Pantry Organization

It's one of the highest-traffic spots in your house. It's no wonder you cringe each time you open your pantry to reach for an ingredient. Make cleaning and organizing this kitchen workhorse a priority. The good news is that it can be a fast, relatively painless job if you take small, manageable steps.

Clean First and Organize Second

Here's how to clear the way. Begin by throwing things out. It feels great and alleviates a big part of the task. Start by grouping items in one of two piles. The first pile? Items to throw out - including products that are past their expiration dates, stale, or have been crushed.  The second pile includes items you've not used in the last nine months.  If you haven't needed that Basmati rice in three-quarters of a year, you probably won't be reaching for it next week. If the food is still safe, donate it to your local food bank.

Ready to organize? Here are some ideas for space improvement.

Taking an existing closet and adding custom shelves, designed with your needs in mind, is a snap with a qualitfied handyman. Shelving can be plywood or maybe wire units that allow for ventilation. Think about areas that your pantry may do double duty and accomodate this. Do you need to house recycling or cleaning supplies? How about reusable grocery bags, dust pan, or children's lunch boxes? By closely evaluating what you need to store, you can have a clearer vision of how to accomodate these things.

The secret to an easy-to-use pantry is visibility. You should be able to see everything you have. Remove smaller items (such as spice bottles or small cans) and place them in a basket or in a door rack. Adding a riser shelf or Lazy Susan will double your pantry space and help you find things quicker. You can find great storage options at the many area stores such as The Container Store, Target and even local hardware stores.

FIFO is the accounting term for ‘First In First Out' and it's a great idea not just for numbers. When it comes to your pantry, place newer items in the back and use up older items first. You're less inclined to let good things go bad.  It's also a good idea to keep a pad of paper and pen inside your pantry door. Simply jot down items that need replenishing. The next time you go to the store, your list will be right there. 

No two families or pantries are alike. When arranging yours, think about what will work for your hungry crew. This may be stocking items by type (e.g. bottles, cans, bags), by family members (you, your kids, pets), or by their purpose (e.g. snacks, sweets, ingredients).  There is no right answer.  Just find the way that works for you.

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