I love a pretty, organized pantry and fall seems like a great time to get organized for the busy season ahead! There are different types of pantries - there are kitchen pantries that are part of the cabinetry, walk in kitchen pantries which are more of a kitchen within a kitchen with work counters for using appliances and a lot of open storage. There are various sizes of step in pantries, which are essentially closets fitted with shelves primarily for food and appliance storage, and there are butler’s pantries which are, historically, passageway rooms located between the kitchen and formal dining room and are used to house dishware and serving pieces and provide a staging area for serving. Some butler’s pantries also include a sink and dishwasher for cleanup! As a self-confessed dishware and servingware hoarder, a butler’s pantry is my idea of heaven, but alas, I do not have one. I make do very nicely with an armoire outfitted for the purpose - you can see that in the opening image in THIS post on entertaining essentials.
if you are lucky enough to have a dedicated pantry of any type, awesome! If not, consider converting a nearby closet. I did this in my own home, where space is at a premium, in an under-utilized coat closet next to the kitchen. I exported the coats to a row of hooks near the door and added shelves around 3 sides of the closet and stashed a rolling cart of drawers in the middle.. This gave me almost 40 linear feet for shelf space plus 4 drawers!.
Once you have a pantry space the keys to organization will keep it from being a black hole of small appliances and expired ingredients! You really don’t want to kill your guests with chicken stock that expired in 2005 do you?
The internet is full of beautiful inspiring pantry pictures, but
here are a few practical suggestions to make your life easier in addition to prettier!
Prioritize your shelves
Store seldom used appliances in the least convenient places to reach. Do you really need the panini press (that seemed like a good idea at the time) taking up valuable real estate on the counter? Least convenient in my case is the lower shelves behind my rolling cart, and the very top shelf, which I need a step stool to reach. Store the heavier things on the lower shelves and the lighter things in the upper reaches lest they come crashing down when you try to shimmy them off the shelf without a step stool..which may or may not have happened in my house…
Use baskets and boxes
Store like items in containers like baskets or boxes that fit on the shelves. I have baskets for crackers, pasta, rice and grains, baking staples, packaged snacks, dried fruits, teas, coffees, and assorted bottled ingredients/condiments. Not only does it look prettier to have coordinated containers than a bunch of random packages, it makes it easier to narrow down where to find the item you are looking for! Label your baskets with tie-on tags or use binder clips to clip a label securely to the container.
Store dry goods in clear containers
If you have the patience, buy dry goods in bulk and offload into pretty clear glass or plastic sealing canisters. This not only streamlines storage by having identical sized containers (less wasted shelf space), it lets you see exactly how much you have left and looks pretty too! Things like cereal, oatmeal, rice, pasta, flour, sugar, etc are ideal candidates for this, but be sure to label them. I know of a cheesecake disaster that happened because the cook (who is a WONDERFUL baker and an excellent cook) added salt thinking it was sugar…serving your guests dessert is an awkward time to find THAT out! Lesson learned!
Also, add the cooking instructions on the back of the canister or, even easier, cut the cooking instructions from the box, insert them into a sandwich Ziploc and tuck them into the jar so you don’t have to waste time hunting them down when you want to make the rice or oatmeal!
Store canned goods by type
Store canned goods together by type stacked in rows or in can dispenser racks and always add the most recent purchase to the back so the oldest ones get used first.
Store produce sorted by type each in their own cleanable open container. Why cleanable? I speak from experience…if you have ever tried to get the stinky ooze from rotted potato out of a cute wooden crate, you wouldn’t be asking! Just me? Okay, put your onions and potatoes in whatever you want!
Make ALL the space count
Solid shelving material is preferable to that wire grid shelving. Adjustable shelves are nice, but not entirely necessary if you know what you need to store. Just measure the tallest items for each shelf and space the shelves accordingly. If you have the space, the pantry is also an ideal location to store pet food and recycling bins. Utilize the inside of the door and/or a wall behind the door (if the door opens in) as more storage space. This shallow storage could house any of the following that would be helpful to you:
a folding step stool so you have a convenient way to reach everything.
a running inventory list so you can note when you are getting low on an important ingredient - don’t forget to add a writing implement with this!
a magnetic spice jar rack
a magnet strip and magnetic clips for open bags of chips
hooks for reusable shopping bags
a dustpan and brush
Add a little fun
Level up your pantry space by adding a shot of color to the walls with paint or wallpaper! You’ll need light, but it doesn’t have to be strictly utilitarian - use a decorative fixture that fits your style. Rethink the door - it could be a fun color, or a decorative door like an old fashioned wooden screen door or a frosted glass door (or, OKAY, a barn door - but only if you actually live in a farmhouse!!)
Here are some ideal containers for pantry storage (click on picture for more info):
If you have space for a cart in the pantry, it can be really handy to add storage to otherwise unused floor space - and as a bonus you can roll it out into the kitchen as an extra work surface!
And here are some pantry organization essentials (click on image for more info):
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