The Surprisingly Smart Reason You Should Color-Code Your Pantry (It’s Not Just Pretty!)

published Apr 27, 2024
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Color coded pantry.
Credit: Ellen Marie Bennett

Here’s the thing: Most people don’t organize their pantries as often as they probably should. When you don’t, it’s easy to get your cans and packets all mixed up and forget what you actually need to stock up on when you head out on a grocery run. Plus, things get pushed to the back and, before you know it, you have several expired jars of pasta sauce sitting behind your noodles and beans. While you can keep your pantry tidy with stackers and organizers, one kitchenware founder and cooking pro swears by a highly debated method to keep her pantry and produce in line: Color-coding. Yes, it’s beautiful, but does it actually help kitchen organization? She thinks so.

Ellen Marie Bennett, founder and CEO of apron and cookware brand Hedley & Bennett, said that she has “never met a color that she didn’t like.” So, when she showed off her bright and fun color-coded pantry, it just made sense. Not only does it add a cheery pop of color to her space, but it also keeps everything organized so she can quickly grab whatever she needs. 

Bennett initially organized her pantry by color because of the aesthetic, but she has found it to be a super-practical solution to staying neat and tidy. 

“My pantry is highly organized, but also eclectic, colorful, and creative,” she says. “The way I organize my pantry is very much like the dry storage section in a restaurant — I take all the tips and tricks that I learned from my years in a professional kitchen and take them to my home. In some cases, I make them look a little nicer, but still with that same philosophy of function first. If it doesn’t work, it’s just not going to work.” From pro kitchens to her home, these are Bennett’s biggest reasons she says you should color-code your pantry, too.

Credit: Ellen Marie Bennett
  1. Separate everything into groups: To help keep track of what you do and don’t have, arrange your produce into groups before delving into the aesthetics. “You can go through your pantry and say, ‘Looks like I’m running low on pecans, so I’m going to buy some of those.’ The idea is to have those essentials so when you’re grocery shopping, you really just need to pick up a few key things,” she explains. “All of my baking items are in giant clear, square containers called Cambros, and it’s just brilliant because they all fit into each other and stack. Then, I use painter’s tape and white chalk erase markers to label everything. My pantry is like the Container Store meets a restaurant supply store.”
  2. Use rainbow colors as guidance: Color-coding is creative, but to ensure a truly cohesive look, arrange everything according to the ROYGBIV sequence — the colors that commonly make up a rainbow. “My cookbooks are arranged in proper Ellen Bennett fashion by ROYGBIV order — which is fun to look at and easy to know where everything is!” Of course, in this case, you’ll have to remember what color a book or tool is (which is a little bit easier with produce or pantry goods). 
  3. Lead with function: While color-coding certainly looks fantastic, Bennett recommends that you always prioritize the functionality of your pantry. For example, don’t hide the things you use the most at the back of the shelves, or else you’ll end up in chaos when you’re inevitably searching around to find it. “Always lead with function first, but you better make it look nice and fun and colorful,” she said. “Those are always my design principles in life, in the house, and in my job.”

This post originally appeared on The Kitchn. See it there: The Surprising Reason You Should Color-Code Your Pantry (It’s Not Just Pretty!)