Updated: Dec 13, 2020
Ask anyone what a major pain point is in their house. If they cook, it might be the kitchen pantry. Their issues might be yours: they can’t find anything, many people are rummaging through the cupboards and messing up the shelves and you overbought at Costco (again) because you couldn’t see what you already had.
I hear you. We all need a system. And while creating that systems can feel overwhelming at first, don't worry, I’m here to help simplify it for you.
A well-organized pantry can save you both time and money. And, when arranged with an eye for design, it can be a place that actually brings you joy.
My overarching principle for organizing food and ingredients in your kitchen is to aim for the golden rule of organizing —have a place for everything. When you follow the principal, you won’t buy multiple bottles of whatever anymore just because you couldn’t find the one you already had at the back of the cupboard.
With that in mind, let's dig into the seven pantry tips!
Group like items together.
This is especially important in a pantry. Place snacks with snacks, pasta with pasta, oils with oils, s’mores fixings with s’mores fixings, etc. Storing like items together makes it easy to find things quickly. Put smaller items in bins so they stay together— and finding them will be breezy (especially when kids are looking for their own granola bar or squeezy applesauce!)
Convert to clear.
Keep dry items like flour, sugar, rice and coffee in clear, air-tight containers. They’ll stay fresher longer, and using clear bins allows a quick scan to see when stock is low. No more overbuying — you’ll know exactly when it’s time for more lentils. And while you should invest in good containers, if you choose high-quality, it should be a one-time purchase. Here are some of my faves.
Boxes and bags take up space, so for efficiency, remove unnecessary packaging and place products in your new clear containers before putting them away in your pantry or fridge— it also simplifies cooking and baking.
Divide up drawer space
Labeling in a shared space like the pantry —where the whole family is looking for and using items— is a non-negotiable. Keep categories broad — you can buy something different and not need to switch labels. There are so many labels options available like handwriting the label write on the bin using a chalk pen, writing on a sticker label with a sharpie or even custom vinyl labels like the ones showcased below that I use with my clients. Truly, the options are endless. Choose labels that match your personal style and bring you joy.
Consider a remote pantry.
I like to create space for backstock. This way, you are able to separate what you’re going to cook with on a daily basis (canned goods, rices + grains, etc) with items that are on deck for using when you run out (ketchup, pickles, extra rice, etc.). When you’re tight on space, sometimes there is not enough room to put the backstock in the kitchen, so you need to get creative if you don’t want to break up with bulk food buying. Then you can shop your own backstock before going grocery shopping —so you don’t over buy.
Make meal planning your new best friend.
Planning your meals ahead of time equals more efficient grocery shopping. Meal planning also means less you need to keep on hand and, consequently, less required storage space. And better planning usually means less food waste, which often means more money for you and is also better for the planet. There are many options available to help you meal plan. I've incorporated meal planning into the Neat Little Nest 2-page weekly success planner shown below.