Are you struggling to find everything in your pantry? Is the quinoa lost in a sea of pulses? You are not alone. Mastering meal planning, reducing your food costs and eliminating waste require a bit of organisation in the pantry department. So we’ve put together some advice for you to make the most of your pantry space.
PANTRY ORGANISATION 101
Look at what you have
Ok – to start with you might need to tackle a whole spring clean of your pantry. If you have from, take everything out of the pantry so you know how much space you have to work with.
Look at the best before/use by dates of everything there. Remember best before dates mean it will generally be fine for longer than the date, but aim to use it soon regardless. Prioritise using these items ASAP if they are close to or just past their date.
Then group all like items together on your bench – oils, vinegars, tinned/canned goods, cereal, pasta, rice, flours, onions and garlic, potatoes, sugar/s, beans and other pulses, nuts, stock, biscuits/crackers, spreads, drinks, treats etc. This will give you a good idea of how much space you will need for these groups of items.
Plan your spaces
Do you have enough space? If you have a lot of room between shelves, you might consider adding in a mini ‘shelf’ that gives you another tier to larger shelves.
Then work out what other items you store in your pantry like tissues, paper towel, bulk oils etc. How much space do you need to allocate to any non-food items?
It always pays to give all the shelves a good clean while everything is out of the pantry, as it may only be an annual affair doing a full spring clean of your pantry.
Some people like to store many dry goods in storage containers in bulk rather than in their packaging, so then you need to consider how much space you have for bulk items and which storage containers you prefer to use. I store lots of mine in Tupperware pantry containers, Jen likes tall glass containers, but any glass or plastic containers that are airtight are fine. It is good to see into each of them so you can easily work out which items you are running low on come shopping day.
Packs of things that come in smaller quantities can be stored in a container together if that makes it easier to find. I like to store all my stock cubes together as they tend to get lost on a shelf, and varieties of lesser used nuts and seeds in one container.
Shelf by shelf
Now work out which items you use most. For me that is breakfast spreads , oils and sauces. So I allocate the shelf that is easiest to see and reach for the whole family. If it makes it easier, group some of your oils or vinegars together to make them easier to find. Jen has a box of all her Asian sauces together for ease. I do the same, and again for vinegars as they tend to be in smaller bottles.
My next most used items are onions and garlic, potatoes, a few varieties of rice, pasta and cereal. These go on the shelf below the most used shelf, which also makes it easier for the littler people in the house to reach. Remember to keep your onions and garlic separate from potatoes – they tend to make your potatoes go green fast when stored together.
The next most used items are baking goods such as flours, sugars, baking powder etc. We make our own bread daily so we consume a fair bit of flour, so we need additional space elsewhere for a big flour bag. I store spices in a drawer near the cooktop, but if you keep them in the pantry, work out the easiest way to make the, visible and within easy reach, particularly for those commonly used spices such as ground coriander, cumin, garam masala and turmeric.
I put things that are treats, crackers, and items such as cooking chocolate on a higher shelf to discourage the rest of the family from using them as snacks! Having them out of your general line of sight makes you less likely to graze on them.
I buy tinned diced tomatoes, tinned kidney beans and chick peas, large bags of flour and passata in bulk so I store them on the bottom shelf as they are quite heavy. Any mineral water, tissues and paper towel live there until they go into household use.
Any items I use very rarely I put on my highest shelf – this includes a box of kitchen camping goods which I only need a few times a year.
Jen has built a great new pantry in the space of an old door entry (see the featured picture). Everything is only one tin wide, and she can easily see all her spices, tinned goods and a few featured sauces. It is a great talking point in her kitchen, and looks fantastic. This builds on the idea that you only need really shallow depth in pantry shelves so things don’t get too lost.
Remember you don’t need to buy things in bulk or on special unless you are planning to used them within their suggested shelf life. No food is a bargain if you end up throwing it out.
Top tips for your pantry spring clean
- Remove everything to know how much space you have and how much you need to store.
- Throw out any expired food or prioritise for immediate use if getting close to its use by date.
- Work out what types of storage containers you like to use and buy if necessary.
- Work out best shelf allocation – easy reach for most commonly used items.
- Consider self standing ‘shelves’ that add another tier to your pantry to make things more visible.
- Keep your onions and garlic separately from potatoes.
- Group together like items and consider whether some divider or boxes for sauces, vinegars etc. will make them more accessible.
- Store bulky heavy items on your lowest shelf.
- Rarely used items can go on your highest shelves.
- Do a spring clean once a year.