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Organize the Pantry

Organize the Pantry

An organized pantry makes cooking more enjoyable.

By Selma Roth

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Few of us have the luxury of a separate room that acts as a pantry, yet a pantry can be a cupboard, closet or group of shelves where you store food. Having a well organized one will make your life easier, save you money in the long run, and always save you time.

How to Start

Begin by removing everything from the pantry. This is a big job, so set aside a Saturday morning or weekday evening for it. Once everything is off the shelves, wipe them down with a damp cloth and soapy water, let them dry, and replace the shelf paper. Doesn’t that feel great?

Next, sort through the food. Toss everything that is out of date, old, musty, and dusty. If you recently bought a spice, oil or other ingredient that you decided you don’t like, give it to a neighbor or friend.

Rethink Storage

Treat yourself to new canisters or plastic containers with airtight lids of varying sizes. These keep food fresher longer, keep bugs from invading them, and are convenient—and pleasurable—to use.

Food items such as sugar, flour, rice, cereal, and crackers do well in plastic containers or canisters. In other words, just about anything that is sold in a sack or box should be transferred to a container that is big enough for it and easy for you to handle.

When you take the extra few minutes to pour the flour or sugar into a canister, you will be happy when it’s time to bake. It’s so much easier to dip a scoop or spoon into the generous opening of a stable container than fish around in a sack.

You should have canisters large enough for five-pound sacks of flour and sugar, and smaller ones for other items.

On the other hand, there probably is no reason to spend money on a pasta container or small storage containers for baking powder or soda, which do just fine in their original packaging. Buy what you will actually use and what makes the most sense for how you cook and operate in the kitchen. It’s tempting when shopping for these handy items to get carried away!

Get Organized

Once your pantry is clean and fresh and the foods you plan to keep are sorted, it’s time to return them to the shelves. Don’t do this haphazardly. Think about how to best organize the pantry.

Group similar items together: baking supplies in one place, spices and dried herbs in another, condiments together, and soups and canned beans together elsewhere. Make sure where you keep your cereal boxes is tall enough to accommodate them and easy to access. Put the olive oil and vinegar in the same group, and if you use them often, be able to reach them without pawing through a forest of bottles.

The more sensibly your food is categorized and stored, the more efficiently it will be to keep track of it. This means you will buy more of any food item when you need it and only then. This avoids duplication. You won’t run out, either, because you will easily be able to review your stock.

Put the items you use most often on the shelves that are easiest to access. The more convenient your pantry is, the more enjoyable cooking will be.


Selma Roth is an Oregon-based freelance writer.

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