If you’re someone who likes to cook at home, chances are your food storage spaces have or will become cluttered with bulky, old or unused items. Thankfully, it’s easy to learn how to organize a pantry and declutter your kitchen!
“It’s easy to have a cluttered pantry, because food comes in all different sizes,” said Lori Hager of Waste Not Studio. “The space tends to have random items that get buried or pushed to the back.”
She organized about 2,000 pantries and cabinets of food for clients just this year, and has some great tips to help you tackle your kitchen storage spaces! Keep reading for her suggestions and to also get advice from another organizing expert. Follow their tips, and you’ll be decluttered by dinnertime!
Empty Your Shelves and Toss Old Food
Clear out your pantry and other food shelves to give yourself a fresh start and to get a clear understanding of what has been hiding in the back.
“Pull out everything in your pantry to see what you have,” said Hager. “Then get rid of stuff that’s expired. Most people have things in there from 10 years ago.”
If you have foods you haven’t cooked with for a year or more but that are still good, you should consider donating them to a local food bank, said Marla Stone of I-Deal-Lifestyle.
“If it’s been there for two years and you haven’t eaten it, you’re not going to eat it,” she said.
How to Organize a Pantry: Sort by Food Group
Organize all the food you plan to keep in your pantry by category. Groups like snacks, cans, vitamins and cereals are common ones – but you should categorize your food by what works for your home or family.
“Start with broad categories – like snacks and cans – then fine tune and divide them up,” said Stone. “It makes life easier, because if you have to start digging through your pantry, it’ll become a mess again.”
When grouping food, place the sets on shelves based on how often you will want to cook with them, said Hager.
“Heavy, bulky things should go on the bottom, because they’re hard to pick up and will add stress to your shelves,” she said. “The most used stuff should be stored at eye or waist level, and less used items on harder-to-reach high shelves.”
Measure Your Pantry for Storage Bins and Jars
When it makes sense, like items such as granola bars and snack packs of nuts can be organized and stored in bins that you can easily pull down off shelves, so you don’t lose anything in the back again. Don’t forget to measure your shelves before you head to the store and buy storage containers!
“Clear, plastic bins can act like drawers that you can take it out on the counter, so you have easy access to the food you want,” said Stone. “Bins also act as an inventory system. When you start running out of PowerBars, you will see your bin is becoming empty.”
Storage jars (like the ones pictured below) will eliminate the need for bulky boxes in your pantry and will allow you to see how much or how little of certain cooking staples you have left in your pantry. You’ll never run out of sugar again!
“You don’t want boxes to take up valuable space in your pantry,” said Hager. “Same-size jars or containers will also add uniformity in your pantry.”
Store Bulky or Extra Items Somewhere Else
If you tend to buy in bulk (we’re talking to you, wholesale shoppers!), you should not feel obligated to store your entire haul in your cupboard. You only need space in your pantry or other kitchen food storage area for what you plan to eat that week or month. Everything else can go in your garage or storage closet. Just be sure everything is sealed tight to avoid attracting pests.
“Some people think if it’s a pantry item, it all has to be stuffed in there,” said Stone. “Develop a system in the garage for the extra amount of food, because you don’t want a stuffed pantry that becomes overwhelming.”
If you don’t have extra bulk food storage space in your home already, add shelves or a cabinet near your kitchen where you can store drinks, water, juices or snacks.
“Create a space where you can have a reasonable amount of food near your pantry,” said Stone.