When you picture your dream kitchen, it’s likely that you envision a walk in pantry with deep, solid shelves. Unfortunately, most kitchens stop short of those dreams. Small kitchens with hectic and cramped pantries are the reality for most people.
Don’t let that tiny pantry get the best of you. Simple organization and storage ideas can help resolve your pantry space problem in no time.
1. Pull Everything Out
It may sound like a daunting task, but the best way to give your kitchen pantry the makeover it deserves is to start over from square one. Take everything out of your pantry. Place all food products on your kitchen counter in groups with similar items.
As you take the pantry items out, wipe them off with a damp towel to remove any dust they may have accumulated. Wipe down your bare shelves, making sure to let them air dry afterwards. Sweep and mop the floor of your pantry if possible.
2. Out With The Old
While all your pantry items are out on your counter, go through each item so you know what needs to be thrown out or eaten soon. Get rid of anything that is old or potentially stale. If you have a surplus of an ingredient, integrate it into your meal plans for the coming week. The ingredients you have on hand should dictate what to cook.
The pantry can be a place where food lives for an unnatural amount of time. Processed foods have a suspiciously long shelf life, but that doesn’t mean you should keep a box of cereal in your pantry for three years. Create a system that promotes constant rotation and use of pantry items.
3. Avoid Too Many Processed Foods and Canned Goods
Make it a goal to learn to make certain items from scratch. If you are accustomed to buying pre-made convenience items like pancake mix, instant oatmeal, and brownie mix, learn to make these items on your own. Your space will look much better without all the bulky boxes. Your body, mind and sleek pantry will thank you for the extra effort.
Canned goods are great for earthquake kits and doomsday preppers, but your average household does not need to have a massive stash of cans in the pantry. Cans are bulky and take up space that can be used for other dry goods.
Some canned goods are better than others. For example:
- Canned tomatoes can be superior to mealy, out of season tomatoes.
- Canned beans hold their integrity and can come in handy when you are short on time.
- Canned small fish like herring and sardines are a sustainable way to get protein into your diet.
Canned green vegetables lose their color due to the high heat of the canning process. The long and high heat of the canning process causes most of the nutrition to be cooked out, so the vegetables become mushy. You are much better off buying your greens from your produce section.
4. Mind Your Spices
Go through your spices and get rid of anything that you’ve had for more than two years. If your local grocery store has a bulk section, buy only small amounts of the spices that you plan on needing for the next few months.
When the holidays are around the corner, buy small amounts of warming spices like cinnamon, clove and nutmeg. If grilling season has arrived, have spices on hand that go well with meat, like cumin, peppercorns, and curry spice.
Put as much of your dry goods as you can into airtight clear containers. This will keep your pantry items fresher for longer and allow you to easily see what you have on hand. Pint and quart size glass jars work great for grains, beans, seeds, dried fruit, flours, and sugars. Consolidate food items into the smallest canister you can fit them into to take up less space.
6. Shelving is Your Friend
The easiest way to create more space for dry goods storage is to put up extra shelving in your pantry or kitchen. If you don’t have room in your pantry to add shelves, find shelves that fit on your pantry door. Hanging shelves on your kitchen wall is an option if you do not have a pantry.
Space your shelves about one foot apart from each other vertically to give yourself room for tall jars and storage containers. Hang your shelves as high up as you need to, just be sure to have a step stool handy. Put the food items you use the least often at the top of your shelves. Ingredients that get used the most can be kept on a low shelf or on the counter for ease of use.
7. Store Bulk Dry Goods Properly
Buying dry goods in bulk is a great way to save money. When you have a large amount of a dry ingredient, it is important to ensure it does not grow mold or go rancid.
Get a container that is big enough to hold large amounts of bulk ingredients. Make sure to thoroughly dry the container with a towel so no moisture is present. Once your product is in the container, secure the lid tightly and clearly label the date on piece of painters tape on the container. Store in a cool, dry, and dark space.
Many products you buy in bulk might not last as long as you would think. Be certain you can use them up entirely before they can go bad. Here is a list that can assist you in knowing how long bulk products can last in your pantry:
- White Enriched Flour – One year
- Whole Wheat Flour – Three to four months
- Nuts – Two months (up to one year if stored in a freezer)
- Dried Beans – Two to three years
- Dried Pasta – Two years
- Sugar – Two years
- Rice (Brown) – Four to six months
- White Rice – Up to one year
- Dried Fruits – Six months to one year
- Spices – Two years whole, or one year ground
- Dried Herbs – One year
- Oils – One year
8. Give Everything a Home
A major part of kitchen organization is making sure everything has a constant home. Categorizing all your pantry items into sections will help create a more organized kitchen. Not only will you know where to find items quickly, but you will have a set place to put them back.
Multiple breathable baskets make great homes for things like snacks, foil, paper towels, and parchment paper. Keep pots, pans, dishes and glassware out of the pantry and in your kitchen cabinets.
How your pantry is organized is relative to the type of life you lead. If you have kids, you may have more snacks stored down low for hungry hands. If you live on a mountain and can only make it to the grocery store once a month, your pantry may need to be more stocked than others. If you don’t cook much, you might have an almost empty pantry. One thing is for certain, though—an organized pantry is the precursor to and organized kitchen and life.