When last we spoke, or when last I wrote and you read, I revealed that my pantry needed a bit of a spruce. I like to think of myself as a fairly tidy and organized person, but let’s face it. Pantries are like garages, they ALWAYS manage to get disorganized.
We’ve lived in our new house for almost 1 year now and in that time I have yet to reassess the pantry. While the kitchen in this house is much bigger than our rental, the pantry is just a tad smaller. When we moved in, I basically grabbed all the bins and baskets from the rental’s pantry and moved them into the new pantry without much thought.
Glamorous. I know.
Over time, some of the kids craft supplies and the bread maker were stashed in the pantry along with several half open containers of grains, cereals, and embarrassing amount of flaky onion skins. Ew.
After the lentils jumped ship and shouted “Hey Lady! Get your life together and clean out your pantry!” I decided that it was time to roll up my sleeves. While I would love to just waltz into the Container Store and have one of their amazing organizational experts come in and work their magic, I’ve got a budget to think about. I also wanted the pantry done, like, NOW. So I decided to see if I could work a little magic on my own, for free.
Side Note: If the Container Store wants to come sponsor an organizational project ANYWHERE in my home, send me an email 😉
Anyway…one stormy Saturday night while the kids were sleeping and Husband was working in his home office, I put on some music and got ready to organize. I feel like the best time to organize the pantry is the night before you go to the store because you will have less food to work around and you can get a good look at what you already have that needs to be used.
Before I got started, I went around the house to find as many matching bins and glass jars as I could. These nifty plastic white bins are from the dollar store and have served me well for the last 3 years (similar here)! I always wash out and save large glass jars from pasta sauce or nut butters, so I gathered those as well for any dry goods that were still in plastic bags.
I pulled everything out and set it on the kitchen table to take stock. I checked expiration dates and tossed out only 1 item that I had let go to waste. Since I meal plan before I hit the store every week, I’m pretty good about using what we have before it expires. I took all of the grains, dry legumes, and cereals out of their bags and boxes to be recycled. I then gave the shelves and door a good wipe and vacuumed out the floor.
From there, I grouped together canned goods, sauces/vinegars, pastas, snacks, grains and legumes, and any breakfast items. I placed them in baskets and put them on the shelves according to how often they are used. I’m pretty short, so it’s a safe bet that anything on the top shelf is only needed on rare occasion.
On the very top, we have some club soda and a little “stomach bug” kit with some dry crackers, white rice, coconut water, and gatorade. There is a basket for Husband with some shaker bottles for when he feels the need for Vega Sport Electrolyte Hydrator during the peak of his cycling training. Then there’s a basket for shelf stable almond milks along with other items Husband packs when he stays at hotels. On the next shelf is all of the oats (steel and rolled), cereals, and ingredients for muesli.
On the middle shelf, I have a basket with grains and legumes in glass jars, a basket with all of the dry pastas, and a basket with “grown up” snacks (aka spicy roasted chickpeas, dry seaweed, and rice cakes). Any snacks that are set aside for Competition Weekends or just for Husband are placed up here too so the kids know not to touch them.
On the next shelf is all of the vinegars, sauces, unopened apple sauce, nut butters, and canned goods.
The bottom shelf has a large basket to hold potatoes, onions, and garlic, an empty basket that will hold dried fruit once I buy more, and a basket for homework and limited art supplies.
On the floor of the pantry, I have an unopened box of Cheerios, a basket of ready to grab snacks for the kids, and a dust pan that the kids use to clean up after snacks/dinner.
As you can see, there are very few “processed foods” in the pantry. Low sugar cereals, pretzles, and applesauce/fruit/chia squeeze pouches, and the ocassional granola or Pressed by KIND bars are about the extend of the processed foods we have. We are by no means perfect, but we try our best to keep the majority of our foods as whole and oil free as we can.
I think the pantry looks a lot more organized now. Is it Pinterest-Perfect? No. But I have room for new food, items that didn’t belong are gone, and nothing is going to fall on me. And best of all, I did it in under an hour and FOR FREE!
I hope this inspires you to work a little free organizational magic on your own pantry. If you don’t already have any bins like I did, look around your house for cardboard boxes that you could cut down and repurpose. Start washing out and saving pasta sauce or jelly jars. See if you have any tupperware in the back of your cabinet that can hold dry goods. Get creative and make sure to tag @withloveandveggies on Instagram or Facebook to show me your FREE pantry before-and-afters!