Food pantries can take just about any form. These versatile storage areas for canned goods, paper products and less frequently used small appliances may be housed in a walk-in room, a simple drawer, a wall cabinet or a closet. Hutches, armoires and even open shelving also work well.
Regardless of the setup, the key to a successful pantry is keeping it organized. Here are a few tips and tricks to get you started.
Similar to a refrigerator, the first step to seeing what you have to work with is emptying it out and giving it a good overall cleaning. Start with the ceiling – look out for spider webs! – and work your way down to the floor.
Next, give shelves a thorough wipe-down with soap and water, capturing any dust and crumbs. If you’re feeling ambitious, repaint your shelves or even wallpaper the pantry. If not, simply line the shelves with contact paper and mop the floors.
While boxes and food items are strewn throughout your kitchen, grab a donation box and think about what you really need and use.
Were certain items out of reach that would be better relocated closer to the stove, like herbs and olive oil? Place those items where they may make more sense, and make a list of the items you need from the store to fill the culinary gaps.
Throw away expired products, and set aside any items you don’t think you’ll use – like the navy beans for that special recipe you never got around to making – for your local food bank
If the clean-out process revealed hard-to-reach items in the back of your pantry, relocate them. Put things you rarely need – like extra mixing bowls and seldom-used appliances – in the back, and label the front of the shelf to remind you of their new location.
If your pantry is deep enough, opt for installing roll-out shelving or wire bins for those hard-to-reach essentials.
Get a better view
If you have open shelving or glass-front cabinets, handling a mix of boxes, bags and random containers can be a challenge.
Invest in a large set of clear glass or plastic jars for storage. Their attractive uniformity will cut the visual chaos, and they’re perfect for storing baking supplies like flour and sugar.
Decide on storage solutions
Once you have a handle on what you want to store, it’s time to round up the items you need to put your pantry back together. Your list may include spice jars, Mason jars, contact paper, racks for aluminum foil and plastic wrap, and bins and baskets to wrangle small items.
Put it all back together
You’ve taken everything out and purged what you don’t need. Now it’s time to reload the pantry with everything you plan to store.
Group like items together – coffee and creamer with sweeteners; flour and sugar with baking soda; pastas and grains with oats; soups and olives with other canned items. Play around with your arrangement until it looks so organized that you feel proud enough to show it off.
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Originally published January 2015