Organize Your Pantry in 5 Steps

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Photo Courtesy California Closets
California Closets adjustable shelving is produced domestically, made of recycled materials and certified for low emissions.

Half-empty bags of flour. An assortment of seldom-used cooking oils collecting dust. A jar of pickled peppers older than your car. A disorganized pantry is an eyesore and can make meal planning a challenge. If you can’t see what you have, how can you use it? Whether you have a walk-in pantry or a humble cupboard, our smart storage solutions will help you get your goods in order.

1. Start from Scratch

The first step to restoring order is the hardest, but it’s worth it. Remove everything–including food lurking in the back you forgot about long ago–and spread it out on the kitchen table or countertops. Examine each item. Is it expired? If so, can it be composted? Be honest. Will you really eat it? If not, donate unopened items to a local food bank.

2. Streamline Your Storage

Sort what’s left into groups of like items. For example, place pasta, rice and other grains in one group. Place canned goods in another. Marry condiments, oils and flours. Whenever possible, transfer goods into clear glass jars so you can easily see what you have on hand. Do not use plastic containers; they absorb odors and oils and may contain bisphenol-A (BPA), a potentially toxic chemical that can leach into foods.

3. Take a Fresh Approach

Now that your pantry is empty, take this opportunity to do a thorough cleaning. Use baking soda to eliminate odors. Stash sachets of crushed mint in cupboards or drawers to repel both ants and flies. Consider sprucing up your pantry with a cheery shade of no-VOC paint to help motivate you to keep things tidy.

4. Create Spaces

Re-evaluate your empty space, and consider adjustments that might maximize storage. If you have adjustable shelving, can you move shelves closer together to create room for another one? If you don’t have enough shelving, install some. (California Closets adjustable shelving is produced domestically, made of recycled materials and certified for low emissions.) Also consider storage devices or organizers that might help you define areas. Retrofit drawers with dividers made from scraps of reclaimed wood. Mount organizing tools such as a magnetic spice rack, vintage wire baskets or a cork message board to the inside of doors.

5. Place with Purpose

Designate a spot for each group and stick to it! Place everyday items such as cereal, coffee and lunch ingredients at eye level. Stash seldom-used stuff up high, and store heavy goods down low. Line up and stack food with labels facing forward. If you and your family can’t remember the new organization system, attach labels to the front of shelves.

Inventory Control

Shape up your pantry supplies with these handy tips.

• If you lack built-in cabinets, repurpose a freestanding hutch or armoire for extra storage. For a more modern look, check Craigslist or restaurant supply stores for sleek stainless steel units.

• Small vintage metal trash cans with lids are great for storing pet food. Outfit them with casters for easy access.

• Instead of assembling ingredients for often-made dishes again and again–for instance, the cinnamon, raisins and walnuts for your morning oatmeal–keep them together in a basket or bin.

• Save empty jelly, mayo and other glass jars for future storage needs. Use a blow dryer to help remove stubborn labels.

• Buying from bulk bins is cost-effective–allowing you to purchase only quantities you need–and eliminates packaging. If you don’t use ingredients quickly, write the purchase date on a piece of paper and adhere it to the storage container.

• Corral small bags and boxes into baskets to keep them upright and organized.

• Store hardy vegetables in a cool, dark spot in the pantry. Separate potatoes and onions to prevent them from spoiling more quickly.

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