Welcome to episode 3! (Just kidding, but not). This is the third part of our kitchen spring cleaning guide and today we’re tackling everyone’s favorite: the pantry.
If you missed the previous posts, be sure to check out our guide to spring cleaning your fridge and your freezer. At a very minimum, take a deep clean of these three areas once per year to make sure you’re getting rid of items you no longer need, but also taking stock and reminding yourself of what you do have. Let’s dig in!
Let’s talk pantry
This one is tough. For one, pantries can be so different — is yours maybe one or two cabinets above your fridge? Or an entire walk-in closet that somehow is also the entry to your attic and stores your grandmother’s china? There is a lot of ground to cover here.
- It’s cleaning time
Things are about to get weird. Take everything — and I mean everything — out of your pantry. This is the time to clean all surfaces — shelves, walls, floor, any storage bins that you may be using. If you think about it, these are some of the most highly touched areas in your home, with a ton of ingredients constantly moving in and out, yet it’s an area that we very rarely clean (unless something spills).
- Take stock and cull your items
This might be tough, but think about this in a few ways:
- Is there anything here that has expired / gone bad? Throw them away! (And please, remember what we said about recycling, composting when possible, right? We’re all adults here!)
- Are any of these items duplicates that could be combined? This one happens a lot for me — check for spices that you might have multiples of, or containers that are actually both storing flour or some other ingredient. Combine anything you can!
- If you have many multiples of things (for example, if you have 5 bottles of cream of tartar that you know you couldn’t possibly use up in the next year), consider donating them to a food pantry if they’re unopened.
- Are any of these items you’re never going to use? Maybe you bought something for a specific recipe but then didn’t like it, or you have something lingering that you bought for a house guest that one time. Whatever the reason, if you’re not going to use it, either give it to someone that will (a friend, family member, neighbor, etc.) or throw it away.
- Another way to think about this: have you used this item in the past year? If the answer is no, then you’re not going to and it should be thrown out or given away (even if it hasn’t expired already).
- I don’t mean this as a joke, but literally ask yourself: do you know what this is? Is there anything in your pantry that you really don’t know what it is anymore? Perhaps it was repackaged from its original wrapping and now you’re not sure what’s in that bag / box / container. It’s time for that one to go. Do not let this back into your pantry.
- Think about organization
Again: a mighty task. But you’ve already tackled your fridge and your freezer, and you can absolutely do this too! The pantry organization is critical. If it’s chaos in there, you can pretty much guarantee that you won’t be able to keep track of what you have, let alone make sure you’re using things up before they expire.
A few questions to ask yourself about your storage supplies:
- Do you have enough shelving? You may be restricted by space, but with the space you have, do you need more shelves? This could be something as simple as buying a metal shelving unit from Amazon or a nearby home improvement store.
- We also use this door-mount spice rack, which opens up a ton of shelving space.
- Do you have enough storage bins? These are some of my favorites:
- These iDesign storage bins (available on Amazon, but you can also buy at Target, The Container Store, and I even saw some the other day at Lowe’s!) come in a wide range of sizes and the clear plastic lets me see what’s inside while also being easy to clean (which is why I’m not a fan of wicker or other baskets that aren’t as easy). You can also stack them.
- This iDesign Turntable organizer is GREAT for bottles or small items. I use one for bottles of vinegar, oils, etc. and then a second turntable for my baking essentials (salt, baking powder, baking soda, etc) so they’re all together. It’s shocking how life-changing a turntable in your pantry can be 🙂
- We also use these Rubbermaid Food Storage Bins — they come in a wide range of sizes are great for providing a tight seal, sleek design, and easy to see the contents inside.
At least at our house, the pantry is an area where I could throw an UNLIMITED number of storage bins at it, and they will always get sucked up with something. I swear the term “enough storage” doesn’t actually exist! So know that this can always be a project that you slowly work on. Storage bins are not always cheap, and if you suddenly want to buy 50 of them, that could be pretty hefty. Work up to it. Start with the most essential, and then next time (whether that’s in a few months, or next year), branch out to a few more items. This way your pantry can always grow with you.
When you’re thinking about your pantry layout, a few questions to ask yourself about the storage layout specifically:
- Can you easily access things you use often? For your essential items, are they within easy reach? Are they in bins that are easy to pull out? If they’re things you’re using all the time, make sure you’re not putting them all the way on the top shelf that you need to get a step stool to reach.
- Can you easily see everything? If no, consider using clear plastic bins rather than transparent bins that don’t let you see through.
- If you’re storing things in clear bins (or other bins), can you easily identify what is inside? Meaning, can you easily see it, and can you easily recognize what it is? If no, consider labeling the contents so you don’t forget!
- Are you storing things on the floor? Do they need to be there? If no, try to move them elsewhere to keep the floor clear and clean. If they do need to be there, are they in a good container, or do they need one?
- Are you storing things in your pantry that don’t need to be there? Has your pantry become a kind of catch-all closet? If it’s not related to the kitchen / dining, try to move it out of the pantry.
There is no better feeling than a clean and well-organized pantry (plus at this point, you’ve done the fridge and freezer too, right??). You did it! Hopefully once you’re all done, you’ll be enjoying a nice spritzer on the patio and dreaming of all the wonderful things you’re going to cook 🙂
What other pantry hacks do you use for storage and organization? I’d love to hear!