Productivity in the Pantry

Well I finally got around to a home improvement project of sorts this weekend: Cleaning and organizing the pantry!

Did I lose you? Hello? Are you still there?

The way I see it (and let’s face it, I really can see things in the pantry now), this will benefit both you and me because now I can more easily locate the ingredients I need to whip up some more interesting things to write about for you here! Surely this is a win-win, right? And, honestly, if that’s all you wanted to be assured of in this break-from-recipes post, you can stop reading here.

But for those of you who are now thinking to yourself lord knows my pantry could use some organization (which were my thoughts exactly as I reluctantly opened that door almost every day for about 2 months now), read on for my tips, no alphabetizing involved.

To understand how this makeover transpired, let’s take a look at the pantry as it appeared soon after we moved into this house:

Not too bad, right? Here’s what 7 months of life presented me with:

Still not super atrocious, but definitely cluttered. And the danger of having a cluttered pantry is that you forget that you have certain foods or can’t see that you even own certain foods and they sort of hibernate in there all lonely and cluttered until the expiration date passes and you eventually discover them and unceremoniously lay them to rest in the nearest garbage can.

Pantry Organization Tip #1: Take Everything Out

You may have noticed in this photo that I already added a new over-the-door storage unit that I picked up for $19.99 at Bed Bath & Beyond (actually a little bit less than that thanks to a coupon received in the mail). Anyway, taking everything out is my first organization tip because before you can hope to make a meaningful update to your space, you’ve got to see what you have.

Pantry Organization Tip #2: Sort

In a simple feat of multi-tasking, I kind of sorted my pantry’s contents while I was removing them from the pantry and placed them in the appropriate piles. As you sort, be sure to toss anything that is stale, expired, or no longer needed. In addition to the to-trash pile, I sorted my goods into the following categories:
– cleaning supplies
– empty storage containers and lunchboxes
– foodstuffs already in containers (e.g., flour, oats)
– foodstuffs in awkward shapes/sizes (e.g., dried fruit from the bulk bins in a plastic bag)
– foodstuffs in cans or bottles
– bulk foodstuffs that need a container

Pantry Organization Tip #3: Consider Storage Helpers

You already saw in a previous photo that I purchased an over-the-door organizer. In addition, I purchased 2 stainless steel, airtight containers for storing flour and sugar that didn’t already have a container. It’s possible you may be able to do a pantry makeover without purchasing anything. However, I encourage you to be open-minded to putting out a little money towards a container or other space saver if you determine it’s needed. It will save you time and money in the end.

The trick here is to examine the types of things you normally keep in your pantry to determine what sorts of storage you need. I keep a lot of flours and sugars for my bread and baking needs, so I needed more bulk storage. Those little spice racks or cube dividers wouldn’t really help me there. On the other hand, if you do keep a lot of spice jars in your pantry, maybe you’d benefit from a spice rack. Look at the empty spaces in your pantry and think about what kinds of storage you need to make the maximum use of that empty space. For me, that was the door. You’ll see that I chose to put lighter objects and non-glass objects here, just in case something falls or someone opens the door too fast.

If you have a lot of smaller things (bags of chips, rolls of crackers, packets of yeast, etc.), consider locating boxes or baskets around the house to group them together in a single, easy-to-access space.

Pantry Organization Tip #4: Group Like Items Together

Sounds simple, but this step really helps when making your grocery list because you can see at a glance which supplies you have and which you need to replenish. I grouped my flours and sugars together. Nut butters and jams together. Tomatoes and canned vegetables together. Lunch supplies together. Cleaning supplies together.

Just in case you were wondering, the pantry essentials that need replacing most often in our house are as follows (in no particular order):
– diced tomatoes
– Alex’s cereal(s)
– sugars
– flours
– rolled oats
– Alex’s potato chips for lunches (smaller quantities means replacing more frequently)
– nut butters
– nuts
– chicken stock (when I don’t have homemade on hand)

There are tons of lists (like this one) of what things you “should” always keep in your pantry, but that’s for another conversation.

And that’s it, really! Abracadabra and all that good stuff! It took me about five minutes to take everything out. And 30-45 minutes of “I’m-sort-of-concentrating-on-organizing-but-also-kinda-watching-this-cheesy-Lifetime-movie” to get the whole thing done. Not bad, eh?

So what do you think? Have you got a pantry or cabinet or countertop in desperate need of organization? Would you consider giving it a little love after reading these easy tips? And to those organization gurus out there, what other advice can you offer for maintaining a productive pantry? Leave a comment with your thoughts.

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3 thoughts on “Productivity in the Pantry

  1. […] huge cardboard box sitting around taking up space in our modest house, would it? Surely I could use my savvy organizing skills to find some place to store it less […]

  2. […] re-organized the pantry with particular attention to making room for canned and bulk goods (it was about this time last year that I cleaned out the pantry […]

  3. […] Before (about a year and a half ago): […]

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