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So, you’ve found your pantry and decided what to put into it, now the real fun begins! Let’s organize it!

First, let’s take a page from the grocery store book. Stores arrange their shelves from top to bottom based upon what they want you to see. When it comes to your pantry, you want to be sure the middle shelves are filled with the things you use most often. There’s no need to bend down low or get a stool to reach up high for regularly used items.

6 steps to organized pantry

1. Place rarely used items in the harder-to-reach places.

  • On the top shelf of our pantry sit serving dishes (platters, punch bowls, large baskets, etc.), large vases for entertaining, roasting pans, and canning supplies – things I only use periodically.  I also have a box up there of items we only use at Christmas which we may need to use before the Christmas bins come down from the attic.
  • Use saran wrap, old t-shirts, or pillow cases to cover the tops of open dishes to keep dust off.

2. Use the floor for heavy items and/or things you want your kids to reach.

  • Large baskets hold unopened bags of chips, boxes of crackers, and bags/boxes of cereal. (once we open a package, it has a home in the kitchen cabinets – no one wants to invite pests into the pantry!)
  • Large bottles of juice, sodas for entertaining, and cases of bottled water.
  • Rolls of paper towels.
  • Milk Crates full of snack packs or drink pouches/boxes.

3. Group remaining items: Again, think grocery store. 

  • Baking items and spices usually make sense together. Flour, sugars, oils, pudding mixes, dressing mixes, dip mixes,
  • Canned goods – veggies, tomato products, ingredient soups, soups you’ll eat, canned milk for recipes, canned juices. There are lots of organizers for canned goods which may help contain them. We just set them on the shelves like the grocery store – oldest cans to the front.
  • Dried foods – rice, potato flakes, pasta, beans
  • Fruit
  • Breakfast foods – toaster pastries, smoothie mixes, protein bars, you get the idea
  • Beverages
  • Party supplies – paper plates, napkins, cups, plasticware
  • Food storage items – plastic bags, extra rolls of plastic wrap, foil, wax paper, freezer paper, vacuum-sealer bags, disposable containers for delivering meals
  • Trash bags of various sizes for all the cans in your home

4. Set your shelves and arrange contents. Remember to put frequently used items in prime locations.

  • Canned goods are typically around the same height. Depending upon the width of your pantry, set a number of shelves at can height, with a little room to slide cans in and out easily.
  • Baking items tend to be a little taller – so set that shelf with enough clearance to move bags and boxes easily.
  • Dried foods are similarly sized to baking items, so maybe they share a shelf
  • Party supplies are bulky, but generally light weight. Put them on a spacious, high shelf.
  • If you have a lot of large bottles on the floor, perhaps part of the shelf above the bottles could contain other beverages – canned drinks, drink mixes, cocoa mix, coffee, chocolate syrup.

5. Get creative with storage. Don’t be afraid to look in other departments for storage solutions.

  • Shoe bags with clear plastic pockets hold things like Pam, vinegar, oil, cooking wines, bulk spices
  • hanging shelves contain paper products
  • tool caddy for plastic silverware
  • automotive cup holders to organize stacks of cups
  • picnic basket for table linens
  • soda sorters for canned goods
  • milk crates for recycling grocery bags
  • wire bin to contain canning jars (light weight, easy to see, carry, etc.)
  • baskets to contain bags of rice, beans, etc.
  • silverware trays for small boxes (pudding, jello, onion soup mix, icing)
  • Lazy Susan for bottles of dressing, oil, spices
  • A pamphlet organizer for seasoning envelopes (sloppy joe seasoning, french onion soup mix, italian dressing mix, etc.)
  • A CD or cassette rack for small packets

6. Label. Label. Label. If it’s not labeled you’ve wasted your labor.

  • Labels can be as simple as marker on painter’s tape (which is low-tack, making it easy to remove without residue later and to rearrange as needed)
  • Label makers print crisp, easy-to-read labels. They can be applied directly to the shelf or to a card attached to the shelf.
  • Print labels on card stock and cut apart and attach to the shelves with tape.
  • As you empty shelves, you’ll forget what you stored there if you don’t have a label.
  • Kids, husbands, even visitors can easily stock and/or find items in a well labeled pantry – which means it will stay organized.
  • Labels help you maintain inventory – as you empty a spot, you know to add it to a shopping list.

All this organizing will leave you with a great looking, efficient space, but if you don’t have a good system for using this new space, you will have wasted your time. Tune in next week for tips on using your pantry well!