Eating is an essential part of our lives. If you cook at home, even a small portion of the time, it’s likely that you have some sort of food storage area. Whether you can your own goods, buy in bulk, or simply stock up when your favorite brands are on sale, it’s important to have an organized pantry, especially when that space is small. Not only will this keep you from buying more of an item that you already have, but it will help you see what you have at a quick glance and maybe even inspire you to create something delicious. Here are some tips for organizing your small pantry.
Step 1 - Sort
The first step in any organizational project is to sort, donate, and discard. Pull everything out and create three piles. Find the contact information for your local food bank and donate what you won’t use.
Once you’ve filtered your contents down to the things that you really want to keep, think groups. Creating categories keeps you ultra-organized when making grocery lists and during meal planning. With a quick glance, you know what you have and what you still need. Categories can include pasta, canned goods (by subgroup such as tomato sauce, refried beans, kidney beans), snacks, condiments, and lunch supplies. Next, consider the amount of space you will need for each group. Will one basket hold all of your baking supplies or will it require an entire shelf? Also, think about what really needs to be stored in the pantry. Could you put the fabric softener in the laundry room, the shampoo under the bathroom sink, or the coffee beans in a decorative container on the kitchen counter?
Step 2 - Use Your Space
Now that you have your categories outlined, think about how best to use your space. If your storage area has adjustable shelving, consider moving shelves to allow for canned food without unused space above it. Add additional shelves as necessary. Ditch any large boxes that take up space. Instead, put the Costco multi-packs in baskets or neatly lined shelves. Use top shelves for light items like toilet paper or chips.
Be sure to take advantage of space below your rack for extra foil, thin boxes of granola bars, and paper lunch bags. If you have an unused wall, mount wire baskets, a plastic bag holder, or other items. Drive nails into the wall and hang a chip clip from each one. Use them for open items like pretzels, crackers, and chips. Also, use the space inside the closet door by hanging a shoe organizer or specialty pantry organizer. Fill it with cleaning supplies, quick-grab snacks, or other food items. Inside the cabinet door, use 3M hooks to organize measuring cups and spoons, hang clips, or install spice racks.
Step 3 - Organize Shelves
In addition to adjusting shelves where possible, use shelf helpers to create an extra row of usable space. Can racks work, too. Use storage containers that are similar in height. If you have one tall cereal storage container alongside a row of Mason jars, you are not optimizing your space. Instead, stack the jars to the height of the cereal storage using shelf helpers or place your large flour and sugar containers there instead. For smaller items or grab-and-go individually packaged items, use baskets or other open options. Avoid unnecessarily pulling totes and bins in and out of the pantry by labeling them.
Step 4 - Problem Solve for Space
Be sure to think outside the norm. Rather than feeling the need to store the plastic wrap in a drawer, consider mounting it on a small curtain rod below upper cabinets, on a wall in the pantry, or over a cabinet door. Use one space for multiple things. For example, put the remnants of three types of pasta with similar cook times in the same container. Take the last few tea bags out of the boxes and place them in a small basket instead.
Step 5 - Commit to the Cause
Becoming organized is one thing, but staying organized is another beast entirely. To ensure your space stays tidy, enlist the help of your family. Make sure everyone sees and understands the new protocols. Empty boxes as you bring them in, rearrange when you return from Sam’s Club, create a space for seasonal goodies so you can easily reload the Otter Pops into the freezer. Make organization a part of the process when you put groceries away.
The goal is to consider each square inch of your pantry area so you can use it efficiently. Taking the time to get it organized will help maintain that organization in the future, saving you time, money, and energy.