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The Pantry Clutter Monster!

Whether you have a small kitchen (like mine) or a sprawling open concept with dedicated food storage space, it’s very easy for things to get out of hand in a pantry!

Have you ever reached in to your pantry to pull something out only to trigger an avalanche of boxes, cans, and snack packets on your head? Scary, isn’t it…

Pantries qualify as an “essential function” as far as I’m concerned because you use them everyday, multiple times per day. They can be a constant source of frustration, and guilt-generators (why can’t people put things back where they’re supposed to be?). Or a stress-free, easy way to plan and assemble food items needed to make a meal.

Despite years of reluctance, I have recently converted to a container pantry. In essence, that means you have various sized, identical containers that you use to hold everything in your pantry. I never wanted to deal with decanting pasta, snacks and cereals into containers – it just seemed like too much work.

But after watching my cereal box fall down in the space next to the refrigerator and spill out the contents all over that teeny tiny space which is impossible to clean, I figured there has to be a better way! Here’s how –

Look at your stuff. Get rid of anything that’s expired, has been opened for a long time (longer than a month, my friends!) or looks otherwise unappetizing. And that pie filling or anchovy tin that has been staring you in the face that you bought in a fit of cooking frenzy and never used? Donate it to your local food pantry.

Decide on your containers. I love The Container Store as they have every variation you can ever imagine! But you can also find great storage on Amazon, at Walmart, Target, and even at the Dollar Store.

Your goal is to get identical containers in different sizes, for a visually pleasing aesthetic.

First determine what your budget is – I spent about $200 for a cabinet with three shelves (there was a sale at Container Store…), but your cost depends on what you choose. Keep in mind that this is a one-time expense/investment in your kitchen! Cry once….

Warning – you may have to estimate how many of each size to get – err on the side of too many, you can always return what you don’t need.

Take everything out of your space. Yes, you will be creating a big mess on your counters

and floors. But it will be worth it, I promise!

Group like with like. All the baking things together, the soups, snacks, condiments, cereals, spices, etc. Think about how you find grocery items in the store aisles. Now you can see how much you have of any particular category.

Evaluate how you use your space. What is used daily? What do you need only for holidays, or entertaining? Plan on the most used items to be the most easily accessible.

Measure your space. Figure out how much room you actually have, in order to decide what will fit in where. Do a trial run with your containers to see how and where they fit the best.

Wipe it down. Take a damp cloth and just wipe down the surface, so you are starting with a nice clean slate.

Designate a space for “back stock.” Try and get away from the idea that you have to have everything in a particular category on hand at all times. Think about what you will use within, say 3-4 weeks, and put the remaining things onto the back stock shelf. This gives you a pantry that doesn’t overwhelm you every time you open it.

Start decanting. This is actually very fun and rewarding, believe it or not! Remember, once your container is filled, the rest is tightly closed and placed on the back stock shelf.

Label everything! Get a Dymo labeler or one by Brother (or you can go low-tech with a piece of tape and a Sharpie) and label everything clearly. If you want to hold onto preparation instructions, just cut them out of the bag or box and tape to the back of the container.

Put things away, keeping categories in their places. Remember, most used things are in the most accessible spots. If you have room and can set up stations, that’s even better. You might even want to have a snack shelf with healthy, easy-to-reach snacks up front (and the yummy, deadly chocolate ones tucked in the back); or a coffee/tea area with your coffee beans, grinder, k-pods, tea bags and honey.

Battle the Pantry Clutter Monster and you’ll gain –

Time. It’s now easy to find everything you need quickly.

Money. By not buying duplicates of things you already have enough of.

Menu ideas. Looking at what you have will inspire you to cook with what’s there!

Stress reducer. So easy to pull out what you need, and so easy to put it back. Every time you look in your new organized pantry you’ll just have to smile!


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