Some people think the refrigerator is the most visited spot in the kitchen, but the pantry can easily give the fridge a run for its money. Whether you’re the main cook in your home who replenishes pantry supplies often or your kids are snack hounds always looking for their next fix, this is one area that sees a ton of foot traffic.
The items that most of us store in pantries also enjoy quite a bit of rotation — think pasta, cereal, condiments, and more — so it’s doubly hard to keep them organized. When a pantry is disorganized, it’s harder to shop for groceries because you’re never 100 percent sure what you’re really out of (something can always be lurking behind a cereal box).
There is no one-stop solution to pantry organization because every household is different, but these tried-and-true guidelines will help you figure out the system that works best for yours.
Toss Old or Expired Items
The first order of POB (Pantry Org Business) is to take everything out and discard anything that’s expired or rarely used. You’d be amazed how much shelf space you’re guilty of handing over to items you rarely touch or those that have expired beyond their freshness date. Get in the habit of doing a spot check once a month or so to discard any products that are no longer serving their original purpose, and it will be easier to avoid a pileup of items.
Remove Unnecessary Packaging
Once you know which items are keepers, look over each one and remove any unnecessary packaging, such as the box where the individual popcorn bags come and the hard-to-reseal cookie bags. This can instantly save you a ton of space in the pantry (just think of all those half-empty cereal boxes).
Create Pantry Zones
Before placing items back into your pantry, split the space into zones, such as one for baking, treats, dry and canned goods, and pasta. Having a dedicated spot for things makes it easy to scan and notice when something’s running out or missing altogether. Items you rarely use (and even small appliances) should be placed higher or toward the back, leaving the valuable real estate at eye level and upfront for the goods you reach for every day.
Avoid stacking items so you’re not moving a lot of things around every time you’re searching for something. If you’ve got children, dedicate a zone just for them. Choose a spot even your youngest can easily reach — unless you’re trying to keep the snacks out of their hands, of course.
Select the Right Storage Solutions
Clear containers make it easy to spot items that you need to see to know what they are (especially once the packaging has been removed). Some storage solutions are designed to keep food fresh longer, extending the life of everyday staples — plus they’re a lot easier on the eyes that an open, picked-through bag of potato chips, for example.
The most organized pantry usually includes a mix of storage solutions, so shop around and decide what works for you.
Label Anything with an Expiration Date
While not everything in your pantry needs a label, if you’re transferring flour, cereal, or anything else with an expiration date to a new container, it’s important to label it if you want to stay organized. The label doesn’t need to be fancy; a quick note using a washable pen will do the trick.
Add Style and Personality
Who says a pantry can’t have a little design flair? Instead of a functional light fixture or a simple light bulb, hang a pendant light or small chandelier. Paint or wallpaper the walls a fun color, or create a fresh look by painting each shelf a different shade for a rainbow effect. Easy-stick wallpaper and shelf liners that are easily wiped down are another great idea. And if you’ve got the space, hang up some art! Vintage food and household advertisements found at flea markets and vintage stores make perfect pantry wall art, as does anything kitschy or humorous in nature.
Not enough space in your pantry – or anywhere else in the house – to get organized? Sounds like it’s time for you to find your new home. For other organization tips, be sure to follow us on social media!
Ana Connery is former content director of Parenting, Babytalk, Pregnancy Planner and Conceive magazines as well as parenting.com.
While editor in chief of Florida Travel & Life magazine from 2006-2009, she covered the state’s real estate and home design market as well as travel destinations.
She’s held senior editorial positions at some of the country’s most celebrated magazines, including Latina, Fitness and Cooking Light, where she oversaw the brand’s “FitHouse” show home.
Ana’s expertise is frequently sought after for appearances on “The Today Show,” “Good Morning America” and CNN. She has interviewed the country’s top experts in a variety of fields, including U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and First Lady Michelle Obama.