Tiered kitchen shelf
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Virginia Wells

More Pantry Organising Tips

This month I have more pantry organising tips for you. How to organise a pantry is a recurring topic. Recently this came up in the WellSorted Facebook Group

“Talk to me… I’ve got cornflour right through my pantry after a mishap with an open box. What’s your tip for organising a pantry? Mine NEVER seems to stay sorted.”

Kelly Wood, WellSorted Facebook Group Member

The beautiful WellSorted community came to the (pantry) party with the following advice.

Virginia Wells, Canberra, Organised Shelf, Food

Containerise Everything

Rosemary Johnson said, “We containerise everything.” I love that word “containerise” Rosemary! She went on to say, “It helps keep things clean and makes it much easier to put (things) away. You don’t even have to take them out of their packets!” Packets in containers will not spill.

She added that a basket for bottles helps you avoid knocking them over as you get things out of the pantry. You can also pull the whole basket out while you are cooking for easy access to the ingredients you need such as oils and sauces.

On the topic of containers, Jo Gallagher suggests using containers that are only as big as you need. Using containers that are too big for the contents wastes a lot of space. If you, for example, buy your flour in a 1kg bag, find and use a container that only holds that much flour. You don’t have to buy fancy new containers if you don’t want to. Jo uses Mason jars and writes the name of the contents on the lid. Recycled jars are an excellent low-waste option too.

Overflow Pantry

Rosemary also had a great tip for small pantries or anyone who shops in bulk. She recommends keeping all the unopened duplicates somewhere else, perhaps in a cupboard in another room or in sealed containers in your garage. When you are making your shopping list, she says, “shop from your box first.”

Jo Gallagher also recommended making sure there was nothing stored in your pantry that could be stored elsewhere. If your pantry is small, don’t keep anything in there that isn’t food.

Use a Lazy Susan

Nadine Shaw recommends using a ‘Lazy Susan’ or pantry carousel or turntable. These work well for spice jars and bottles.

Themed Shelves

Grouping things together by theme was recommended by a couple of people. Belinda Lowrey said, “have a ‘theme’ for each shelf”. She organises her baking, breakfast and savoury items on separate shelves.

A Place for Everything

Leonie Marshall takes this idea further. She recommends this order for the pantry:

  • Top Shelf – baking ingredients and dry staples.
  • Second Shelf – pull out baskets with condiments, sauces, oils and herbs and spices. Use any leftover space for cans you use regularly.
  • Third Shelf – Breakfast and snack foods.
  • Bottom Shelf – Unopened packets plus onions and potatoes. She likes the Tupperware brand storage tubs for these which stack nicely. Open baskets work well too.
pantry baskets

Use a ‘FoodSaver’

Jo Gallagher also swears by her ‘FoodSaver’. She says it has “changed our lives”. A FoodSaver is a gadget that vacuum seals food to preserve it (great for freezing portions of meat). However, Jo also uses it to reseal plastic packets and says, “We find it also is perfect in reducing the space of packets because it vacuum seals” meaning it removes the excess air from the packets as well. She cautions, however, that the rolls of plastic pouches can be pricey so use them wisely and grab them on sale if you can.

Have a Toss Out

Another piece of advice was to have a sort out. Check use-by dates and discard out-of-date items. Also, if you’ve collected things that were used for a ‘one-off’ dish that you won’t use again, cull them. Someone in your Buy Nothing group might use them.

If things are not yet out of date but need to be used quickly, have a ‘use first’ basket in the front of the pantry and challenge yourself to use up these items first.

Such fantastic advice from the group. I’d add to this…

Use Your Prime Real Estate Wisely

Remember that the area from eye height to waist height is your prime pantry real estate. Use it for the things you use most often.

Categorise Items

I second the advice for creating categories. Baskets (without lids) are great for holding like items. It is easy to pull them out to get at things or see where things are.

I’ve also had clients set up baskets to hold ingredients for particular things such as a basket for smoothie ingredients or all the bits and bobs for making tacos. You could also organise your herbs and spices this way by grouping them by cuisine, for example, all the Indian spices together.

Sometimes it is appropriate to organise things like snacks into categories like ‘Kids’ Snacks’, ‘Dad’s Snacks’, ‘Mum’s Snacks’ and have baskets for each of these. Otherwise, you might just have a basket for ‘muesli bars’ or ‘chips’ so that it is quick and easy to grab what you need when you’re putting together the lunches in the morning.

Maximise Available Storage

Often there is wasted space above items in your pantry. Using stacking containers and adding in ‘mini’ shelves can be a big help. The tiered shelving to fit inside pantries is available quite cheaply and is great for adding storage space for cans, sauces and condiments.

Maintenance is Essential

The pantry, particularly that prime real estate space, is a high-traffic area so it will take mindfulness and a bit of regular attention to keep it orderly and maintained. The first step is to make the storage easy for yourself. The second step is to use the storage. So, when you buy your cornflour, tip it into its container so that there is no open packet to spill.

Get Creative

When you’re short on space, think about if you can reduce the number of things you have in your pantry. For example, self-raising flour can be made from plain flour and baking powder. Perhaps you don’t need to buy self-raising flour if you don’t use it often. Or, rather than buying a Mexican spice mix, make the mix yourself from the base ingredients in your pantry. Get creative. Think of it from the perspective of having to be resourceful at the end of the pay cycle and there isn’t any money left to buy that ingredient. What would you use instead? Perhaps you could use this substitute all the time.

Kelly came back into the group to say, “Thank you everyone! Your ideas inspired me!” I hope they’ve inspired you too. The WellSorted Facebook Group is a great source of support and inspiration when you come up against an organising dilemma. Come and join us and get help with yours.

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