How to Organize Your Pantry
It’s that time of year: Time to start making New Year’s resolutions! If you are like many of us, one of your resolutions will be to get organized. Of course, there are so many ways to “get organized,” including getting your closets organized, getting your finances organized, and taking control of your daily to-do list. When you make New Year’s resolutions, it’s usually helpful to be specific and to focus on one thing at a time. Starting with getting your kitchen pantry organized can make a big difference in your meal-planning and kitchen prep. Here are some tips on organizing your pantry:
- Put aside a garbage bag and a box Part of pantry organization is purging items that you can’t or won’t use. You probably have at least some items that will fall into each category. For example, anything that is outdated or expired needs to be tossed in the trash. (Open boxes and bottles and dump out the contents, then recycle the containers.) If you have unopened foods that are not expired but that you know your family members won’t eat for whatever reason, place them in the box. These can be donated to your local food pantry later.
- Take everything out of the pantry As you go through each shelf, placing unwanted items in the box or bag, put everything that you will be keeping on the counter. Try to put them in some semblance of order. For example, place boxed goods on one section, and canned goods on another. If you keep a barely-damp dishcloth in your hand, you can quickly wipe down each item before placing it on the counter. (This will have to be done at some point, and when you’re taking out and inspecting each item for its expiration date is as good a time as any.)
- Clean the pantry itself Once everything is out of your pantry, you have the opportunity to wash down the shelves, walls and floor. If you have solid shelves, you might consider putting down Contac paper or some other shelf liner. Wire shelves can be scrubbed with a sponge. Wipe any sticky spots or fingerprints off of the walls, and sweep and mop the floor, especially the corners, which tend to be neglected. Use a broom to dust off the ceiling and knock down any cobwebs that might be hiding up there.
- Put everything back Now that your pantry is completely clean, it’s time to put all of your items back. Put heavier items toward the bottom and lighter items toward the top, and keep like items together. Drinks, such as bottles of soda and juice, can go on the floor. Paper goods like napkins and paper plates should go on the top shelf. If you have small items like spices in your pantry, put them on a lazy susan carousel or keep them in a bin. This will prevent them from falling on the floor or getting hidden behind larger items. Potentially sticky items like syrups or honey should be kept on a small tray so that you can simply wash it off periodically instead of having to take everything off of a shelf in order to wash it.
- Make a list Some people like to make a master shopping list that includes most of the pantry items, and hang it in the pantry. This allows you to circle or mark off commonly used items as they’re used up, reducing the chances that you’ll be halfway through a recipe when you realize that you’re out of flour or some other staple. Even if you don’t, make note of any items that you’re running low on now that you’re in the midst of organizing your pantry, and you can pick them up on your next shopping trip.
Keeping the pantry organized is now simply a matter of going through it quickly each week when you come home with groceries. Taking a few minutes to do this regularly will mean that you can let your pantry go longer in between big cleanings like the one you just did.