Brendan and I have been taking advantage of summer to try and use a lot of the ingredients in our pantry. Yesterday, I had an urge to organize it to make it even easier to see what all we have in there. Pantry organization is great for those moments when you think you have nothing and need to go to the store. I was able to make a 16 bean soup and cornbread last night simply using what we already had on hand. Here are my best tips for organizing your pantry in about 45 minutes.
The first step is to clear your kitchen counters. In order to organize, you are going to have to pull everything out, so you will need some space.
Secondly, pull out everything in the pantry and organize it by type on your kitchen counter while making a mental plan for what will go where. During this step, it is important to throw away or recycle any empty containers or anything that is expired and not going back in your pantry. The plan for organization should be intuitive to how and what you cook and eat in order to help you make the most of the space. In our pantry, the top shelf is too high for me to reach anything, even with a stepladder. That is why we only keep our two MREs up there (we have them from a helping veteran students training we attended, and I figure, why not keep them, you never know!) Our second shelf is paper plates, napkins, plastic cups and utensils, and Brendan's nutritional yeast. These things don't need to be accessed much, so it's fine for them to be high. The next shelf is crackers, popcorn, rice, pasta, and pasta sauce. The fourth shelf is soups, canned beans, dry beans/lentils, oatmeal/grits, and baking items like baking power, flour, etc. The bottom shelf has sparkling water, alcohol, condiments, oils, quick grab snacks like peanut butter and granola bars, and canned veggies (basically, the stuff we need access to the most frequently). Our onion baskets are from Williams Sonoma, and we use them to store onions, shallots, and garlic.
The third step is the most important step of pantry organization, and that is use plastic bags to group identical items. While organizing the pantry, I found we had 3 bags of white rice, 2 bags of brown rice, 2 bags of couscous, and 2 bags of basmati rice. Essentially, we were buying new bags because we didn't realize what we already had. When you can't bag the items, you need to keep them together. For instance, I found 3 bottles of tequila (all opened and two nearly empty) and 2 jars of peanut butter.
Next, place your items back in the pantry using the stacking/backing system for identical items. You want to be able to see everything in your pantry at first glance. Therefore, the only items that should be placed in the back are the tall items or the items that are identical to what is in front of them (for instance, the newer tequila goes behind the more empty ones, so those bottles will be finished first, and new peanut butter goes behind one that is already opened. For canned food, use the stacking and backing system...if you have four cans of beets, stack two and put another stack of two right behind them. This makes it super easy to see where everything is, and you won't have to dig through your pantry and mess up your organization.
I'm off to make another delicious dinner! Happy weekend everyone.
Don't forget, I'm doing a drawing on Tuesday night and four readers will win 3 bottles of wine each from Club W. See post from August 4th for details!