The pantry is the bedrock of a well-run kitchen, but sometimes it can look like a disaster zone. Open the cupboard doors, and you might see stale boxes of crackers, sticky condiment jars, knocked-over cans, and open bags of chips. A messy, disorganized pantry can make even the simplest recipes feel stressful and have you reaching for the takeout menu. Even if you’re overwhelmed when faced with clutter (who isn’t!), These easy tips will get your pantry in tip-top shape in no time.
Start with a clean slate. Take the time to remove all the food from your pantry so you can see what you’re working with. This will help you clear out all the junk — food that has gone way past its sell by date, empty boxes and jars, and items you know no one is ever going to use. It will also let you easily plan where things should go.
Divide it up into sections based on lifestyle. Put your most-used items, such as olive oil and other condiments, front-and-center, within easy reach. You will also want easy access to weeknight dinner supplies. Have a basket, bin, or tray, or designate a section, with ingredients like pasta and sauce, rice, and other components of frequent meals. This will make weekday dinners even easier and help you plan out meals before you go shopping. If you pack kids’ lunches, have another section devoted to school lunch ingredients, such as juice boxes, applesauce, or other packaged fruit.
Make a spot for kid-friendly snacks. Keep a basket or tub at kid height with snacks, so they’re easy to grab when hunger strikes. Fill it up with water bottles, pretzels, granola bars, and other after school snacks. As a bonus, this will help little kids feel involved in keeping the kitchen organized, since they have an easy-access space for their goodies.
Use transparent, stackable bins. There’s a good reason why see-through containers are so popular when it comes to pantry design. At a glance, you can see if you’re running low on flour or stocked-up on flaxseeds. Plus, transferring staples like pasta, canned tomatoes and beans, sugar, and rice into separate bins helps you avoid duplicate items, freeing up space and making meal planning and shopping so much easier. Bins that stack let you make full use of your pantry space and make it less likely that containers will fall over or get lost.
Use door and wall space. Space is valuable, so make sure you’re using all of it. The back of the pantry door is a great spot to install a rack for spices, mixes, or even to hang a stepladder if you have the space. Likewise for the walls. Wall hooks are helpful for hanging dish towels and other useful items that might otherwise take up shelf space.
Use a lazy Susan for oils and condiments. Never go rummaging around for the Worcester sauce or sriracha again. Buy a small, pantry-sized lazy Susan to keep your oils and condiments in one place and easily accessible. This little tool will make cooking dinners easier and prevent knocked over or lost bottles. You can also use a lazy Susan for spices or cans, or any other ingredients you use regularly.
Don’t overstuff the shelves. It can be tempting to try and squeeze as much room out of your pantry as possible, but overstuffing the shelves quickly leads to clutter. At a certain point, too many jars and containers are simply overwhelming, no matter how well it’s organized. Even with the best intentions, you’ll likely find yourself back at square one, dealing with an unmanageable pantry. Keep it simple, don’t over shop, and work with the space you’ve got.