Welcome back to our series on organization. While it might not be the sexiest topic out there, it’s certainly the lynchpin in creating a balanced life. I don’t know about you, but few things throw me off balance more than not being able to find some document I need or going to make dinner and finding out I don’t have any pasta for my pasta dish. In this edition we’re going to talk about pantry organization tips and tricks.
Pantry Organization for People Who Don’t Have Pantrys
First, I understand we don’t all actually HAVE a pantry, so let’s start there. If you have one, great. You can skip the next paragraph (or keep reading for the pure pleasure of enjoying my awesome prose). I don’t have a pantry myself. However, I had an incredible walk-in pantry years ago when I lived on a farm in Ohio. It taught me the importance of organizing non-perishable foods and techniques that can be used when you don’t have a “pantry” per se.
The purpose of a pantry is to create a place where certain similar items can be grouped together for ease of organization and storage. So, implementing this will work even without one if you keep the purpose in mind. Where I currently live we don’t have a pantry. But, I do have a coat closet near the kitchen, a laundry area in the hall right outside the kitchen, and quite a bit of cabinet space IN my kitchen. In my laundry area, we hung shelves and store bulk paper products (an item previously kept in a pantry). In the coat closet, shelves can be attached to the inside of the door to store less frequently used canned goods, cleaning products, etc.
Around my kitchen, I designated a section of upper and lower cabinets to use as a pantry-like space. As I mentioned in the kitchen article, my upper cabinets to the right of my stove are for “ingredients” that can be used to create meals (versus ready to eat foods), and the lower ones below store large items like boxes of cereal, bags of chips, and large boxes of crackers. Treating that cabinet space like a pantry helps me stay organized.
Planning Your Pantry Organization
Ok, for those of you that were skipping down (you know who you are), you’re in the right place! The key to pantry organization is understanding what your family truly uses on a regular basis and needs to keep stocked. For example, we love Italian food in our family. So, I have a designated spot where pasta, jars of marinara, alfredo, Caesar croutons, artichoke hearts, and cans of black olives are stored. Having it grouped together helps me to know what I can prepare, what needs to go on my shopping list, and what I need to use up because it’s starting to take over.
Once you have an idea what you plan to store in your pantry you need a plan. I lean to the OCD side (clinically, I don’t mean it as a slang), so I actually sat and drew my pantry and measured the space, then plotted what I would store and where before putting any items in it.
Pro-tip: design it like you would if you had it filled according to your ideal pantry. This way, when you DO have a chance to stock up on that food that is a little pricey, you will have a place for it.
Planning Your Grocery Purchases
Decide the ideal amount of each item to keep stored. A good rule of thumb is to store enough so that you only have to buy it every two months. That isn’t a random number. Grocery stores run specials on different types of food in two-month cycles. If you keep this timeline in mind, you will be able to time your restock to when those items are marked down. So, if you know your family goes through a family sized bag of chips per week, wait for them to be marked down to $1.99 and then buy 8 of them instead of purchasing them at $4.29 a week. On chips alone, you just saved $18.40 (not too shabby, huh).
Another really great money saving option is using Amazon Prime Pantry. Figure out what you need and have it set to auto-ship. You get a discount by setting it up in subscribe and save, and it definitely makes life easier and the budget more predictable.
Store items in a way that works for you and for your family members. If you are keeping pudding cups stored on a top shelf and you have a 6-year-old that is allowed to grab one whenever they like, you may find yourself either rescuing a climbing kid or being asked to go get them one over and over again. If you have back problems, keep heavy items at waist level instead of setting them on the floor.
One other tip when it comes to a pantry organization. Often, they are in areas that aren’t as convenient to the kitchen as your cabinets and you find yourself shying away from using it for things like spices and cramming them into your cabinets. My pantry was actually nowhere near my kitchen. I had to pass through the dining room, into a hall and then past the bathroom (it was huge and doubled as our linen closet). So, what I did was keep a large, sturdy basket with a handle in the pantry. When it was time to make dinner, I packed it with what I needed and took it in there with me. When I put things away, I used it to take them back.
One last issue when it comes to pantry storage. Some kitchens are now designed with a set of deep cabinets that go floor to ceiling as a built-in pantry. As convenient as this is, it has one serious problem (and if you have one, I bet you can tell me what it is). THEY ARE TOO DEEP. It’s almost impossible to get the stuff out of the back. Like seriously annoying (at least it was for me). If you have the money, there are sliding shelves that can help. Or you can buy some large, sturdy containers that are the same depth. This will enable you to slide that out to reach what was in the back. If you decide to go this route, keep the heavier items in the back.
Make Your Pantry Organization Serve You
In the end, organizing any area of your house is all about how YOU use a space and what works for you and your family. It’s not about creating a Pinterest perfect space. It is more about streamlining your processes through an organization plan that makes sure you have what you need when you need it. This frees up time, money (and brain space) that allow you to work towards having a life of balance.
Want other ideas do you use when organizing your pantry? Tell me in the comments below or send me an email at email@example.com.
Other posts in the organization tips and tricks series are available here:
You might also like these organization posts for specialized areas: