I want to help you organize your pantry so cooking and eating are easy. Because, really that is what you want and need. Design is nice, but secondary. In the immortal words of Louis Sullivan, “Form follows function.”
I’ve been thinking a lot about this since helping Portia Mount of Boss Mom rework her pantry a few weeks ago. We were talking about something else when she mentioned needing containers for her pantry. It lead to a virtual pantry makeover that involved reviewing, purging and setting up the space first, then buying the containers to hold the things that had a hard time holding themselves up or staying fresh.
I just Googled pantry organization and came up with 2 pages of products before the first article about how to actually do it. It’s sad that we continue to think that making it pretty will make it work. Really, the pretty gets in the way and creates busy work – it becomes clutter!
If you think about it the other way, the food in the pantry are the ingredients needed to create the meal, and the serving pieces are needed to get the food to the people that will be eating said meals, then you have a mini grocery store – a convenience store if you will – to work from.
This concept will leverage your time in shopping, putting away, creating meals, snacking, serving, and empowering your family with healthy nutrition and ease of delegating the chores.
Think grab and go, not “honey, it’s in the 3rd container on the left under the spinning thing, and don’t forget to put the lid back on.”
Once you have the basic organization in place, then you can put the pretty on it. If you don’t know where to start, get help from a Professional Organizer. You will save a lot of time, money and effort if you do.
My basic tips for organizing a pantry:
Start by designating a shelf or part of a shelf for a category of food – just like the grocery store aisle. All the baking things go on one and all the breakfast items on another. The canned goods are arranged by putting veggies, soups, and meats in neat rows. Condiments and sauces together and beverages gathered.
Limit the amount of space you devote for snacks. That way it becomes easier to eat a healthy one than a bag of chips.
As you go through your food, toss any expired and begin to note what lingers because you don’t actually like to eat it. See where your good intentions for cooking went. Are the beans hidden under the cookies?
What do you like to cook? Reverse-engineer your pantry by having a designated place for the ingredients in your favorite recipes – still arranged by grocery aisle.
Then look at all the containers, serving pieces, appliances, the stuff you didn’t know where to put and so it ended up in the pantry and decide if it is worth the space and care to keep it. Do you have something else that will serve the same purpose? Pick and use your favorites.
Portia took my tips and worked on her pantry for a couple of weeks – it’s important to use it to see what works and what doesn’t before committing to containers – she had some fantastic insights about the process.
You can read her take on it in her post Spring Cleaning: Pantry Makeovers for Real People (Fairy Godmother Not Included).
The fact that she took the process so seriously gave me a warm fuzzy, the fact that it was so life changing for her had me doing a happy dance!
Here is what she discovered while purging a large trash can and recycling bin full of expired food and consolidating her categories:
Simple changes made a huge difference in how the whole system of shopping, planning, cooking, eating and cleaning up works for her family. By having like things together it is easier to maneuver in and know when to replenish her stock.
Now her husband and kid take charge of their own areas and participate in meal prep and clean up. Feeling more confident leads to more adventurous meals. Serving healthy sit-down meals and eating off the fancy plates adds up to less stress and more fun all around.
Then there is saving at least $200.00 per month on groceries and another $200.00 by not eating out as much. How about that?
The best part of this effort was that Portia was able to tie her pantry organization to the larger family values she is trying to model for her son. Time together, healthy eating and being considered and environmentally aware consumers are now authentically reflected in their home.
Instead of purchasing a bunch of containers and labels and just rearranging the stuff, Portia got help with the how to and ended up with a functional pantry that works for her. A gentle nudge as to where to start, some accountability motivation and insight kept her focused on the results she wanted.
It’s now easy simple and efficient. My work here is done.
Unless you want a little more? You could also check out these resources from right here on my blog.
And don’t forget to check out the cool resources about home, parenting and career over at Boss Mom.