At the condo, we didn’t have a pantry. We used the lazy-susan to keep a few boxes and cans on the bottom shelf. But otherwise, we mostly shopped for what we needed for the week. Fortunately, we lived across the street from a very nice grocery store and this was a feasible solution to our pantry-less kitchen.
When we were building the house, I was pretty excited about having a pantry. I didn’t want a giant butler’s pantry like the ones infecting the Pinterest, because I couldn’t imagine ever needing to store that much food all at once. We cook a lot, but usually in 4-6 servings at a time type of way. So, the small corner pantry that was already designed for our shmedium sized (but much larger than the condo) kitchen, was going to be perfect.
What I didn’t take into consideration was that with a corner pantry came deep corners which are notoriously hard to organize. Fortunately, lazy-susans or turntables were able to make use of the space. I also ended up purchasing a lot of clear storage containers and bins, and also had a steep learning curve on what is necessary to keep in a pantry and what is not. However the hardest thing about pantry storage is that it is particular to each family, some people might need to store a LOT of baking/dry goods. And some people might use their pantry to store small appliances and clean take-out containers. Whatever works for you, is the best way to use your pantry.
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Top Shelf / Back Stock
We have 8′ ceilings, so the top shelf isn’t that high. It does require a small two step ladder to reach, so that is where we store items that we need less frequently. That includes the vacuum sealer (on a large bamboo stacking shelf) and supplies (in a large plastic storage bin with handles) and back stock of seasonings and spices (in a clear handled storage bin – no longer sold – similar). Other back stock items are on an 18″ lazy-susan, which are also called turntables. Then the rest of the back stock are stored in plastic kitchen organizers from Target.
Dry goods are stored on the next shelf down, and we can reach those without a step ladder. The bins are various OXO containers with custom vinyl labels. I use a piece of washi tape and a sharpie to mark the expiration date on each container. If something gets used up or expired, I hand wash the container and let it dry before refilling the container and adding a new expiration date. The only container I don’t apply an expiration date to is the white granulated sugar, and that’s because I have never gone more than two months without replacing it (it’s not us, it’s the hummingbirds, I swear). I also store cookie cutters and pie making bins because there was space, and I make cookies and pies so infrequently.
Prime Real Estate (Frequently Used Items)
Prime Real Estate, in organizing terms, is space that is eye level and easily accessible. This is where I store things we use frequently. Canned goods (on a can organizer) sauces, sides, and spreads. We make a lot of salads and rice bowls, so they have their own bins.
The bottom two shelves are snacks, sweets, and breakfast stuff. I have them divided into clear plastic containers by broad category and labeled with custom vinyl labels that I purchased from etsy. We also use three cereal containers, a small lazy-susan for syrups and honeys, OXO containers, and food clips to store everything neatly.
Despite the fact that we bake two to three times per month, I’m always prepared to make chocolate chip oatmeal cookies, chocolate zucchini muffins, gingerbread cookies, banana bread, and pie crust. You know, the staples. Because I love to create zones, the pantry houses “the baking zone” which is almost anything that involves baking – the stand mixer, parts and pieces, cookie sheets, cooling racks, cookie cutters, pie making accoutrements, aprons, and sprinkles.
The baskets are wicker crates from Target, and I zip tied the baskets to a plant caddy so I could move them around in the pantry more easily. In the basket that holds the cookie sheets, I added a small 4-sort divider from The Container Store – because if I’m going to store a bunch of things in a basket, I prefer that when removing an item or two, the entire stack doesn’t fall over – so these neat things prevent that from happening. I also zip tied the 4-sort divider in place.
Because I used to work for The Container Store, several of our closet doors have an elfa door and wall rack system attached to them, and also because they’re just really useful. We use it to store hot sauce, larger spice containers, and other items we find ourselves needing to use frequently. We also keep a pair of scissors, washi tape, and a sharpie to label items.
My best advice when organizing a pantry is to divide into broad categories, label label label, and have a routine for cleaning out the pantry of any expired items. It’s totally ok to keep items in their original container – you don’t have to decant things just because everyone on pinterest is doing it!