Half of my family got to go to my son’s baseball tournament last weekend. I had to stay home to nurse a sick son and get a daughter to her dance commitments.
I was bummed to miss the first tournament of the year because I love baseball, but I decided if I were going to stay home with two less kids than I was going to make the most of it. I was going to #createmyownjoy.
I took my oldest daughter to LaLaLand; I went to every yoga class I could, and I snuggled with my sick boy and watched stupid kid shows. But the real joy came when I organized and cleaned my pantry.
Yes, I medicated my FOMO with an organization project.
I’m not here to show you a Pinterest pantry. I’m here to share some organization ideas that may help if you decide to organize your pantry some weekend when you are stranded home.
VALUABLE REAL ESTATE
While we all would love huge pantries, the reality is that most of us have limited space. We can’t store everything we’ll ever eat or use in there, so we have to to decide what is worth taking up this valuable piece of real estate.
I have finally decided on what deserves to be in my pantry in my kitchen based on my energy levels and time constraints. All breakfast food are in the pantry because I am too tired, too lazy or too rushed in the mornings to have any of my breakfast foods downstairs, so breakfast claims a big spot.
The same reasoning goes for packing lunches. Anything that I need to pack a lunch before school makes the pantry cut off.
My recycle bin also makes the cut. If I have to walk an extra 15 steps to my garage, I might be less likely to recycle, so rather than be a terrible person I made space for my recycles.
I kept other basic food staples and appliances in the pantry as well- the ones used the most often. The rest go downstairs. If you are short on space, ask yourself how often do you really use the item? If it’s less than once a month, it doesn’t have to be stored in the pantry. I can walk down stairs the three times a year when I need to pull out cookie cutters and sprinkles or if I need to use my ice cream maker for the family picnic in July.
Sadly, my play-doh bin did not make the cut this cleaning. My kids just don’t play with it as much as they used to, so it got relegated to a much more inconvenient space.
Decide what you need in your pantry- whatever you use the most. Fit those items in first and then see what other non-necessities will fit. The rest can go somewhere else. Don’t be afraid to let things move on.
Just like I have Kitchen Zones, I have pantry zones. I find it easier to find items if I have them stored in groups according to purpose. Here is how my pantry is currently organized:
- Cold Cereal
- Oats (gluten-free, steel cut)
- Pancake Mix
- Chocolate Shake Packets
- Shredded Coconut
- Flour (white and wheat)
- Brown Sugar (dark and light)
- Powdered Sugar
- My Baking Bin
- baking powder
- baking soda
- Oils (coconut, canola or vegetable)
- *olive oil and avocado oil are in my cooking zone near my stove, not my pantry
- Cocoa Powder
- Leftover, Opened Bags of Cookie Add-ins
- Noodles (spaghetti, lasagna, macaroni)
- Rices (jasmine, wild, white, brown)
- Lunch boxes
- Paper sacks
- Plastic utensils
- Bins with individualized portions
- Fruit (applesauce, mandarin oranges, )
- Nuts (Trail Mix, nut packets)
- Sweet (fruit leathers, granola bars, raisins)
- Whole 30 (my snacks)
- Health shakes
- Energy powders
- Shaker bottles
- Protein powder
Snack Zone- (near my lunch zone for crossover)
- Rice Cooker
- Veggie Pro
- Large Stock Pot
In addition to my zones I have some laundry bins that sit on the floor or an upper shelf:
- Paper products
- Disposable dinnerware
- Placemats/Cloth Napkins
Try organizing your pantry using zones. That’s how grocery stores are organized after all.
I made space for an empty wire basket on a shelf in my pantry. This basket is designated as my dinner basket. The contents of the basket change week to week depending on what is on the weekly menu plan.
This basket is where the I put special ingredients for THIS week’s dinners. Once the weekly menu is planned, I’ll send the kids “shopping’ to the food storage room to pick out some items we will need that I don’t normally store in the pantry. For example, they might shop for black beans, chicken broth, marinara sauce, and a can of green chilis.
It’s also where I will put food items that I bought at the store specifically for this week’s menu– like a special bottle of marinade, a rare produce, or a unique topping. These are not items that can be found in my regular food storage.
If we have a trip or another baseball tournament coming up, this basket may be where I store items bought specifically for travel that week as well.
My dinner basket allows space for the current week’s unique ingredients.
I’m a fan of ditching the original packaging and transferring the food to preset containers. I’ve gathered containers over the years so I have a mixed medium pantry. I use glass jars, mason jars, woven baskets, wood boxes, wire baskets, plastic bins and laundry baskets. I always go neutral and natural in aesthetic because it brings a thread of continuity to all the random shapes, sizes and materials, and too much color agitates me.
I like to transfer the food because
1) it’s cuter
2) it makes me happy
3) it’s more uniform and you can stack and store more when things aren’t irregularly shaped
4) food stays fresher longer in sealed containers
If you do transfer food from the original container, don’t forget to label it. I threw away a mystery grain last weekend because I didn’t label what it was and I got it from the bulk section.
But one word of advice: Make sure to keep the cooking instructions from the original package if you are not familiar with the instructions or if your kids aren’t familiar with them. I have this post-it note on the inside lid of my steel oats.
So while I missed lots of baseball, time with family, restaurant food and some rain, I did get an organized, clean pantry out of the weekend. And I’m still enjoying the results.