Organizing the pantry is probably not at the top of anyone’s priority list. But a messy pantry isn’t just unsightly—it’s probably also costing you time and money. When your pantry is disorganized, it’s hard to find what you want quickly. And when you can’t see what you have at a glance, you may forget about it, which can lead to expired food and wasted money on duplicate purchases. To help you get started, we’re sharing expert tips and advice on the best pantry organization ideas and inexpensive pantry organization essentials.
If you’re building a pantry from scratch, a portable shelving unit is an expensive way to achieve organization and storage. Just be sure to get a unit that can withstand the weight of all those heavy cans.
Square baskets that coordinate with your pantry or kitchen design not only help to organize all those random boxed goods, but they also make your kitchen pinterest-worthy. Start with 6 to 12 matching baskets—the more the merrier—you can’t have too many. Then store all the cereals in one, all the pasta in another, all the ramen noodles in one and so on.
Airtight Storage Containers
Take dry goods like flour, sugar, or dried beans out of the package and store them in clear, airtight storage containers. Not only will they look neater, but they’ll be protected from ants or other pests. You’ll also be able to see at a simple glance when your stocks need to be replenished.
Arrange spices on a two-tier turntable, with cooking spices on one level and baking spices on the other. Use a larger turntable to easily store and find cooking oils. Keep sugar, flour, and other baking goods in stackable canisters or labeled plastic bags. This is also the perfect time to check the expiration date and dispose of spices past their prime.
Common Mistakes People Make
Organizing your pantry is not as difficult. But there are a few pitfalls you should avoid as they just lead to making things even more complicated for you.
Some foods just aren’t good neighbors. Many people like to stock up on onions and potatoes in their pantry. If you do the same, make sure they’re not mingling. Onion and garlic can be stored together, but neither should mingle with potatoes; doing so hastens spoiling. Also, be sure to keep flours away from strong-smelling items (like cumin and curry powder) so that they don’t absorb any of the flavors. Same goes for bread; in fact, it’s best to keep bread in a bread box. Also opt out of the need for unnecessary fancy labeling. We’ve read service story after service story extolling the virtues of labeling pantry jars. But we think it is more important than marking a jar’s contents (after all, who needs a label to tell you that pasta is in the glass jar when it’s clearly visible?) is marking the bought or expiration date. And there’s no need to get fancy with the labels. A good, preferred method? Labeling with a marker and washi tape. Also, do you like to have a variety of breakfast cereals on hand or want to keep your pet’s kibble stored in the pantry? You’ll want to plan a spot that accommodates large-sized items. If you’re redesigning your pantry or building one from scratch, it’s critical that you go over what’s currently in it and make sure that there will be a shelf or two in the new pantry that will be tall enough to fit those oversized items.
If you have small kids, be sure to store healthy snacks on a shelf that they can easily access. When they ask you for a snack, you can simply tell them to check the pantry themselves—a much better alternative than having to go to the pantry, report the contents, repeat it all, and retrieve a snack for them. Side note: keep the sweets and less nutritious snacks on a higher shelf. And certainly, take a moment after you’ve organized your pantry to admire the results. You can bask in the after-glow for months, in fact. But know that it doesn’t last forever. The key to keeping an organized pantry is to check in a few times a year to assess its contents. Old ingredients need to be tossed. Dust and little spills need to be taken care of. Systems need to be tweaked. These quarterly checkups will mean you may never have to completely make over your pantry again.