Dreaded Kitchen Pantry Clutter

Follow these tips for organizing your pantry (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

Follow these tips for organizing your pantry (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

By Peggy Jo Goodfellow, Arizona Farm Bureau

Do you love to cook but your cluttered pantry makes you crazy?  You are not alone.  An organized kitchen pantry is a joy and relief for the home cook. Knowing where your go-to items are and having a system in place to re-stock the pantry when necessary will help you maintain your sanity and joy of cooking.

Let’s get motivated to organize the pantry.

Why you ask? Well, if you’ve been putting this task off for a while there are three really good reasons.  It will save you money; it will save you time; and it will teach you about your shopping, eating and cooking habits.  This is valuable information when you have a family and you’re trying to budget and meal plan.

First step is to de-clutter

Take everything out of the pantry including food, food storage containers and junk/trash. Dust the pantry, starting with the highest shelf, then wipe down each shelf making sure to cover the tops of doors and check the ceiling for cob webs.

Line up the food items so you can see everything at once.  I use my large island counter but the kitchen table, dining room table or even the floor works.  This way you’ll be able to spot duplicates, spoiled food and get a general sense of how much space each type of item will need.

Assess each item one-by-one and ask yourself each of these questions:

  • Has this expired? If yes, throw it out.
  • Do I use this?  If no, throw it out.
  • Do I like this?  If no, throw it out.

Arrange Items …by group, not by size

Here are few common grouping:

  • Cans of beans and soups
  • Snack foods
  • Bottles of oils and vinegar
  • Jars of spices
  • Boxes of grains (rice, cereal, pasta)
  • Cans of tomatoes (sauce, diced, stewed)

Keep the items you use most regularly in the prime area of your pantry.  This means the space between your shoulders and knees.  It’s easier to reach and to put back after use.

Remember that you can purchase economical stacking shelves so that you can have your canned items showing at different levels and no items are hidden.

I recommend storing your bulk items in the bottom of the pantry, as these are typically heavy.  I buy just enough dry beans and rice to fill large mason jars. I like to buy more frequently instead of buying and storing large bags since we don’t like to share our food with small, furry visitors!

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