easier to peek into your pantry and immediately identify what you have plenty of and what you should put on your shopping list. Also, be sure to have each container clearly labeled to help those who are less cooking-savvy navigate your ingredients.
Clear Plastic Bins
Most families keep individually packaged items on hand like snack bars, individual chip packs, and fruit snacks. While these items are incredibly convenient, they can be a nightmare to store in a clean and organized way. That’s why purchasing a few narrow clear bins can help you corral those granola bars and see exactly what you have.
Clear bins are also great for storing similar items together. Baking ingredients - vanilla extract, cocoa powder, and baking soda - are one such category that can all be stored together.
Under-shelf baskets are the ideal way to add more space to your pantry, especially if you have taller shelves. These baskets simply clip onto the top of the shelf and you instantly have more space to put smaller items like canned fish or seasoning packets.
Uniform Spice Jars
Very few of us purchase spices from the same company each time. That can be due to going to a different store or a particular brand being out of the spice we’re looking for. Regardless of the reason, that means you end up with tons of spice jars that are different shapes and sizes. An easy way to organize your spices to make them easier to store is to purchase one to two dozen spice jars of the same size and shape and transfer your spices to them. When you’ve transferred the spices, align them on a small tiered rack so you can see them all rather than wasting time looking for ones in the back.
Before you can organize, you should de-clutter your pantry and throw out any items that have gone bad. Once you’ve done that, you can get started.
Put Frequently-Used Items at Eye-Level
Every family has a particular set of ingredients that they use on a near-daily basis. Whatever those ingredients are for your family, put them at eye-level. That makes them both easy to find and easy to grab when you go to make your meals.
You can use this same trick if you frequent the pantry to look for something to snack on. To remove the temptation of an unhealthy snack, stock healthy alternatives at eye-level. Purchase them pre-portioned or portion them out as part of your meal prep.
Group Like-Items Together
We touched on this briefly, but keep items that are frequently used together in cooking together. That means keeping all your baking goods in one section and all your smoothie add-ins in another. We also like to keep all our grains and pastas, beans and legumes, and stocks together.
Once your pantry is organized in a way that works for you, your only remaining job is to maintain it.
Choose Healthier Options
If you hate wasting food like we do, then you know you’ll never throw out that bag of sugar until you’ve used it all. However, if you’re trying to eat healthier, then consider purchasing a healthier alternative like coconut sugar when you next run out of white sugar. Having clear containers will help you keep track of when it’s time to put that healthier item on your list.
Make Maintenance Part of Meal Planning
When you write your grocery list each week, make maintaining your pantry part of that process. Spend 5-10 minutes making sure everything is in its place and taking stock of what you need to get more of. This small time investment will save you a considerable amount of time down the road and help keep you on track with your healthy habits.
Remember, pantry organization can be whatever you make it. Maybe you don’t want to invest in clear containers but do want to start grouping items together based on how you use them. For a more serious pantry overhaul, consider getting help from a professional organizer.