Kitchen organizing part 2: The pantry (an opponent worthy of the most seasoned organizing knight)

I think pantry organizing is one of the most challenging parts of the kitchen. Even when you have a large pantry closet like we are blessed with, there’s just so much in and out flow. If you don’t have enough space and a defined home for everything, even the most organized food storage cabinet quickly becomes a jumbled mess.

I just have a few tips for pantry organizing.

1. Make sure you have enough room.

If you can’t fit all your food items into your designated pantry, don’t be afraid to move some things to another cupboard or shelf in your kitchen. If you are trying to cram too much stuff into your space, you will never be able to keep it organized.

2.  Give smaller or loose items a home by grouping them together in some sort of container. It’s fun if all your containers match, but if you don’t want to spend the money shop around your house for empty baskets or even cardboard boxes (like those nice small ones Amazon uses for shipping).

3. If you can, give each shelf a name. I now have a drink shelf, breakfast/cooking staples shelf, snacks shelf, and “catch-all” shelf. If you know at least in your head what items belong on which shelf, it will be easier to keep them there.

4. If you can, use labels too. By naming not just the shelves but the containers too, you will up the chances that things will be put where they are supposed to go.

I clearly needed to take my own advice:

As you can see, there is an attempt at organization here. I’ve grouped snacks on one shelf, drinks and paper dishes on another, and baking supplies and basic cooking staples are together too. I even have baskets and smaller wire shelves to further delineate the space. Where my system broke down was that we were trying to cram too much stuff in here. Not all the snacks fit on the “snack shelf,” so the excess spilled over onto the cooking staples shelf, which crowded in front of the canned goods, and so forth and so on ad nauseum. The snack basket was also up too high…we couldn’t see what was in it without taking it down, which meant moving everything in front of it first. I clearly had some work to do to make this more functional.

My first move was to take all the baking supplies out and give them a new home in our large, under utilized corner cabinet.

Sorry, I’d already emptied this one out before I thought to take my before pictures. It is huge, but so deep that it’s hard to get to things at the back. My solution? Some lazy susan turn tables that I just happened to already have. One had been used for our medicines, but I found a better solution (more on that later) and the double-decker one had come from my grandparents’ kitchen (hey, it may be forty years old, but it still works great! Back then they built stuff to last :)).

There are still some seldom used ingredients hidden at the back that are hard to reach, but overall this solution was perfect! My flour and sugar canisters are tucked to one side, with the rest of the baking staples taking up residence on one of the turn tables. This cabinet is right above my stand mixer and much closer to the oven and my cookie sheets now, making the baking process more streamlined. Best of all, it freed up a whole shelf in my pantry!

My other space-saving solution was to get another over the door rack for the pantry door. It’s the exact same system I used to organize my wrapping paper. This was such a great investment! I feel like it doubled my pantry space.

The door is now the home of all the canned goods, dried pasta, soups, and extra condiment packets. I even have an empty rack, just waiting for some boxes of jello or pudding mix :). All our plastic baggies, which had previously been taking up a huge drawer (see my previous post) were also relocated here.

As for the pantry itself, now that I had plenty of room I simply regrouped, added labels, (so that my sweet husband who can only sometimes read my mind can find what he’s looking for and knows where to replace it) and switched a couple of the shelves around.

Starting at the bottom:

In the old system most of the floor space is taken up by our recycling bin. I had also crammed in there a hodge-podge of stuff that didn’t fit anywhere else – the dog food container, some oatmeal, a bag of potatoes, and my slow cooker with two bags of bags (plastic and re-usable) stacked on top of it.

I just cleared the space out, moved the slow cooker to it’s new, much more convenient home, and put extra trash bags and my huge container of white vinegar in the corner. The recycling bin and bags stayed.

This is the shelf previously know as the baking shelf. Now it’s a bit of a catch-all, but since it’s designated to be one that’s ok. I moved the dog food up here (farther out of baby’s reach, though probably still not high enough) and used a plastic bin to house veggies that don’t belong in the fridge (potatoes, garlic, onions, etc.). It’s also the new home of my candy stash. The bottled water stayed. As you can see there is still lots of room if we have spill-over from a large shopping trip or bulk items that don’t fit anywhere else.

Here’s the new baby food/snack shelf. We can now easily access the snacks in the labeled basket (not sure if that’s good or bad). Popcorn and granola bars have their own containers under the baby food shelf (I bought these wire shelves at Walmart…they are great for making the most of vertical space).

Cooking staples (oils, vinegar, peanut butter etc.) share space with breakfast items. Bread had a roomy home under another wire rack.

The top shelf had a pretty dramatic make-over. I moved the paper plates, bowls, napkins and plastic cutlery to a much more accessible location in our new sideboard (the subject of my next post, the command center) to make room for drink fixings. I left the disposable cups, since this still seemed like a logical home for them.

There it is, my de-cluttered and reorganized pantry. Now I can open the door with a smile of delight, rather than a cringe of dismay. 🙂

How do you organize the most important of kitchen components…the food? 


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