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How to organize your kitchen pantry

Marye Audet is an author, freelance writer and editor. As a work at home mom she has a unique perspective that encompasses the overwhelming deadlines and commitments of the professional woman as well as the constantly changing needs of a...

A place for everything

Your kitchen pantry might be a shallow space or an old-fashioned closet filled with shelves and enough storage to stock up for a decade. Keeping it organized can feel like a losing battle, especially if you have family members using it too. Don't give up yet -- these tips can keep you in control.

organized kitchen pantry

Step 1: Clear it out

It might seem like a daunting task, but clearing the space is the best place to begin. If your pantry has been disorganized for a long time, you probably have out-of-date foods, half-empty cartons of unidentifiable ingredients or stuff you bought on sale and forgot about. Anchovy-stuffed olives, anyone?

  • Take everything out and throw away outdated foods.
  • Donate foods that are still good but you won't use in the next month to the local food pantry.
  • Make an inventory list of what you have and put it on a clipboard or in a notebook. You'll want to keep this updated from now on.

Step 2: Make categories

Group your pantry items into like piles. Your categories might look something like this:

  • Baking ingredients
  • Canned goods
  • Cereals
  • Convenience foods
  • Condiments

You may have fewer or more categories, depending on how much you cook.

Step 3: Use containers

Foods like cereal, pasta and sugar can be placed in clear containers and labeled. This not only makes the ingredients easier to find, but also keeps them from encouraging bugs and rodents. If the idea of purchasing so many containers makes you twitch, just buy a few at a time.

  • Square containers are the most efficient use of space if you can find them.
  • Quart-sized canning jars with lids are an inexpensive option for some ingredients.
  • Always use food-grade containers -- BPA free if you can find them.
  • Restaurant supply stores have a large variety of food-grade storage options that are reasonably priced.
  • Baskets are pretty and practical, and they can be filled with produce like onions or potatoes. Small packages and seasoning envelopes will stay put and be easy to find when kept in their own basket. Mark sturdy hang tags with the basket’s contents and then attach the tag to the front.
  • Plastic shoe storage, the kind with several clear pockets, can be hung on the backside of the pantry door to hold the smallest packages and boxes securely.

Step 4: Decide on location

Just like in real estate, pantry storage is all about location, location, location. The items you use the most should be at eye level while items that you use least should be in the hardest to get to areas of your space. Use a piece of graph paper and make a diagram to keep with your inventory list so that anyone can easily put things away in their proper places.

High shelves can hold kitchenware and appliances that you use seasonally, such as turkey roasters, ice cream makers or that cool juicer you got for Christmas five years ago and haven't used yet but will -- someday.

Step 5: Put it back

The last step is just reloading everything back onto the shelves. Put away all of the items exactly like you placed them in your graph. If you have a label maker you can make category labels for the edges of the shelves to make it even easier to find things and put them away in the future.

If you take a few minutes every week to keep things organized you will always have a clean, easy-to-use storage area for your foods and other kitchen supplies.

More organization how-tos

How to organize your kitchen
How to teach your kids to be organized

How to manage the family laundry

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