Organizing Your Kitchen Pantry Storage

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Organizing Your Kitchen Pantry Storage

aptsherpa · Jul 31, 2006

Your kitchen is a mess of clutter: six half-empty boxes of Frosted Flakes scattered across the counter, a rarely-used mixer hiding in the inaccessible cabinet over the fridge (you’re short, okay?!), a bag of almost-rotten lettuce on each shelf of your fridge (but none of them in the crisper where they belong), a jumble of frozen meals in the freezer, stacks of cans on the counter, dirty appliances on every open surface, and empty cupboards. Or maybe your cupboards are full, but you can’t find anything–flour is resting beside cans of baked beans, tuna is hiding behind boxes of crackers, and your waffle maker is buried in a stack of half-empty bags of chips. Whatever your situation, you need to get your kitchen organized now. Here are some helpful tips to take your kitchen from “Oh no” to “Oh wow.” To do this, you’ll need to ask yourself some questions… (and answer them, too!)

What Do You Need?

Keeping a grocery list isn’t just to remind you of what you need–it can remind you of what you already have. If you make your shopping list based on an inventory of your kitchen, you’ll avoid those torturous minutes spent in front of the dairy case debating, “Are you sure we don’t have sour cream at home?” Buying something “just to be on the safe side” can often just result in increasing your kitchen clutter. Know what you have, what you need, and what you need to buy. If nobody ate any bananas the last three times you bought them, maybe you need to move toward buying a new kind of fruit (or making a lot of banana bread). If your boxes of cereal go stale before you use them up, buy smaller boxes or invest in Tupperware-type containers that can keep food fresher longer. The same goes for appliances–if you don’t use the food processor you have, it’s not likely you’ll use the fancier $300 model, and you certainly won’t find a good place to put it in your already-cluttered kitchen.

Where Should It Go?

Once you’ve purchased all the food and other kitchen goods your heart desires, it’s time to start putting them away. Beyond the obvious–ice cream goes in the freezer, canned soups in the pantry–how can you best organize your kitchen items? Three simple sorting steps will help you out: kind, size, and date. First, separate your food items from your appliances and dishware. Set aside a special section of cabinets for appliances and dishes, and keep the pantry or another set of cupboards for food storage. Sort your food by type–dry goods (flour, sugar, pastas) can go together, cheeses should unite, and frozen foods must hang out in a group. Then, organize by size or packaging–cans can easily be stacked together (especially cans of the same type of food), and boxes of similar size can fit on the same shelf. Unusually shaped items may fit well with flexibly packaged items (like marshmallows or chocolate chips).

Any goods that you want to transfer to special canisters (flour, sugar, or anything you want to keep from spoiling after it’s opened) can live in an area designated just for a particular container shape. Tall, skinny containers can hold pasta; short, round ones, dry beans or rice. If you make a particular dish very often, you might want to keep its ingredients in the same spot. Adjust the height of shelves if possible, so that you can better accommodate items and reduce wasted space. Finally, move foods with more recent expiration dates to the front of your refrigerator, so you’ll use them instead of forgetting about their existence.

Additionally, keeping food in a pantry, dishware in cabinets, and flatware in drawers is traditional, but you can rethink these guidelines if necessary. Dishes and bowls can be stacked in drawers if necessary, and flatware can be stored in its own special box on the countertop or in a cabinet. Walls and ceilings are great places to hang items if you’re running out of counter or cabinet space. Recognize your space constraints and plan accordingly!

How Should It Go There?

As suggested, moving your goods from store packaging to your own containers can help save space and specify where items are kept. Consider buying groups of containers that match each other in size or can be stacked on each other for easier storage. You don’t have to buy containers as they’re advertised, either–you can easily store regular goods in “leftovers” containers and leftovers in bulk containers. Hanging items instead of taking up cabinet space can be a good option– investigate pot racks that can be mounted on the ceiling or wall to give you more space for your dry goods. Organize silverware and small utensils with drawer organizers or other drawer dividers, so you can avoid having cluttered drawers where you can’t find anything. If you divide, you can conquer—divide your possessions into similarly sized groups, and store them in appropriately sized cabinets, so you can conquer your kitchen clutter problem.

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