Do you ever open up your pantry and spend a minute just staring off into space, without any idea of what to cook or eat? Maybe you’re not quite sure what you’re looking for, or you forget why you came in the first place. So many boxes and cans, stacked, or piled up, with logos in your face. You feel a sense of dread or doom. Your pantry could inspire you to cook, or entertain, but instead, you’re just mad at yourself. When the doors are shut, and everything is put away, you feel so at peace, but when it’s open, the clutter creates chaos. You remember that you need to go through everything, throw away what’s no longer needed, and finally develop a pantry organization system that sticks. You’re tired of buying duplicate items or not finding the ingredient you were looking for until months later, when it’s already expired. This situation causes you annoyance and frustration. You lose time and money and create waste. Efficiency is key. Well, there’s a simple solution: organization.
I had a client, Jill, who was known for cooking. While she had never attended culinary school, she cooked countless meals for her family and community and baked the most beautiful cupcakes. After three grandchildren, and a move from her 3 bedroom house into a condo, she gave up cooking because of clutter. Her new pantry was designed with plenty of space and adjustable shelves, but she lacked organization. What was not empty was filled with boxes and cans. It looked as though she had come home from the grocery and emptied items from her bag onto the nearest shelf. Jill told me she would rather spend 3 hours with her grandkids and hire me than 8 hours exhausting herself trying to develop a new system for a space so different from her previous pantry and organizing what she had.
After a consultation, we realized that her problem was not only a new space but also her process of coming home from the grocery and putting items away. We picked a place for her reusable grocery bags and developed a new system. Now, she removes all items and places them on her kitchen table first. Then, she quickly sorts them by category. While each space and every person is different, here are my tips for unloading your groceries and organizing your pantry, along with some benefits:
- Take things out of the boxes and put them into open bins, containers with lids, etc. that are clear and/or labeled. This takes up so much less space and even the 5 minutes it takes to do this, saves that much more time and double when looking for things. Bonus, you can see what you need to add to your grocery list that much more easily because you can see when you are getting low on something.
- Group items by categories: snacks, baking, sweets, pastas, oatmeal, etc. so that everyone who opens the pantry and/or walks in knows exactly where to find what they need.
- Despite the size of your pantry, it isn’t about the size but the organization of it.
- Use open bins for those things that you need to grab on a daily basis, and containers that are a one time purchased but then reused for things that you might eat daily: pasta, cereal, etc.
- Find a step can ladder, so that you can get more depth out of a shelf and actually see what you have. And a turntable for those things you need access to-that much easier.