Home organization projects are more this year due to the pandemic, but a well-organized kitchen has always been one of my dreams and priorities when it comes to home projects. As someone who likes to cook, having a pretty kitchen is just as important to me as having enough counter space. Both are necessary to encourage good cooking vibes! I waited until we almost moved out of our Jersey City apartment to organize the kitchen and pantry, but I decided to tackle the pantry organization project in our Nairobi apartment sooner rather than later. If you’re looking for a satisfying weekend project with tons of impact, here’s how to organize your pantry.
1. Figure out what you use
First things first, ignore advice on the internet that says what you should stock in your pantry and think about what kitchen ingredients you actually use. Do you make a lot of slow-cooked chili? Then you might need a few jars of dried beans. Are you an avid baker? Then you might need different jars to store semi-sweet chocolate chips, desiccated coconut, and cornstarch. Take inventory of what you typically use from your pantry in a month, and make a list of everything you think you might need stored, labeled, and organized in your pantry.
2. Make the most of your space
I’m all about making use of what you have (unless you have money for a full kitchen remodel), so think about how you can maximize the space in your kitchen for storage. If you have a pantry closet, create zones that will help differentiate between food, household supplies, cookware or additional storage. If don’t have a separate pantry, decide which cupboards or drawers will be used for pantry storage. If you’re planning on buying pantry storage solutions like baskets, bins, jars, or shelf dividers, make sure you measure your space well so you don’t end up having to make returns. If you’re short on storage space, items like shelf risers or undershelf storage can quickly double your shelf space. If you have corner cabinets like me, lazy susans are the perfect solution for maximizing space in those hard to reach nooks.
3. Decant your grains and spices
The secret to a beautiful, Pinterest-worthy pantry is minimal store-bought packaging and branding. Rather than storing a bag of rice on your shelf, pour all the grains (slowly!) into a container. Not only does this look prettier, but it helps protect your pantry items from bacteria and bugs.
4. Get the right sized containers
Once you’ve figured out your pantry staple items, know how much space you have, and have a general idea of how you want to organize your space, think about what size jars or containers each pantry item will need. Do you usually buy a few loose packets of sugar that can go in a small tin or do you buy a 5 lb bag that needs a large container? Knowing how much of each product you typically use, as well as how much space you have to store product, will help you figure out what size and kind of containers to use for each item. It can be overwhelming to do this all at once, so next time you restock on flour or flaxseeds at the grocery store, take note of what size bag you purchase, and figure out what kind and how big of a container you need to hold the entire contents.
5. Invest in uniform labels
The last step to an organized pantry is labels. There are so many different ways to label your pantry, from using your own handwriting, chalk labels, a label maker, or label stickers, but whatever you decide, try as much as possible to have uniform labels for all your items. There are so many label options now, there is really no excuse to not have a well labeled pantry!
See It In Action: How I Organized My Pantry
Want to see how all of these steps come together in real life? Check out my pantry organization/makeover video: