Imagine this. You open a pantry door to find bags of food piled up on top of each other, food lost in the piles that you had to look for and probably did not even find, re-buying the foods you had but did not know you did. And a pantry that was not encouraging to look at!! This was my reality. It probably was not as dramatic but I’m sure you got the picture. I had to do something about it and I did!!
We’ve probably all seen the customized pantries with the dreaded wire shelving. In our previous home, I had a tiny pantry but the shelving were not made from wire. They were wood of some kind (guessing customized by the previous owner). I have taken many photos of how I kept it organized but my terrible lighting and not so good of a camera, did otherwise. So no pantry org from that home. I admit though, that I prefer wood shelves because they keep the food more stable in the pantry. The pantry in this house is a tad bigger than what we had before but when I saw the wire shelves I sort of ‘panicked’. (Wire pantry shelves and I don’t really go hand in hand – the food stuff don’t stay stable enough). I knew customizing was not an option for us because of renting. So I immediately wanted to do some serious organizing but with moving and all, things took longer than expected. But whether you have wood or wire pantry shelves, a small or a large pantry it’s good to organize it in some shape or form. You’ll notice that:
- you’ll know exactly what you have in your pantry
- you will easily find what you need
- less time will be spent searching for food
- you’ll save money on grocery by not re-buying what you thought you did not have
- you’ll probably enjoy more home cooked meals
- your pantry will look put together
With all the fabulous looking pantry organization around the web, it may be tempting to try to make yours look like someone else’s. That is not practical. One thing I find common about all organized pantries I have seen (large or small, wood or wire) is that they all are organized using the same basic items – jars, baskets or bins. It all boils down to the same basic system. It’s best to take an idea and figure out how you can customize it to suit your pantry rather than try to do a replica of it if your pantry is not designed the same way. If I was waiting to make my pantry like someone else’s, I’d still be experiencing the frustration that comes with a disorganized pantry. Here are my three steps to get your pantry organized:
- Choose varying sizes of baskets, bins, and food jars to corral foods
- Group like items
- Label items (download my free sets Food Jar Labels 3×3.5 and Food Jar Labels 2×3 Inches)
By implementing these three steps, your pantry will be on it’s way to being organized. Our pantry organization makes such a big (good) difference in the way we eat and the way we grocery shop. It’s been a few months since I have organized it and it’s been staying organized. If you think your pantry could use some organizing, I’m hoping my organized pantry will give you a little inspiration. Take a look at how I am keeping it organized. You’ll also see how I have organized a few cabinets with food that do not fit in the pantry.
3 Steps to an Organized Pantry
1.Use food jars, baskets or bins
I don’t think it’s necessary to put every. single. item. in the pantry in a food jar or in a basket but it’s helpful in many ways. Food jars or canisters for example, are a great way to store dry staple foods. Flour, rice, baking mixes, even cereal are much easier to use from a jar than having to scoop or pour them out from packages. Plus jars keep these types of ingredients a bit more ‘fresh’ and from the regular spills that come with trying to dig them out through an opened package (at least in my experience). In our pantry, I used large and medium plastic jars to store cereal and mixes (pancake mix, baking mix, cream of wheat). I also use these jars to store small packs of food, beans and pasta.
- Baskets or bins
Baskets are such a great way to corral items in a pantry. Most of the larger wicker ones in our pantry are holding opened food packages. Say for example, a 5 pound bag of rice will not all fit in a food jar at once. I fill the jar and save the extra in one of the baskets along with other opened dry goods. I also like to put opened boxes in one bin and opened packages in another and so on.
I had those three crates at the bottom and have used them for various tasks around the house such as craft items, mail, paint, etc. I thought they would work well for holding extra unopened ‘bulk’ foods. I use the term ‘bulk’ loosely because they are not in big packages but lots of little extras. I’ve seen many pantries with the bulk foods placed on the top shelf. I prefer them at the bottom – they seem easier to reach when needed than having to take down heavy baskets from the top.
2.Grouping Like Items
It’s always best to group like foods when organizing a pantry. It makes them easier to find and it saves time. The larger basket next to the miscellaneous used to hold snacks down at the bottom. Now I’m using it as a baking basket to hold things like unopened packages of chocolate chips, shredded coconut, etc. that is also on this shelf. That self is storing both baking and some other smaller breakfast items that do not need to be emptied out in other jars because they are already in jars. There are a few boxed foods such as extra packs of unopened granola (not bars) and other energy bars on that shelf. It’s all grouped in a way that makes sense to us and are easy to find.
You may have noticed the dried breakfast foods in jars on the top shelf. I would put them in a cabinet but the cabinets are storing other food items (at the bottom of this post). The small basket that says “extra cereal” is holding extra opened bags of cereal. Sometimes when the amount of cereal in a box is too much too fit in a jar, I would remove the bag from the box, add a food clip to it, and store it in this basket. It can hold up to 4 bags of left over cereal so it saves some space in the pantry.
As seen here, not everything in the pantry is in a jar or a basket. I don’t see the need for it. I simply group and stack items in a way that makes them easy to see and easy to get to.
Since our canned and bottled foods are not of such a huge variety, they are easy to organize. The top shelf consist mainly of Mexican ingredients, Italian and tomato ingredients (diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, paste, etc) a variety of salad dressing, a few Asian ingredients, and oils. The bottom shelf is mainly baking and breakfast type of canned or bottled foods. We’re not big on too many types of canned prepped foods – we prefer fresh foods all around. Apart from the peanut butter and nutella, most of the other ones are use to prepare meals rather than already prepped foods.
I truly love to label some of my food jars to help identify what is in them. Many of them are obvious and may be labeled just to make them look more organized and cute. But I do have a problem identifying various white flours and baking and cooking mixes so I added labels to know what type is in which jar. I’ve also labeled a few baskets where what is in them cannot be seen unless the basket is removed from the pantry. It’s easier to tell just from looking on the outside.
Here is a look at the cupboards. I don’t get the very best lighting for photos of the kitchen in general but this corner in particular. But this is how I have the cabinets organized. The large glass jars on the bottom shelf are a favorite of mine and I rather keep them in the cupboard than on the wire shelves. And Mason jars? I have them in abundance!
And here is another cabinet that I use to keep food. This cabinet is located to the right of the stove and really makes seasoning mixes, oils, salts, and daily cooking ingredients easy to get to during cooking. I also keep some baking spices and baking ingredients here too. It is close to the cabinets and cupboards with the mixer, mixing bowls, and measuring spoons, etc. What is in the pantry is more like add-ins for baking.
I could NEVER have too many spices of all kinds. Growing up in the Caribbean will do that to you. We’re all about spices – it’s why our food is so tasty. Yes, I’m biased:) I even feel a bit cheated here because in our previous home, I had the entire pantry door dedicated for spices & seasonings. Notice that some of the oils and cooking wines are corralled in a small crate. It’s my way of keeping the oils from draining out on the cabinets and leaving oil marks.
I hope this gave you an insight of how you can organize your pantry and make it work for you and your family. You can download a free set of labels of your choosing if you’d like to use them: Food Jar Labels 3×3.5 and Food Jar Labels 2×3 Inches. They are a clean simple yet fancy design and you’ll love this sticker paper (affiliate link) I used and how easy it was to print and put on the jars.
Do you have an organized pantry? What is your system for keeping it organized? I’d love to know in the comments.
Wicker Baskets – At Home Stores
Food Jars – Walmart