Organizing Your Pantry: The Ultimate Guide

source: mtsofan

source: mtsofan

Keeping your pantry and refrigerator organized is no easy task as you pull things out, unload grocery bags, hunt for elusive ingredients and more while preparing three meals and multiple snacks each day!

But decluttering and organizing these areas actually helps you save money on your grocery bill — something we could all use these days.

Why? Because you will know exactly what you have:

  • You’ll know which food is getting ready to expire so that you can plan to use it before it does.
  • You’ll know exactly what ingredients you do and don’t have, so you won’t be making last minute trips to the store, which always end up costing more than the single item you’re missing.
  • You’ll know when you’re running low on your family’s favorite foods in time to catch the next store special and restock your stash.

Although it takes time, having an organized pantry and freezer pays off in dividends as you cut down on wasted food and unnecessary purchases.

Planning Your Space

To get started, here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  • How much space do you have designated for your pantry? Is it enough? Could you declutter some of your kitchen gadgets to make more space? If you’re feeling cramped, can you rearrange your kitchen drawers to free up some more space?
  • Which food items do you use most often? Which need to be accessible – or inaccessible – to your kids? What makes the most sense to you as far as “categories” for your food?
  • Are you willing to spend money on organizing your pantry? Would stairstep shelves such as these make your life easier? Could you create more space in your pantry with a hanging door organizer? Do you want to buy glass or tupperware storage containers for your cereal and basic ingredients, or do you prefer to just keep them in their original bags and boxes?
  • Do you stockpile enough food that you need to set up a separate food storage area, or will you keep it in your regular pantry? If you’re setting up stockpile food storage in a separate area of your home, is it protected from pests?  Is it in a location that’s convenient enough that you’ll take the time to rotate and check your stockpile on a regular basis?
  • Do you have a second freezer or chest freezer? If so, which foods will you keep in it? If not, which contents of your freezer need to be most accessible on a daily basis? Would these be good items to keep in the door or in a small pull-out bin in the freezer to make them more accessible?

Planning ahead is one of the keys to success when it comes to getting organized and staying that way. Only you know what will work best for your family!

Organizing Your Pantry

For many people, the idea of getting organized evokes images of fancy organizing systems and spending lots of time and money for a system that probably won’t last anyway. But organizing your pantry doesn’t have to be expensive or even time consuming.

Let’s look at a few strategies to make organizing your pantry easier:

One of the best ways to save time and money is to organize your pantry and freezer in a way that makes it easy to see what you do and don’t have as you plan your meals and make your grocery list each week.

If you have money to invest in your pantry organization, there are great accessories available, such as this 3-tier cabinet organizer or this adjustable door rack. If you’re short on space – or trying to make the most out of the space you do have – use one or more lazy susans for your canned goods. They’ll allow you to stack your cans several deep and still be able to easily see and access them.

But even if you are not in a position to purchase any items to help with your pantry organization, I would still encourage you to take the time to get organized:

  • Divide your pantry space into zones. Think about the types of food you regular keep in your pantry and separate them into zones that make the most sense to you. You might separate cans, breakfast foods, baking ingredients and snacks. Or you might keep all of your prepared foods on one shelf where they’re easily accessible and put jars/cans/mixes on another. See how I organize my pantry here.
  • Arrange food so that it’s easy to see. Turn cans so that you can see their labels. If space requires you to keep things in front of each other, put the larger items in the back so they’re easier to see.
  • Keep the ingredients you use more frequently at eye level and easily accessible.
  • Rotate and reorganize your pantry every 4-6 weeks. When stockpiling food, it’s easy to waste food if you’re not organized. Rotating and reorganizing your stock ensures that you use any items that are close to expiring or that you may have forgotten about.

Many people keep a pantry inventory to track what they have and what they need, but even if you don’t have the time or inclination to keep a full pantry inventory, another option is to simply make a list of your most commonly used items. Print out copies and keep it in or near your pantry. Use one each week to track what items you run out of or need more of so that you aren’t trying to rememeber everything at the last minute as you prepare your grocery list.

pantry organization

Choosing Containers

I recently reorganized my baking drawer and pantry using Prego jars and washi tape, and I love it. It’s nothing compared to these organized pantries, but it feels so clean and organized  compared to when it was stuffed full of bags and boxes of various sizes.

I’m not sure I would ever invest in matching containers otherwise, but we go through enough spaghetti sauce that it only took a few months to have enough to organize it just the way I wanted anyway.

That said, while I’ve always removed extra packaging to keep things neat, I kept things in their original packaging for the most part for a long time, and I think there are pros and cons to both methods:

Pros

1. It looks nice!

2. Everything has a designated place, and you can quickly see how much each container contains and what you may be running low on.

3. You can buy in bulk to save money and help the planet.

Cons

1. It can cost money to get started, or take time to save up enough containers.

2. You have to take the time after every grocery shopping trip to transfer the food to the containers.

3. There’s not as much flexibility, and if you end up with 1 or 2 items that don’t have a container, it might drive you nuts. (Oh, wait, maybe that’s just me…)

Ultimately, there’s no right or wrong way to do it, so figure out what works best for you and run with it!

7 Steps For Staying Organized

So once you get your pantry, freezer and stockpile organized, how do you keep them that way?

Taking a few minutes to “reorganize” every week is an important part of staying organized. It doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot of time doing this. In fact, it really shouldn’t take more than 5-10 minutes each week once you get organized.

You could do this while you’re making your grocery list or wait until you get home with the new groceries, whichever you think will be easier.

1. Look at the food in the back or on the bottom shelf of your pantry, because this is where food usually goes bad.

2. Pull anything that may be approaching its expiration date to the front.

3. Look for empty or almost-empty boxes or containers that can be used up or refilled.

4. Throw away anything that has gone bad.

5. Give away anything that you really aren’t going to use, despite your best intentions when you purchased it. Pass it on to a neighbor or friend, or donate it to a church or food bank. Don’t hold on to it until it expires just because you feel like you should use it!

6. Move anything that is on the “wrong” shelf back to its place.

7. Restock your shelves, making room for the new groceries rather than just shoving everything in haphazardly.

Staying organized is the key to getting the most out of your pantry. It also means you shouldn’t have to do a completely pantry overhaul in six months because things have gotten out of hand. Again.

You may find that staying organized gives you a better idea of how you’d really like things to be, and you may end up reorganizing anyway to make it work better for you, but it’s much more fun to reorganize because you want to than because you need to!

How do you organize your pantry and stockpile?