Pantry Storage

An organized pantry storage area will save you time while cooking because you can find what you need quickly. It will also save you money in the long run (you won’t buy something you already have because you can’t find it). A well stocked pantry can also work as emergency food supply in the event of a disaster.

First step in creating an organized pantry storage is to take everything out of the pantry. Put the items on the countertop or the kitchen table by grouping them into categories like cans, jars, boxed/instant food, baking needs, oils, vinegars, condiments, spices, dry pasta, rice, dry beans, lentils, snacks, cereals, bottled water, soda, drink mixes, wine, non-refrigerated items (potatoes, onions, garlic) and so on.

Discard expired items. Donate items that you won’t be able to use before they expire to a local food shelter.

Also see if you can consolidate half empty boxes/bags of the same items into one box/bag like cereals, chips, granola bars etc. This will provide more pantry storage space.

Transfer foods like flour, chocolate chips, dry fruits, nuts, sugar, cereal, rice, dry beans etc. into clear storage containers - especially if they come in non-resealable packaging. This will keep them fresh longer and protect them from insects. You can reuse containers (animal cracker, peanut butter, jelly, coffee, nuts, sauces, pickles etc.) for this purpose.

If you have adjustable shelves in your pantry, move them up or down to reduce wasted space. Adjust them according to where you want to put taller items like cereal boxes and shorter items like canned food. If you don’t have adjustable shelves, you can use stackable baskets and containers to optimize your pantry storage space.

You can line the shelves with contact paper to protect the shelves from stains if you prefer.

Next step in organizing pantry storage is to find places to put everything back.

Always put heavy items on the lower shelves and lighter ones on the upper shelves. Place regularly or often used items at eye level. Don't forget convenience and functionality when organizing pantry storage!

The best way to create an organized pantry storage is to assign shelves for each category of items. Depending on the number of items you have and also the size of your pantry storage area, you may have to split the shelves.

If you have to use the same shelf for more than one category or group of items, put things that can go together on the same shelf. Dry beans, grains and lentils can go on one shelf. Place dry pastas and pasta sauces on one shelf. Similarly oils can be placed with spices/herbs/seasonings. Condiments, salad dressings and pickles can be grouped on one shelf. Similarly breakfast items and snacks can go on one shelf.

Put bottles of water, soda and juice , bulky amounts of rice, flour etc. on the bottom shelf or the floor of the pantry. You can put drink mixes in a box or basket and keep it along with the water.

You can also use the floor to store potatoes, onions, garlic etc. grouped together in baskets.

Arrange all your baking needs together. This will include flour, sugar, chocolate chips/bar, dry fruits, nuts, yeast, gelatin, extracts, baking soda/powder, cookie cutters, icing bags/tips, boxed cake mixes etc. Putting smaller/lighter items together in a basket will make it easier to carry them to the mixer or prep station. Store packets of gelatin and yeast in separate plastic food storage bags or containers before putting them in baskets. This way smaller packets won’t disappear! Also store all cookie cutters and icing bags/tips in separate boxes. This will prevent them from getting damaged.

Store all the breakfast items like cereals, oatmeal, coffee/tea, coffee filter, peanut butter, jelly, honey/syrups, sweetener, creamer, pancake/waffle mix etc. on the same shelf. You can transfer some sugar into a small container (reuse coffee or peanut butter jars for this purpose) to keep along with tea/coffee and leave the bulk of the sugar with the baking supplies.

Similarly group all snack items together. If you have children, you can assign lower shelves for cereals and snacks. Otherwise you can assign a base kitchen cabinet for kid’s cereals, snacks and juice.

Group all the spices/herbs/seasoning together in baskets. Put flavor packets and bullion cubes in food storage bags or containers before putting them in baskets.

Assign a lower shelf for canned food (because they are heavy) organized into subgroups such as broths, soups, fruits, vegetables, meat, tomatoes etc. You can group them in baskets or boxes (like cardboard cartons from the grocery store), if you have a lot. Stack these boxes to optimize space.

For the boxed foods, create sub groups like instant rice, pasta etc. Place boxed foods in such a way that the labels are facing you.

Putting peanut butter, jelly, honey and syrups, oils, salad dressings and condiments in inexpensive wire baskets from dollar stores, supermarkets or thrift stores will make for easy clean up if they leak or spill. Using baskets will also be beneficial if you have wire or deeper shelves in your pantry and for items stored above eye level like upper shelves.

If not using baskets, you can reuse empty boxes of parchment paper, cling wrap or aluminum foil as risers to elevate items like spices, jars, cans etc. in the back of the shelf so that they are more visible. Leave the cardboard tube/core inside for strength. Wrap the boxes with contact paper for a decorative touch. Create an organized pantry storage on a budget!

If you have enough pantry storage space, buy 2 or 3 of regularly used items that have longer shelf life. Once you open the second box (or can), you can buy another one of that item. That way you can make fewer trips to the grocery store or supermarket. The fewer the trips to the stores, the less money you are going to spend because we don’t always stick to the shopping list.

Arrange items according to expiration dates. Keep the the earliest expiring ones in front (or on top when stacking). When you buy new ones put them in the back by moving the ones you already have to the front or top.

Label the shelves and baskets so that family members know where items are and where to put them back.

Utilize the pantry door with an over the door rack available at supermarkets or home improvement stores to store smaller items like spices especially when limited in space.

The effort you put into organizing your pantry storage will save you time, money and frustration. Don’t forget maintenance.

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