6 Tips for Tackling the Pantry: Explore the Possibilities…

A pantry, no matter the size, is the key tool to any home cook. This is where the secret lies, to the question, what’s for dinner? How you stock your pantry is entirely defined but how you cook, what you like, and what you have planned. 

When I move into this house there was no pantry. A 1910 farm house with no pantry? I know! Right?! What’s funny to me is this is a large house with a finished basement and even so the previous owners chose to make the “small room” or “large closet” off of the kitchen a laundry room. I know it’s common to put laundry rooms in the kitchen but I say no more! One, I don’t need anything else heating up my kitchen! Everything I have going on in there generates enough heat. Also I don’t want the smell of laundry, clean laundry, wafting is as I am working on some new recipe. Febreze Fresh Sent does not go with Barbecue Pork Lo Mien. Thankfully when we redesigned the master suite we planned to move the laundry in there so now I had the perfect space for my pantry.

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This space measures 6 feet wide by 8 feet long which is an amazing space for a walk-in pantry.

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Being that it’s right off the kitchen it makes getting what I need incredibly easily. To make the space functional there was the issue of shelving.

Tip 1: If you can put your own shelving into your pantry space use IKEA’s IVAR.

Tip 2: Shallow NOT Deep. One problem with a lot of pantry is how deep they can be. Loosing things in your pantry only leads to waste and over spending. This recently happened to me. I didn’t know I had candied ginger at home because it had fallen behind some stuff so I bought more. Had I been able to see it I would have saved that expense. Thankfully I’ll be able to use it in the future.

Tip 3: Get rid of the bags and get storage containers. There are a lot of types for containers out there. Which one is the right one? This is just a matter of what you need it for. Sometimes something as simple as baskets work. When I buy spices I buy them in bulk. This leaves me with lots of bags of extra spices. For this I just put them all into a basket on a shelf labeled “extra spices”.

For larger stuff like nuts and flours I have splurged and purchased the OXO POP containers. These are great but pricey.

Tip 4: Buy the right size container for the item. This is the hardest one to do but is the best when you can do it. Here’s the idea. Whatever the size the item is that it comes in at the store you need a container that will fit the whole item. So when it’s empty and you buy more you can come home from shopping and dump the item into the bin for clean and easy storage. It’s always ideal to not have “open” bags sitting on shelves.

Tip 5: Label! If you don’t already own a table maker go out and buy one. I know. This sounds so OCD. It kinda is but trust me this is AWESOME. Here’s the reason why… This way EVERYONE else in the household knows where it goes! Have little helpers in the kitchen? This will help them know where stuff belongs. Ever hear the phrase “I don’t know where this goes” this eliminates that issue!

The real win to labeling? It makes putting together a grocery list MUCH easier! Go to your pantry or where ever you keep your food and any empty spot or container that is labeled all you have to do is add it to your list… This is essential to staples. The things you need to have one hand all the time. Like to bake you’ll need to always stock flour. Is the consenter labeled flour empty, add it to your list!

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Tip 6: Not all, well for that matter, none of your containers need to be expensive. There are a few ways to go about doing this. First is to save all your food containers. After finishing a tub of peanut butter, a jar of pickles or a container of yogurt wash the container and put your own labels on them for how you want to use them. Another idea is to think outside the box. I have to have a lot of All-purpose Flour and Long Grain White Rice on hand. Standard containers just aren’t big enough. That’s when I spotted the dog food containers at Target. This is the perfect size for me. It’s large enough to get 5-pound sacks of flour into it and yet still be manageable to lift and move. My last great source for containers is looking for your local Restaurant Supply Store. These places are a great treasure strove of storage options that won’t brake the bank. The large 4-quart OXO was $17.99 and the restaurant supply stores same size bin and lid added up to $4.99!

Now putting it all together will take time and don’t try to convert your whole kitchen and pantry to storage bins at once. Start with the thing you know you need to keep on hand all the time. Then add on form there as you find you have a new thing you have to keep on hand.

Advanced tip: To ensure you never run out of your staples always have either an extra unopened bad behind your bin or if it’s a bottle of something make sure you have two bottles. Stack it two deep. Use the one in front and always shift it forward when you buy the next one. When my flour bin is empty I add the flour that’s behind it and then when I shop I put the new bag behind the bin.

One last note about why I swear by IKEA’s Ivar: Adjustable shelving and small sections. The key to a well organized pantry is utilizing all the space and that means vertical too. This shelving system is fully customizable to take advantage of every square inch of your space. The long and short shelving options make this great for fitting lots of spaces.

Bonus Tip: Kitchen hamper! Wow, has this changed my life. Having a hamper in the kitchen that is just for my kitchen towels, cleaning rags, oven mitts, aprons and whatnot makes clean up easy and keeps everything tidy!

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(Oh, if anyone is curious the pantry is going to be gutted and remodeled that’s why there’s some weird issues with the floors and walls.)

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