Organization Hack: Pantry

With Thanksgiving tomorrow and all the talk of food, I thought it was only fitting that for my organization hack today to talk about pantries. I will say that it has taken years for me to perfect my system, but it works great now.  I am going to give you a little background on how I got to the system that I currently use.  When my husband and I first got married, we lived in a tiny, two-bedroom apartment in South Georgia.  The kitchen was just slightly larger than the bathroom and had a very limited number of cabinets. There was certainly no room in the place for a separate pantry, so I just had to stuff food in all of the nooks and crannies of the cabinets.  There was no organizational system at all, and it drove me nuts.  My husband was deployed for half of the years we were there, and I didn’t eat a whole lot by myself, so I managed to make it work. A few years later we moved to Maryland and bought our very first house. I thought it was massive compared to the tiny apartment.  The kitchen was probably double the size of the previous one, but it still did not have a separate pantry.  I did have a corner cabinet with a 2-shelf Lazy Susan in that I kept all of my cans and a few other things in, which helped. Everything else had to go in the cabinets.  I tried to keep things that went together in the same location, but that was hard when the space was so limited.  Finally, we moved to Virginia and bought a house with my first ever pantry! I was so excited! Finally, I could have some sort of organization.  It wasn’t massive by any means, but anything was better than having no pantry at all.  It was certainly big enough for my family’s needs. When we first moved in, I tried to organize it by designating certain areas for certain types of foods.  I put sticky notes on the shelves to try to keep things in the right spot until we got used to where everything went. For example, all the breakfast foods were in one spot, all of the pasta was in one spot, and all of the snacks were in one spot. That worked ok until my kids got older. The sticky note labels were long gone, and they started just throwing stuff in there wherever there was an empty space. Again, it drove me nuts.  I could never find anything, and I was always afraid of what people would think if they came over and opened the pantry. Yes, it was my, “I have to be Miss Perfect” flawed way of thinking. The point is that it was a jumbled disaster, and I had to figure out a new system before I lost my mind.  I went to one of the dollar stores and got a bunch of black plastic baskets.  Then I went home and pulled every single thing out of the pantry. I covered every surface in the kitchen with food. By the way, I highly recommend that everyone do that every 6 months or so just to see what you have and to throw away things that are expired or were left open by your kids and are now stale.  Anyway, I ended up throwing away a ton of things that had expired that were never eaten because no one knew they were in there in all the mess. I also realized that I had multiples of things because I would end up buying it at the store because I thought I was out of it. It was just really hidden in all the mess. Once I got everything all out and stuff thrown away, I created categories of foods/items with what was left and sorted it all into those categories all over my kitchen.  From there I placed each category of food in its own basket.  I made sticker labels for each basket so that it would be easy for others to see where things belonged, and put all of the baskets on the shelves. My thought was that the baskets would help to keep everything contained and together.  It was glorious.  I was so proud of myself. Well, of course, the sticker labels didn’t last. They kept falling off, so I had to come up with a better plan.  Next, I created labels that I printed on card stock and laminated.  I punched a hole in the top of each one and tied it to the baskets with ribbon.  I also got some clear magazine holders like these to hold all of my things like wax paper, tin foil, and plastic wrap.  I wish that I still had a picture of what it looked like the first time that I organized it all all those years ago. The before and after was incredible. It was totally Pinterest worthy, or at least I think it was!  My baskets and sizes have changed over the years partly because I wanted an upgrade and partly because we have moved 2 times since then and my pantry sizes have changed.  I will say that having a pantry is one of those key things I am now always looking for as we are looking at houses to buy.  It’s right up there with the his and her closets in the priority category.

As you can see, the pantry that I currently have in this rental house is pretty small, and I hate it. I am still able to use my basket system, but I am not able to use them all. Some food has to go in the cabinets because there just isn’t enough room. I mostly keep the things that the kids are always needing in the pantry for easy access, and then I keep the things I use to cook meals in the cabinet. I still keep my cans and oils in the Lazy Susan in a corner cabinet.   I also have always kept all of my spices in a drawer right next to the stove, which is super convenient when cooking.

These (Target) are the baskets that I currently use.  They come in several colors and sizes.  I mostly use the medium ones, but I do have the large ones as well that sit on the floor in the pantry.  Honestly, I use baskets for everything now and I will show you more at another time.  Baskets are a great way to organize any of your closets, under the sink space, and more.  It is so nice when things are contained and in the right spot.  It makes it so much easier to find things and put them away. This is a system that really works for my family and me. It not only looks nice if anyone were ever to open my pantry, but it also is very functional. Anyone in the house can put away the groceries because everyone knows right where everything goes.

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If you would like a copy of my labels, you can download them here. I print them on white card stock because I like the clean classic look of the black and white.  However, you could print them on colored card stock if you would like. Another great idea to get your kids involved in the organizing is to let them color the labels in fun colors.  I firmly believe if you involve your kids in the organizing, they will be more likely to follow the system.  Go get to organizing yourself over the holiday break! It will be worth it!

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I hope you all have the most amazing Thanksgiving tomorrow! This is my last post for this week as I will be taking the time to spend with my family and focus on all of the things I am grateful for. But….make sure you are following me on Facebook and Instagram.  You can see my adventures during my Black Friday shopping! Maybe I will see some of you out there! I can’t wait! Have a blessed holiday!

Anchored and Organized,

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