You Ask, We Answer: How Can I Organize My Messy Pantry?
Bags of lentils. Cans of beans. Random sauces and far too many flours. If this sounds like a familiar pantry scenario, you’re not alone. Many of us stocked up in the early days of the pandemic and today, those items are still taking up precious shelf space from the things we actually use on a regular basis. But your pantry doesn’t have to be a source of stress everytime you’re making dinner! Here are some simple tips for organizing your messy pantry and right-sizing the amount of items you have on hand.
Take stock of what you’ve got
Before you do a deep clean, you’ve got to take inventory of your pantry items. Start by taking everything out of your pantry and arranging on your kitchen table or countertops. Check expiration dates, items that are nearly empty and won’t be usable as a result, and duplicates of things that you haven’t used in, well, many months or even years. Toss expired and empty items (don’t forget to recycle containers!) and make a donation pile of items you can’t foresee using anytime soon; check with your local food pantry to see if they are in need of your donations.
Next, take time to wipe down shelving with a mild, non-toxic multipurpose cleaner. Take care to wipe off sticky surfaces and crumbs, and scrub any marks cans have left on your shelving units. Now you’re ready for the next step.
Pair like items together
Now that you’ve filtered the pantry items you know you’ll use, it’s time to pair like items with like items. Using your countertops and table, group your oils together, then move on to vinegar, sauces, baking items, spices, snacks, etc. This step may seem like a no-brainer, but taking time to do so before you put everything away will help you really see each category, and to think about where each category should live in your pantry for easiest access.
Organize with clear containers
Cereals, pasta, grains, snacks–all of these loose items take up a lot of space in their original packaging and can sometimes go stale from bags and boxes not being sealed properly when put back on the shelf. Consider organizing these items using clear containers like mason jars or repurposed sauce or other glass jars. Want to take your organization to the next level? Grab your label maker and label each jar for easy organization and quick reference when you’re cooking.
Don’t forget your door space
If your pantry is in need of more space, don’t forget the value of an over-the-door rack to help organize it further. These racks are perfect for housing your spices and other small jars, and are often an affordable option for tidying things up.
Finally, fill your pantry back up
Now that you’ve purged expired items, cleaned the shelves, and organized like items together, it’s time to fill your pantry back up! Consider where your most-used items will go; oils and sauces may figure more prominently than baking items, depending on your daily needs. Keep your go-to items within reach, and use higher shelves for items you use infrequently. If you have kids’ snacks or cereals and want them to be able to help themselves, consider adding a “kids only” basket on lower shelves or on the floor, filled with goodies that they can reach easily.
Now, step back and admire your hard work–and congratulate yourself on a beautiful, organized, and highly functional pantry!