9 Tips for Making Your Pantry Work for You

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A clean an organized kitchen, at least for me, is key to a pleasant cooking experience, and a put-together pantry is an integral part of a kitchen that helps you cook. Here are my top tips for an organized pantry.

  • Start from scratch. If you think you need a pantry organization intervention, start from the beginning. Take everything out and then follow these steps: 1) Empty out the whole pantry and clean it inside. 2) Discard anything that is no longer fit to eat. 3) Sort and categorize the rest. 4) Determine the types of containers you need. 5) Put everything back.
  • Keep an inventory of items. This certainly doesn't have to be everything in the pantry; that would be overkill and unsustainable. But if you, for example, buy spices in bulk and put what you use into something smaller, you'll probably save yourself from many duplicate cinnamon containers — and the space they take up. Keep track of backup supplies in a Google doc or on Evernote.
  • Decide what to do with items in bags. Bags are an organized pantry's biggest foe. If you don't want to put things like chips, nuts, dry beans, rice, quinoa, you name it in different containers, corral them in baskets or bins, like with like.
  • Don't use the pantry as storage. Here's what I mean: a useful pantry is one that allows you to get what you need when you need it, usually without a step stool or pulling out a bunch of things to get to the Madagascar vanilla extract. If getting something out of your pantry (and then back in) is like playing Tetris, you have two options: store extra things elsewhere or buy less stuff. For instance, I store our paper plates and plastic forks (which are very rarely used) in the garage rather than take up prime real estate in the pantry that's right in my kitchen.
  • Consider what can be stored elsewhere. Going along with the previous point, some food items are best stored somewhere besides the pantry. For example, you can prevent nuts from going rancid by storing them in the freezer.
  • Use similar containers. I love Oxo containers, and typically transfer chips, cereal, snack foods, and pasta into them. I also re-purpose jars and use those for dry beans. Having the same types of containers grouped together allows not only for a ship-shape aesthetic, but more importantly, maximum usage of space.
  • Lazy suzans. Along with bags, bottles of various shapes and sizes create clutter in the pantry. Group items such as vinegars, oils, and extracts on lazy suzans so they are easy to access. If your pantry has corners, those are the perfect spot.
  • Create extra shelving where necessary. If your shelves are tall enough for stacking, create shelves on the shelves with accessories like these.
  • Lay out the pantry according to most-used items. When it comes time to decide what goes where in the pantry, group similar items together and also put what you use most in the easiest-to-access spots. Everything should be determined by how you work, by what causes the least amount of extra work while you're cooking.

How do you keep your pantry organized?

(Image credits: Virginia & Kelly's Industrial Loft in DC)

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