10 Steps to Getting Your Pantry Organized

CC BY 2.0. Terry Presley -- The goal is not to look this confused every time you step into your pantry.

A neat pantry will make you want to cook more.

The pantry is where all cooking begins, and if that pantry is well-organized, cooking will be a breeze. A neat pantry will provide culinary inspiration, save money by cutting down on waste, and add beauty to your kitchen. There's a reason why the hashtag #pantrygoals is so popular on social media! Here are some tips for getting your pantry in good working order. It's a fun housekeeping task that will pay for itself over and over again in the following weeks, as long as you can keep it looking that way.

1. Start with a clean slate. Take everything out of the pantry so you can wipe down the shelves and assess exactly what you have.

2. Consolidate foods. You likely have lingering bags of this and that. Top up the jars where they belong, and collect all the remaining partially-filled bags in a basket.

3. Use glass jars or clear containers for storage. Transferring dry goods from bags to jars keeps them fresher and easier to access. Better yet, shop with the jars at a zero waste bulk food store to reduce that step and eliminate plastic bags.

4. Label everything. Labels make cooking so much easier. Put labels on jars of spices, baking ingredients, grains, and rice. Use a piece of masking tape or paint pens, which wash off in the dishwasher.

5. Adjust the pantry shelves. There's a great illustration in this post on The Kitchn showing how everything from cereal boxes to cans to baskets to bulk-food items require differing shelf heights to fit.

my pantry

© K Martinko - My pantry features lots of jars.

6. Fill the shelves. The most important thing, according to Josh Cohen, the head chef at the Food52 test kitchen, is determining which ingredients you use most often and making those most accessible. Cohen also urges against overfilling the shelves:

"You want your kitchen to be as lean and functional as possible. If your shelves have clarity and room, then your mind is calm and you become happier and your cooking improves. Mental mise en place, it's a real thing."

7. Make sure you can see everything. This is important because otherwise you'll always be shuffling things around to see what you have or try to squeeze something in. Nor do you want to pile items that could lead to an inadvertent avalanche.

8. Designate zones according to food categories. Group like with like. Have a shelf for baking ingredients, a shelf for grains and beans, a shelf for canned goods, a shelf for condiments (oil and vinegar), and shelf for nuts and dried fruit... you get the picture.

9. Consider drawers. Drawers are great for spices and for baking ingredients. I have a large baking drawer beneath the counter where I usually cook, and it contains flours, sugars, baking soda and powder, flavored extracts, ground flaxseed, shredded coconut, and everything else I could ever want to whip up a batch of muffins and more. It saves a lot of time.

10. Refresh your pantry regularly. As you use up ingredients, write them down for replacement. When meal-planning, do it while looking at the pantry. Allow what's there to shape your choices.