3 Hacks for Organizing Your Pantry

I read somewhere many years ago that disorder costs you money. At the time, I thought, “No, it doesn’t cost me anything.” However, since that time, I have found this statement to be true time and time again.

Your pantry is the perfect example of the principle. How many times do you head to the store, buy a product that you think you are out of, only to return home and find an identical package sitting in your pantry?

It’s happened to me – way too often!

So, I decided to give my pantry a much-needed overhaul and devise a system, which would allow me to easily see what I have in stock.

What I Love Most About My Pantry:  

  • Easy to inventory
  • Easy for kids to help organize and find items
  • Helps avoid wasting food and money

I show you exactly what’s in my pantry and how I organize it in this YouTube video.

If you, too, want a pantry that will not only make your life easier, but also save you time and money, then follow these three steps.

1. Organize your shelves like a store

This is, seriously, the most important tip that I can give you. Think like a merchant when you stock the shelves of your pantry. Stores are organized in specific sections, grouping “like” items together.

Here are some categories: 

  • tomato products
  • gluten free products
  • pasta
  • baking products
  • condiments
  • sweeteners
  • canned fruits
  • canned vegetables
  • breakfast cereals
  • teas and other drinks
  • peanut butter and jelly

2. Rotate your stock

When we get back from the store I often have my boys put the groceries away on the shelves.  I’ve shown them where to find each section in the pantry and how to rotate the stock.  New items go to the back.  But, how do you know which items are the oldest?  Use a permanent marker and write the month and year on the side of boxes or the top of cans.

This makes it super easy to see which items you are overbuying and how long certain things last. For instance, I know that a bottle of maple syrup lasts us for about a month.This system helps me be aware of how often we need to purchase a new bottle of maple syrup.  

As soon as you grab that last bottle of ketchup, write it down on that week’s grocery list.  Don’t wait!  You’ll forget!  When you have a half a dozen people taking items out of your pantry, you need to have a grocery list.  The grocery list for the week is best kept in a specific location where each family member can add something to it. I have a certain child (who shall remain nameless, but is the youngest) who has been known to randomly add things like, “ice cream”, “candy”, or “soda” to the grocery list. 

This also helps me see which items need to be used up.  For instance, canned no-salt vegetables went on sale at HyVee super cheap a while back.  I bought 40 cans of corn and 40 cans of green beans.  A recent quick glance at my pantry told me that we are using the corn up at about a 4 to 1 ratio to the green beans.  That’s how I know that it’s time to dig out some good green bean recipes. 

3. Repackage Bulk Items  

I buy items, like beans, rice, and grains in bulk to get the best price per pound. This works great, but you may need to repackage the items for ease of storage and use. You are not likely to have either the space to store 50# of beans in a huge bag nor will you drag out that bag to use it. It’s simply not convenient. However, you’ll gladly grab a 4 or 5 pound bag of beans or rice out of the pantry. Not only that, you can send your child down to the pantry area to get that bag for you and they won’t have any trouble transporting it for you either.

Storage Tips:

  • Use clear Rubbermaid for bulk items and label the outside.
  • Brown rice will stay fresh for up to six months.  This is because of the oil in the bran layer.  If you won’t use it in that amount of time, keep it in the freezer instead of on the pantry shelves.  By the way, you should refrigerate or freeze nuts, too, for exactly the same reason. 
  • Beans and whole grains will stay fresh on your shelves for at least a year – probably longer.
  •  If you want to kill any pest eggs, throw the filled, gallon-sized, freezer bags into the deep freeze for 48 hours.  Then, bring to room temperature and place into the larger, clear rubbermaid containers for longer-term storage. 

Since my pantry is in my basement and my kitchen is upstairs, it makes really good sense to keep small amounts of bulk items stored in pretty containers in my kitchen. You will most often use what you can see! This system reminds me to use what I have in stock.

Your turn!

Do you have any other tips or strategies for organizing and keeping tabs on what you have stored in your pantry? I’d love to hear about them in the comments section.

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