When it comes to saving time in the kitchen, having everything you need within reach is probably one of the most important things you can do. If you’ve set up different areas in your kitchen, one for prep work, one for cooking, one for cleaning, and one for planning, you know how much easier it is to find things.
However, inside those centers lurks a hidden clutter – the pantry. Yes, behind that door is an accumulation of hundreds, if not thousands, of trips to the grocery store, ending in a hurried stashing of all your supplies. The result is a mess.
You can close your eyes to this mess by closing the door, but it comes back to haunt you every time you try to make a quick meal. The moment you open that door and start hunting and digging for supplies, precious time starts ticking away. That’s why organizing your pantry is so important to the overall success of your mealtime streamlining process. Let’s take a look at a few suggestions for tackling this area of the kitchen to organize it properly.
Clear the Decks
Trying to sort through every little packet, jar, box, and envelope while it sits on the pantry shelves is going to just frustrate you. There’s no way around this task; you must completely clear out your pantry.
Get out boxes and start taking everything out of the pantry. You may want to keep a trash can or box handy for items you know are either outdated or that you will never use. Once the entire pantry is empty, you can wipe down the shelves and get ready to organize.
Rethink the Space
If you put the stuff back into your pantry in exactly the same way it came out, chances are you will fall into the same clutter trap in no time. You need to redesign your pantry space to make better sense. That doesn’t mean you need to invest in expensive storage units or completely rebuild your pantry. It does mean you need to rethink the area you have and look at empty space with a critical eye.
Does your pantry have a door? If so, attach narrow shelves to the door, or hang a ‘shoe bag’ over the door. That little extra space can add up to a whole lot of storage. Also, because the spot is small, it can corral some of those tiny little packets that keep getting pushed to the back of the pantry.
Install ‘step shelves’ so the items in the back are lifted up and you can see them. Invest in inexpensive ‘lazy Susan’ type units so you can spin items to the front where you can get a hold of them. If you have space on the floor, think of the space more like a drawer, putting plastic bins down that you can pull out, rather than rummaging around trying to unearth items that are buried behind other items.
Think in Groups
The most efficient way to organize items in a pantry is by use, not by size. If you rarely use that bottle of sesame oil, then why keep it up front? I know it’s small, but it makes more sense to put it in the back on your ‘step shelf’ than in the front where you are constantly moving it to get at bigger products you use every day.
Keep the items you use most frequently up front and at eye level. Organize them by type so you know without even looking where you will need to reach for the canned tomatoes, the spaghetti noodles, or the breadcrumbs. If you have seasonings, spices, and herbs you use almost every meal, keep those in one bin right in front, and put the remaining spices on a ‘lazy Susan’ in the back of the pantry.
If you buy in bulk, you will obviously have large bags and boxes of food items you use often. You can put small amounts in reusable containers and keep the items in the ‘grab and use’ area of the pantry or you can keep the items in bulk and put them in plastic bins on the lower level or on the floor. Using plastic bins allows for sliding them out from the pantry, like a drawer, keeping the products more accessible. Either method gets the products you use most often up front, making mealtime preparation faster and easier.
Put it Where it Belongs
Once you have your pantry organized in easy to grab groups, you need to keep it that way. You may wish to label bins, either with words or pictures, to help the family put things where they belong. Even the youngest child will understand that the rice goes in a bin with a picture of rice on it. This is one way to eliminate the “I don’t know where it goes” cry.
The trickiest part of this whole organizing task is keeping things where they belong. Constantly nagging the family to “put it back where it belongs” gets tiring for everyone. You may have to monitor things for a while and come up with some teaching method for those who carelessly ignore your efforts. Of course, the consequences are simple and evident when dinner is delayed because somebody didn’t put the beans back where they belong.
Getting dinner on the table fast, and with less effort, is a goal we all have. None of us wants to spend all day or night in the kitchen. When time is at a premium, mealtime preparations can be given a time-saving boost by giving your pantry a make-over. As simple as it sounds, that little space in your kitchen can cost you a lot of time or save you a lot of time. You choose!