How to Achieve an Organized and Efficient Pantry

A disorganized pantry has many downsides, from being visually stressful to slowing down meal prep to leading to food expiring because it’s lost in a black hole. To help increase pantry efficiency and provide a sense of order, we asked Amy Bloomer, owner of Let Your Space Bloom in Baltimore, Maryland, and Anna Stehrenberger, owner of Home Aligned in Boise, Idaho, for advice. From buying tips to organization advice, here are their recommendations.

Know that if you get it right the first time, you’ll only have to do it once. When you find yourself re-organizing your pantry on a regular basis, you aren’t actually organizing, Stehrenberger shares. “Organization, unlike cleaning, isn’t a daily, weekly, or even monthly routine, it is an occasional event,” she explains. “To get properly organized you’ll need to invest a couple of hours to achieve real and lasting results.” Stehrenberger achieves this with her clients by removing everything from the space and then creating a purposeful design with their existing products. She further explains that once you are officially organized you only need to “tidy up” your space by replenishing provisions, decanting, and removing excess packaging.

Establish a look. Gone are the days of pantries as haphazard concoctions of canned goods, packaged pasta, and bags of chips—these spaces have now become highly sophisticated operations. The first step to achieving a properly organized pantry, Stehrenberger explains, is to establish a look. This is achieved by picking a color scheme, implementing a label system, defining zones, and categorizing inventory. A well-executed pantry will not only function efficiently, it will also generate highly positive emotional responses, or what she refers to as organizational joy. “A space that looks good, feels good, and that is a pantry worth eating from,” she says.

Maintain an organizational structure with multiples. Six is the new three when it comes to pantry organization. Having just a few of the same organizational products (i.e. baskets, bins, or containers) just won’t cut it when trying to support an organized system. “If you want to stay organized, you need structure, and that means multiples,” Stehrenberger explains. Whether you choose dark wicker baskets or clear containers, filling a pantry requires complementary products—and lots of them. She recommends buying organizational products in batches of fours or sixes to maintain structure in the area.

Contain it. One of the best ways to create order and a cohesive look in your pantry is to decant almost everything. For example, Bloomer uses either airtight plastic containers or glass jars to store flours, pasta, sugars, seeds, and cereals. This storage strategy creates uniformity, helps to prevent spoilage, and allows you to keep tabs on items that are running low.

Embrace groupings. No matter the size or depth of your pantry, it can benefit from categories of food being grouped together for easy access, Bloomer explains (think snacks, baking supplies, oils, etc.). Categories that are most frequently used and accessed should be stored in opaque containers, especially if they are individually wrapped, she adds, so one can “throw and go,” reducing the time it takes to put away groceries.

Label everything. Once you have everything contained and grouped, Bloomer advises that you go ahead and label it—even if your container is opaque. Labels ensure that everyone in your household can maintain the system you’ve put in place, and removes all confusion.

Create order with your spices. One of the most heavily used items in your pantry, spices can quickly become disorganized (and seem to disappear). When storing these ingredients, Bloomer prefers to use either a riser or a turntable to ensure you can easily see what you have. If you have the space, consider creating a spice drawer near your stove, which is an excellent way to keep spices cataloged and conveniently located so they can be used and enjoyed before they expire.

Photograph courtesy of iStock. TSG Tip 382 from Amy Bloomer, owner of Let Your Space Bloom in Baltimore, Maryland, and Anna Stehrenberger, owner of Home Aligned in Boise, Idaho. Let Your Space Bloom is featured in The Scout Guide Baltimore & Annapolis. Home Aligned is featured in The Scout Guide Boise.