Another day, another how-to! Today, it is all about organizing our pantry. While it was pretty easy to organize, the pantry took about two-and-a-half hours. Everything that can be linked will be linked, so that you can easily find what I’m referring to.
Full disclosure: These links do not alter the pricing of the items discussed. My linking them is simply to make it easier for you to find! I, also, had a 20% off coupon for my entire order from The Container Store making this the cheapest place for me to purchase.
Let’s get started!
The first step to ANY organization project for me is to get everything off the floor. I don’t care what it is, just elevate it. The next thing I do is quickly clean off the floor. For the pantry floor, I just did a quick dry and wet Swiffer. It took no more than 5 minutes to clean and let it air dry.
Keep in mind that we had just had our floors redone and needed to have everything up off the floors anyway. The big boxes that look ridiculous on the selves were all on the floor and under the shelving prior to these photos.
As you can see our pantry was chock-full of many items, both food and non-food. Our kitchen area is our main hub and the pantry is servicing our family as more of a multi-purpose room. Finding a way to keep each category separated, clean/easy to see, and organized was key.
After getting everything off the floors and the floors cleaned, I went shelf by shelf throwing away items. Wrappers, old (accounted for) receipts, scrap papers, expired items, empty food containers, and things that were broken were tossed.
Once the trash was tossed, I started pulling out every item and categorizing. Breakfast foods and bread items. Snacks. Non-refrigerated produce. Baking essentials. Beverages and mixes. Small appliances. Cooking, Tupperware, and lunch items. Household goods. Mail and paperwork. Dog items. Paper goods. You get the idea!
Every surface of the kitchen was dedicated to a different category. While categorizing, I noticed multiple open containers of the same thing. With these items, I consolidated them into one container (or ziplock bag) and then tossed those empties. You’ll be amazed by the amount of garbage and recycling you’ll find!
When the pantry was empty, I quickly wiped down the shelves with a Clorox wipe. Nothing fancy. I spent maybe 10 minutes doing this.
Once I knew exactly what I had, I started putting items into the clear containers I bought.
Before organizing the pantry, I bought a bunch of different sized clear containers. The only thing I knew for sure was the number of bulk food storage containers I would need, everything else was purchased knowing that I could return it later.
The bulk food and their coordinating containers were sorted first. This was flour, rice, and brown sugar. I buy these three items from Costco in 25 pound bags, so I purchased 3-22 pound airtight bins on wheels. The next bulk item I had designated containers for was white sugar (bought from Costco in a 10 or 15 pound bag). I used 2 five quart containers for the sugar. The remaining, smaller baking items went into other clear containers that I already had around the house. Chocolate chips, whole wheat flour, and miscellaneous baking items.
After using the airtight bins, I walked away to focus on the next most populated area–the dog items! Food, treats, cleaning supplies, toys, anything pet related. I used 4 new containers total to hold open and unopened treats, walking items and their bandanas, and then a miscellaneous bin (medications, grooming supplies, and so on). I used 2 medium bins, 1 large bin, and 1 small bin.
The next set of bins used were the extra-large translucent. One for bread and breakfast items, one for snacks and chips, and one for drinks. For the two food bins, I placed the items that weren’t in some type of orderly box. When something is sitting on a shelf in a bag, it looks messier to me than having something in a box. For the drinks, I tossed in the K-cups that were floating around.
Two more of the extra-large bins were used for baby items. For now, I just tossed all the baby items we’ll need accessible downstairs into the bins. Eventually (once cleaned and sterilized), the bins will be broken down into eating/drinking and gear (extra wipes, pacifiers, diaper bag needs, etc.).
The last extra-large bin was used for miscellaneous snacks/candies.
The last large bin now holds our household items, like batteries. This keeps them from being scattered around the shelves, drawers, and floors.
Going from top to bottom was the trick for me to organize efficiently. The top shelves hold items that we do not need access to every day. The farther down you go, the more used the items are.
The top shelves, from left to right, holds:
- General housing paper goods (tissues, paper towels, etc.)
- Plastic for lunches or events (plates, cups, utensils)
- Some miscellaneous items (dog items we don’t want them seeing, unused kitchen items)
- Large cooking aids and appliances (bowls, woks, Keurig).
The second set of shelving, from left to right, holds:
- Table linens
- Extra pasta/pastas that are to be used with freezer meals
- Extra kitchen utensils (I’ve owned the clear box for some time)
- Small kitchen appliances and meal prep items.
The third set of shelving, from left to right, holds:
- Cooking and food storage accessories (bags, foil, etc.)
- Canned goods and prepackaged seasonings
- Nuts, oils, and cooking wines
- Pasta and sauces
- Baking goods
- Place mats, lids, and lunch box items
- Household needs (Swiffer accessories and miscellaneous items).
The fourth set of shelving, from left to right, holds:
- Bread and breakfast needs
- Non-refrigerated produce and hot sauces
- Baby needs
- Extra hand towels and aprons
- Household needs (large recipe cards, batteries, lightbulbs, candles and waxes, small cleaning appliances/accessories).
The five, and final, set of shelving, from left to right, holds:
- Snacks and lunch add-ins
- Extra food items
- Baby bibs/burp clothes
- Special snacks/candy
- Extra (empty) bins and oven accessories
- Dog area.
The floors were a little tricky to decide on. I didn’t want to clutter it with a lot of items, but really wanted to keep the shelving open and easy to see the contents. After some deliberation, the floors, from left to right, hold:
- Extra snacks and breakfast items
- Extra cooking and food storage accessories (bags, foil, etc.)
- Extra beverages
- Large bulk food
- Small appliances (frequently used)
- Dog food, bowls, and cleaner
- Their opaque, airtight dog food bins are from Petco and hold up to 40 pounds of dog food.
- Miscellaneous paper work
- Tupperware (this is kept in a wheeling unit to bring in and out of the pantry).
Tips and Tricks
Dry Erase Boards
In order to keep track of what we need, I have 2 magnetic dry erase boards on the side fo the fridge. The top board is for food items from either the grocery store or Costco. The bottom board is for household/non-food items. This makes preparing to shop a lot easier for me, especially if I am in a rush. As something gets low, or is gone altogether, we write it down. For the food, it doesn’t matter if it’s from the pantry, freezers, or fridge.
Give Yourself Some Space
If you can, leave some bins and shelf space empty. One, it looks cleaner. Two, you have just made it easier for you (and the entire family) to keep things organized. The extra bins can be grabbed and used without hesitation. You’ll be able to quickly sort what category the item fits. And, lastly, you’ll keeping the area clean will be easier. If you can stick to the categories you create, everything will be in its place–no matter how full it gets!
Pick a Clean Out Time
I chose to clean out the pantry once a quarter. Trust me, this isn’t as big of an undertaking as it sounds. You can choose any time frame that works for you and your family. Every month, quarter, twice a year, etc.
This dedicated time is put into our calendar and is a non-negotiable. It requires us to check expiration dates (something we should be doing regularly anyway), toss out any trash, clean bins, and see what items we need–bulk, household needs, etc.
Sometimes after cleaning out the pantry, we will give ourselves a shelf challenge. It does not happen every quarter, but if we notice that we have items that are close to (but not yet) expired, we will create meals around those items.
Let’s say for example, we have 2 unopened pasta sauces. I’ll take one of the sauces and make a freezer meal for a later date. It might be a lasagna, chicken parmesan, anything. For the second sauce, we will do a simple pasta night. I’ll add some sausage or meatballs to the sauce, add your pasta, a veggie, and garlic bread. Simple and oh so easy.
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Let me know what you do to keep your pantry/kitchen storage area organized, or if this made you think of something! Don’t forget to share any tips and tricks you have in the comments below!