I can’t find anything I’m looking for in the pantry.”
Sound familiar? I used to open the pantry door and just stand there for several minutes (felt like hours) wondering what to cook or what to eat. One day, while staring at my shelves that looked like a grocery store threw up on them (see before picture), I decided to do something about it.
We have a family of 5 (and a 1/2 if you count Pumpkin) and our kitchen has a tiny pantry. I am grateful to have a pantry period, I don’t think my other homes even had one. But with great pantry powers comes great responsibility, or at least some great organizational skills, which I never realized I possessed.
To be completely honest, this whole project took several months to complete. My bins were sitting in the kitchen so long waiting to be filled that they got dusty. You have to have to be in the right mood and have a decent stretch of uninterrupted time to complete a project in a high traffic area like this, so be patient and expect some delays. I worked on bits and pieces of it every week, and then had to find the right time to do the actual rearranging part.
So here is part of the pantry after my efforts. I ended up with a pantry that maybe isn’t model home perfect, but it is much neater and easier to use. I also did not spend a fortune (maybe $30). I got baskets and bins from the dollar store and made my own labels, which I explain in my steps below. Most of the steps were fun and easy except #5. That one was not so much fun. But in the end it was worth it.
Before you start your pantry re-org, I suggest you first do some Googling. I searched Google images and Pinterest to find some good examples of how to organize similar sized pantries, what types of bins I may want to use and color scheme.
Once you have some ideas it’s time to start the real work–
The 5 Steps
1. Take stock. Look over all your pantry regulars and try to make groups of like products. I first created a list with items such as Oatmeal, Fruit Snacks, Mac & Cheese, Cake Mixes, Rice, Pasta, Soups, etc. I later combined some items into meals which I will explain below. Decide which path you will use to organize so you won’t have to go back and make new labels (like I did).
2. Make labels (or buy them). I made my own using Photoshop and a lamination machine. I also used the same labels for the stickers I used on my shoe bins, printing them on 3 x 4 labels. If you make your own, you’ll need a hole punch and twine or ribbon as well.
3. Buy bins. Then go back and buy more. You won’t really know what size you need or how many of each type you need until you do step 5. Keep your receipt. Or if you are like me, you will find other rooms/closets to use the extras in. I ended up using all my dollar store tubs, white bins, shoe boxes (for candy and cookies that can spoil or attract ants) and trays for snacks.
4. Pull out your shit and choose bins. This is the big one. Put aside several hours and just pull out everything from the pantry and start finding bins that fit and makes sense for that grouping. Clean off your shelves while you’re at it. Once you find good size bins for your stuff, start arranging the bins on your shelves according to usage. You may end up trying out different bins and placement until you find the right fit.
Tip: Get rid of all unnecessary boxes — Take everything out of boxes that are individually wrapped and can be displayed – like fruit snacks or granola bars. It makes kids more likely to eat them, and takes way less space then having all the clunky boxes. It’s also a great way to gage when you need to restock. Now when I come home from grocery shopping we unbox those items and refill the trays/bins.
Tip: Organize by usage — For instance, I put all the kid friendly items like breakfast and snacks on the bottom two shelves where they can reach, and things like cat food and items rarely used on the very top.
Tip: Group by meals — You may find it easier when deciding what to eat by grouping types of meals together – like putting marinara sauce and pasta together in a bin and labeling it “Italian.” I ended up deciding to divide by meals so I had American, Asian, Italian and Mexican.
5. Attach your labels. Using twine or ribbon, and a hole puncher. This works well for the bins and baskets with handles (even the trays too). For the shoe boxes attach your sticker versions of your labels.