Is It Time for a Pantry Pick Me Up?
This is the way it usually goes in my kitchen: I come up with a recipe, I go grocery shopping, I stuff things in my cabinet wherever I can find room, I forget about or lose them, I rebuy the same items…. and the cycle begins again. Does any of this sound familiar to you? Please, someone tell me that my pantry isn’t the only pantry that looked like this!
As you can see, I am not blessed with a walk-in pantry with shelves for days. Instead, I am cursed with your run-of-the-mill, floor-to-ceiling, deep kitchen pantry cabinets where most of my non-perishables enter, only to never be seen again. You would think that as a designer and organizer for my clients, my pantry would be clean and pristine. The reality, I’m afraid, was quite the opposite.
Knowing that the problem needed to be taken care of, I developed two possible approaches. Plan A: I will eat my way to organization. I will finally consume the items that I have in my cabinet and I won’t buy anything else until I can see the back wall. Plan B: I will clean out my pantry and actually make sense of the mess.
Plan A totally backfired. A full pant-size size later, I was no closer to organization than I was to fitting in my favorite skirt for Valentine’s Day. On to Plan B. But where to start? Breaking organizational projects down into simple steps is key to staying sane during the process. Here are some tricks to streamline the process as well as a few money-saving ideas.
Step One: Empty out the pantry.
This is a great way to take stock of what you have and to check for expiration dates. This is especially true for the items you had no idea were hiding, like the year-old, fossilized bag of marshmallows. Yup, that’s what I found in mine…. as well as multiples of just about EVERYTHING. It’s also an opportunity to clean the shelves and even resurface them with inexpensive shelf liner for a more decorative look.
Step Two: Create organization stations for yourself.
It’s not enough just to put your cabinets back together neatly; you want them organized with similar items together. Use simple grocery bags to group your items. Adding labels helps keep the process streamlined.
Step Three: Consolidate. Consolidate. Consolidate. This is where you can have some fun with your organization. Purchase some inexpensive jars and bins from your local hardware store. The Do It Center down the street became my best friend for this project! Take any duplicate items you have and begin to marry them together into your jars. When I came across my baking supplies and spices, I discovered I had more than just duplicates; I had some items in triplicate—or even in quadruplicate! If you’re short on funds, you can recycle your baby food, pasta, and peanut butter jars for inexpensive storage.
Step Four: Add labels to your jars and bins.
Now that you have your items organized by type and neatly put away in your bins, it’s time to label them so you can easily access them. My favorites to use are chalkboard labels. To purchase a package of six from your big retailer, it costs $4. Yikes! Instead, I headed out to the local hardware store for some chalkboard spray paint, then purchased myself a package of 80 transparent shipping labels for $12. Including the cost of paint, that’s less than 20¢ per label, versus almost 70¢. I sprayed my clear labels, used my son’s chalk to mark the names, and voila! Plus, I had enough paint to customize lids for my spices. And, with dozens of labels to spare, I can outfit the rest of my house.
Step Five: Label your shelves.
Sure, now your items are organized in your bins, but are your bins organized on your shelves? When you have deep pantry, the last thing you want is to be pulling out bins to find out what’s behind them, so mark your shelves for easy reference. Not only does it make for easy finding, it makes for easy cleanup, too! I used a label maker for mine, but you can always run some of those leftover transparent labels through your computer for a professional look.
Here is how our Plan B tallies add up:
- Shopping = 1 hour
- Organizing = 3 hours
- Cost = $106
The next project: working off Plan A!