Simplify your shelves now to cut down on your cooking time later.
Not sure what lies behind your pantry door? Years of grocery shopping and cooking can transform a well-organised system into organised chaos.
By putting in the time to tackle the tangle, you’ll save space, waste and stress in the hub of your home. From zoning your ingredients to clever storage solutions, here are seven ways to spend less time rummaging through your pantry and more time relaxing around your table.
How to organise your pantry
Start with a stocktake
Time to see what you’re working with. Take everything out of your pantry, roughly sorting items into categories as you go. Think spices, baking ingredients and canned goods. Bin out-of-date products, donate non-perishables you won’t use and wipe the shelves clean as you go. Organise items with an impending expiry date into a basket as a reminder to use them soon.
Add clarity with containers
Using clear containers will not only make your shelves more organised, but it’ll also increase your food’s shelf life. Remove items like tea bags, pasta and rice from their chunky boxes and bags and store them in dedicated containers. Save space by choosing designs that stack well, and buy various sizes to house multiple quantities. Extra points if you source your food from a bulk food store, eliminating the need for packaging altogether.
Get into the zone
You’ve already started to group items. Now go one step further and categorise them into zones suited to your lifestyle—place items you’ll regularly use at eye level and store lesser-used items higher up. Group snacks into their own zone for easy access, create a tea and coffee zone and group breakfast items into a designated domain. This system also shows you when you’re low on popular ingredients, making restocking a breeze. Add labels to your shelves, so everyone in your home knows – and follows – the new system.
Perfect your pairings
Not all pantry items are destined to be neighbours. Keep onions and garlic well away from potatoes – and in a dark place – or you’ll risk speeding up the spoiling process. Flours can absorb strong-smelling odours like cumin and curry powder, so store them in separate spaces. The same goes for bread, which is best kept fresh by housing it in its own basket or bread box.
Enhance space with storage
With a bit of breathing room, you’ll soon have a place for everything. Baskets, drawers and tubs are ideal for items that don’t need to be sealed, and will give you some of your most dramatic makeover results. Instantly double your space by using portable tiered shelves to stack cans and jars, set up your spices on a Lazy Susan and use baskets for your assortment of baking ingredients. Limit spills by using a plastic container to store your oils and keep your pantry floor clear by allocating all your shopping bags to one large shopping bag. With a little extra effort, you can install new additions like a drawer for your spreads, a basket for your bread and built-in spice rack shelving on your pantry door.
Rotate to reduce waste
Introduce a first-in, first-out system. Label containers and baskets with their contents and expiry dates clearly, and be sure to position them facing outwards so you can easily see the label. Organise duplicate items by date, so the older items get used first. Getting into this habit helps you familiarise yourself with what you’ve got on hand and lessens the chance of overstocking. It may also eliminate decision fatigue around dinner by clearly showing you what you have to use up first.
Most importantly, make sure you take a moment to appreciate your newly organised pantry because this perfect state isn’t going to last forever – life happens. That’s why after all the hard work, maintenance is essential. Every six months (put it in your calendar), put aside some time to make sure the systems you’ve put in place are in order, bin expired items, clean up any spills and give the shelves a good wipe down.
Oh, and did we mention? Remember to take a moment, enjoy the calm and whip up a family favourite, taking comfort in that fact you’ll be able to find every ingredient you need on those organised shelves of yours.
Jenna Meade – RACV