Pantries are one of the most high-traffic areas in any home.
They can also be the most frustrating area to navigate when you can’t find what you’re looking for among the mountains of food and cans, and when you do, find it’s right at the back and out of date by a year.
But with a few easy changes it’s possible to organise your pantry like a pro.
1. Clean it out
Remove everything from your pantry. Lay out all items on a dining table, bench or somewhere you can easily see everything. You’ll come back to this later.
While your cupboard or pantry is empty, now is the chance to give it a good clean.
Remove any crumbs and spillages, wipe down all shelves with an all-purpose cleaner and then allow it to dry properly.
2. Toss it, donate it or keep it
With everything laid out on your table/ bench/ floor, you should have a good view of everything that was in your pantry. You may even discover some items you thought you’d lost.
You should go through everything and throw out anything that is out of date or stale.
If there are items still in date that you know you’re never going to eat, donate them or give them to family members who will.
This alone should streamline your pantry items significantly.
If you also keep appliances in your pantry, this might be the time to donate or toss those you never use or those that don’t work properly any more, to free up some space.
3. Choose your new storage solution
Decide how you want to store all your pantry items.
It’s usually when we leave items in their original packing after opening that they spill or go stale and look messy. This is why glass jars or plastic canisters are a popular solution.
Glass jars are a practical choice – just make sure they are air tight and have a proper seal. You could also invest in environmentally friendly plastic canisters.
Clear jars and canisters are great storage solutions. Not only do they look orderly, they allow you to easily see exactly how much of everything you have left, and they should also keep food items fresher for longer.
It’s a good idea to have similar jars in different sizes. You may need a bigger jar or canister for things like cereal but a smaller version for items such as sugar, nuts and seeds.
While it may seem like an expense to buy so many jars or containers, it will help you keep your pantry organised long-term and may even save you money down the track if your food is keeping for longer and actually getting used.
While you don’t have to take everything out of its original packaging, it helps with frequently used items, or items with flimsy or clunky packaging that will constantly fall over in your pantry and make a mess.
For oddly shaped items or stray packets that will easily get lost, you could invest in some baskets or small tubs. These will help you keep things orderly, prevent loose items from getting lost and keep the messier items out of sight.
4. Label it
If you’ve decided to remove items from their original packing and put them in a glass jar, how are you going to know your regular flour from your self-raising flour? And how will you know the used by date of your cereal?
This is where labelling comes in.
There are lots of different ways to do this – you could get crafty on a label maker, paint some black chalk paint on the front and write the label in chalk, or hang cardboard tags from the jar lids.
As well as the name of the item, you should also note down somewhere on the jar when it was opened as well as its expiry date.
Now it’s time to put everything back in neatly. For easy finding, it’s a good idea to group ‘like’ items (grains, cereals, baking goods etc) so they can all easily be found in the one place.
If you have a few of the same item, for example two bottles of tomato sauce, you should put the freshest at the back and the older one at the front to ensure the older one gets used within its expiry date.
If the space between your shelving is quite high, you could add in some steps or freestanding shelves to raise the items at the back of the pantry for greater visibility and more room.
Once your pantry is neatly organised in a practical manner, you may find that it doesn’t need much tidying or re-arranging at all.
Once everything has its own place – and you continue to put items back in their proper place – it should be easy to maintain and keep organised and tidy.
Regardless, it’s a good idea to do a regular clean out, even if it’s every six months, to wipe down the shelves and get rid of anything past its used by date.
Now that you are able to see everything easily in your pantry, you should find you are actually using the food you have and aren’t losing things amongst the mess.