Blog | Tips to Whip Your Pantry into Shape!
I can’t deny that the pantry is one of my favorite spaces in the kitchen. There is something incredibly nurturing about a space devoted to feeding the family. But sadly this very space is usually a bastion of chaos rather than an oasis of calm. Let’s take a look at 10 easy ideas (tips and products) to organize your food. In the process you’ll save time, money and energy. After all why add chicken soup to your shopping list if you already have 10 cans hidden away? Let’s roll up our sleeves and shed some light on this wonderful area whether it’s off the kitchen, a shelving unit in the garage or a cupboard in the kitchen.
- Toss! Yes, it’s true. Most people buy food and never check the expiration dates on the cans, packages or bags they bring home. Alas these items don’t last forever. Take a few minutes to rummage through your stash and toss what is no longer safe for your family to consume.
This task includes checking the frozen food in your freezer. Packaged meals and products have an expiration date. The items you personally froze should last about 6 months. Are you faced with ‘mystery meats?’ From now on date and clearly label the contents of all your frozen food packages.
And while we’re at it don’t forget to check the expiration dates on your emergency food stash. You want to know you can feed the troops in the event of a disaster.
- Categorize! Take a minute to consider the types of food you purchase. For the average family the general categories include the following: rice & pastas; canned vegetables; snacks; desserts; sodas and water; potatoes & onions; pet food; paper products; breads, milk products; soups and flavor enhancers like salad dressings, oils and spices. The goal is to keep related items in one area. This way you have automatic inventory control and know when it’s time to restock. Take a few minutes to discover your personal food categories and decide where the best place to store each category is located.
- Expandable Shelf Organizers will bring your canned products to order. You can match your décor as they come in plastic, wood, acrylic, chrome and mesh. Shelf organizers also come in various widths to help you accommodate wide bottom vegetable or soup cans or small bottles like those for spices. I think this product is a great investment and can be used anywhere in the home you need to sort products. I’ve used them in the bathroom and the laundry room with great success.
- A Shelf Divider was invented to slide onto closet shelves and keep your sweater stacks and other items separate. But why not separate your rice and pasta from your soup? You can of course separate all your food categories with this tool. If you take the next step and label the shelves there won’t be any excuse for your teens or your spouse to say they had no idea where to find an item. In fact you can assign restocking the shelves as a chore for your older children and teens when you return home from the market. With labels and shelf dividers everyone knows where things go!
- Spices shouldn’t be stored too near the stove, as heat will cause them to lose some of their potency. Remember too that over time they will naturally become less flavorful. The large economy size is only a bargain if you’re going to use the contents quickly! Fortunately there’s virtually no end to ways you can store your spice collection. I would let the size of your collection dictate your solution. You can use an expandable shelf and keep your stash in a cupboard. If you have drawer space you can pop your containers in an Expand a Drawer spice organizer. Are you blessed with counter space? Use a beautiful on the counter spice rack. Your spices will be handy and you will have added to the décor. Use a traditional Lazy Susan in a cupboard or install a pull down rack under the top cabinet. Whatever your choice be sure you keep your collection in alphabetical order. The hunt and peck system wastes time and energy!
- If sodas are popular in your house don’t let them wander all over a refrigerator shelf. Pick up a handy dispenser. For 6 bucks you can pick up an item called a Fridge Monkey and keep up to 10 soda cans stacked and ready to go. It works well with bottles in case you have beer drinkers in the fold.
- Keep bottles of heavy liquid on the floor of the pantry. This is a great place for your water bottles especially if you have a water dispenser and have heavy refill containers delivered.
- Paper products are best kept on the highest shelf. You won’t need them that often and they will be out of the way. Keep food at eye level and store the most popular items right by the door. Keep the less popular items behind the door. If you are blessed with a garage it’s wonderful to have a shelving unit just inside the entry to the kitchen. This is an ideal place for paper products provided of course you don’t have mice or other critters that thrive on paper.
- Cleaning supplies are ideally kept in the garage, on a high shelf in the pantry or under the sink. I like to keep them away from anything edible. If there are young children or small curious animals be sure the under sink area is secured with a childproof lock.
- There are small items that can get scattered to the wind in a pantry. It’s best to corral them in a container. I used the grid tote from The Container Store. It comes in a small square or a larger rectangular shape. You can literally contain packages of sauces or salad dressings in the small size and then keep items like desserts in the larger one. The grid tote is sturdy and comes in colors. You could designate blue for the bathrooms, green for the pantry and clear for under the sink. And you’d still have pink and orange to whet your organizing appetite.
I’ve pulled these tips from my New York Times best seller One Year to an Organized Life. You’ll find even more details within its pages. The kitchen is one of the most important rooms in the home. You want every aspect of it to serve you rather than enslave or annoy you. And your pantry is a vital part of the solutions you employ.