Organizing Your Pantry

What is the state of your kitchen pantry? Learn to clean, organize and stock your pantry to make your kitchen more efficient.

A well organized and well stocked pantry can save you time and money. With the convenience of having what you need when you need it, you will be ready to make on-the-fly meals on busy days and when surprise guests show up at dinner time. Also, if your pantry is maintained well, you won't find yourself one or two ingredients short when preparing a meal.

Step one: Cleaning and De-cluttering

Go through your existing pantry and cupboards and remove all items one shelf at a time. Check expiration dates and throw out all expired items. Get rid of any ingredients that you have not used and think that you will not use in the future. Wipe down the shelf with warm soapy water, let dry, and replace the cupboard liners. Move on to the next shelf, and repeat this process until all the cupboard shelves are empty and clean.

Step two: Planning and Organizing

Decide where food items should go. Keep small amounts of the items you use everyday such as tea, coffee, sugar, salt, etc in easily accessible places in your kitchen. Put them in sensible places, the coffee by the coffee maker, the salt by the stove, ect. Store larger, back-up quantities of these ingredients in your panty. You pantry should also house cans, boxes, bottles and jars of foods that have a long shelf-life, as well as paper products, baking ingredients and spices. Drinks such as bottled water, cans and bottles of soda, bottles of juice and wines can be stored in your pantry as well.

The middle shelves, the ones that are easiest to access, should be used for commonly used items. Keep ingredients that you cook with often on these shelves and separate them into categories. Store canned goods together, organized in sub-categories such as fruits, vegetables, soups, ect. Arrange boxed goods in a manner that allows you to read what is inside without having to remove the package. Often it is easiest and most economical space-wise, to stack boxes one on top of another, lying down so that the box tops face outwards and are easily readable. Jars and bottles containing condiments and sauces can be grouped together. Flours, mixes and other ingredients that are susceptible to insect infestation should be stored in airtight containers. Heavy items, such as large quantities of bottled water, can be placed on the floor of the pantry. And lighter, bulky, non-food items like paper towels can be placed on the upper shelves. For safety purposes, store all cleaning products away from food and out of the reach of children.

Fresh foods with a relatively long shelf-life keep better in cool, dark places. Items such as potatoes, onions and apples should be stored in vegetable bins in the pantry or even in the basement.

Make a shopping list as you work. Write down what groceries you need to complete your panty and in what quantity. Also, make a separate list of organizational and storage items needed. Purchase a pad of paper and pen that can be hung from the inside door of your panty so that you can write down items as you use them, forming a grocery list.

Step three: Shop and Store

Shop from the list you made while you were organizing. Stock up on non-perishable items and items with a long shelf-life when they are on sale. Buying sale items in bulk is an excellent way to keep your pantry stocked so long as the items on sale are things you actually use. You should consider purchasing items that you use frequently in bulk from wholesalers and warehouse stores. This can save you a great deal of money in the long run, especially on non-food pantry items such as toilet paper and napkins and on items that have at least a one-year shelf-life.

Resist the temptation to purchase items from a pre-made list of necessary pantry items. These lists can be found on many online, organizational pages and in magazines. Each family has its own tastes, and uses different ingredients. By using someone else's list, you increase your risk of buying ingredients that will occupy valuable pantry space and never get used. Use your own weekly grocery list as inspiration on what to buy for your family's pantry.

As you place the new items into your pantry, put newly-purchased items in the back and keep the older items in the front. Line up repeated items, for example, 4 cans of corn should be stored together in a straight line going from front to back. When you use item from your pantry, take from the back to ensure proper rotation of food-items. Put the groceries away according to the categories that you set up while you were organizing.

In one afternoon, you can have your pantry cleaned, organized and well-stocked. Once you have your pantry in working condition, you will never want to be without it.

© High Speed Ventures 2011