Over the past few months, I have been spending most Saturday afternoons cleaning out cupboards, closets and drawers around our house. I just love the feeling of a decluttered and organized space!
Recently, I decided to tackle the pantry. I knew it would be a big job because our pantry is always stocked with not only staples, but also many random spices, sauces or other ingredients that always seem to pick up when I’m out and about (it is actually one of my favorite things to shop for!) What I didn’t realize was that I would actually save almost $40.00 on our grocery bill that week because I was now fully aware of exactly which ingredients I already had on hand, and what I actually needed to buy! So here are my 5 tips on how to organize and optimize your pantry:
1. Take Everything Out and Assess
This was my first step and let me tell you, it was overwhelming! I had completely lost track of just how much I had in there. Once I had everything removed, I wiped down all of the shelves and took time to assess everything on the following criteria:
From there, I either threw things out that were expired or stale, and then separated things into rough piles (baking, spices, oils, etc.)
2. Buy Baskets & Jars to Categorize
Take a trip to the Dollarama (or other store) and buy a number of baskets and glass jars in varying sizes that you can use in your pantry. This will help to keep things in the same category together, and will look much neater on the shelves. I knew that I wanted to put all of my flours, pastas, nuts, seeds, oats, etc. into glass jars and to put things like baking ingredients, cooking oils, and spice jars into separate baskets. If you are putting things into glass jars, be sure that they seal tightly so you can avoid things going stale or rotten.
3. Organize According to Frequency of Use
Once everything is organized into a category and added to a jar or basket, start to think about your regular routine and put things into the pantry accordingly. For example, if you know that you don’t bake often, it would make sense to put your flours and other baking ingredients either up high or down low on a shelf. Or if you know that you have oatmeal a few times a week for breakfast, you should put the oats in a spot that is easy to access. For my own pantry, I used the top shelf for protein powders, supplements, bread, oats and potatoes and the shelf below for all of my spices since these are all things I access multiple times each week.
4. Have a Place for Extras
I don’t know about you, but when I am grocery shopping and an ingredient that I use often is on sale, I stock UP! (Hello, natural peanut butter!) For that reason, I knew that I wanted a dedicated space in my pantry for all of my “extras” – sauces, canned ingredients, peanut butter, etc. I decided that I would use my bottom shelf for these items. Having these extra ingredients on hand is helpful when you are trying new recipes, or if you are trying to create something on the fly. Knowing you’ve got some staples on backup is a key factor in a well-stocked pantry.
5. Keep a Running List
I think this is where my original problem stemmed from; I had lost track of everything that was in my pantry, so grocery shopping had become a bit of a guessing game when it came to things like how much olive oil I had left, or whether I had a certain spice on hand or not. I ended up just buying things to avoid not having them on hand when I needed them. The problem was, I would end up buying things multiple times (and am now the owner of 4 unopened bags of whole wheat flour because of it!) So my final suggestion is to keep a running list either inside the pantry or along with your grocery list as you run out of items. Also, take a few minutes before going to the grocery store to check how much of your staples, like olive oil, you have left and whether or not you have a backup already on hand.
I hope these tips are helpful and will inspire you to complete your own pantry makeover this weekend! I guarantee that you will feel much more organized and ready to take on the week.
Have a look at my before and after shots below!