Organized Pantry Reveal

pantry after

Organized Pantry Reveal

I had the privilege of working with wonderful clients recently with their new build pantry. In California, a spacious walk-in pantry is a rarity! My clients wanted to maximize this new space with a thoughtful plan. I considered what a wonderful opportunity this process would be to share for those interested in over-hauling their pantry.

Organized Pantry=Healthier Eating Opportunities

How motivated are you to cook a healthy meal when the pantry is a “hot mess”? Are you much more likely to eat convenience foods when your kitchen is not set up for cooking? I know that having a mess of expired, unappetizing food stuffed in my own pantry has me thinking about take-out in a New York minute!

In a fascinating book I love entitled Life at Home in The Twenty-First Century, in-depth studies have been conducted by ethnoarchaeologists. Traditional archeologists excavate houses and cities of ancient civilizations. In this book, archaeologists use these same methods to record and analyze modern domestic households.

In this interesting study and book, only about 1/4 of the studies’ families cook a weeknight dinner from scratch. However, studies conducted by the Center on Everyday Lives of Families at UCLA, point to the startling statistic that, on average, it takes just 12 minutes longer to cook from scratch each night.

Cooking from scratch time for dinner: average of 38 minutes

Cooking from pre-packaged/convenience foods: average of 26 minutes

A well-stocked, healthy pantry makes cooking from scratch a possibility for families. Having food organized by categories that make sense for your family and meal preparation encourages cooking. My clients are a terrific example of how having the right ingredients- organized-can lead to a healthier lifestyle.

This is the pantry after just a few items were moved into the space on moving day.pantry before

The clients wanted to take advantage of the opportunity of their recent move to organize and mirror their healthy lifestyle.

Steps for an existing or new pantry organization project:

  1. Empty the contents of the pantry.
  2. Purge any items that are expired or compromised.
  3. Separate food into categories (i.e. pasta, beans, breakfast foods, sweets, baking, snacks, etc.).
  4. Decide on the zones* for the kitchen cupboard area (*more on the kitchen zones in an upcoming post). Relocate these items to the correct “zone”.
  5. Ask yourself a few questions: What is the desired goal for your pantry? Are aesthetics important? Do you have small children to consider when placing items such as glass? Are there those with disabilities that could not reach certain shelves? What are the present trouble spots in your pantry? Actually write these answers down and refer back to them throughout the organizing process.
  6. Use PostIts to begin thinking about food placement. Place the PostIts where the appropriate food will be stored. Move around as necessary.
  7. Inventory the storage pieces you may already own and add to them if necessary.
  8. Place the food, by category and frequency of use, back in the pantry.

Now…wait a few days and try things out.

Inevitably, as a professional organizer, I end up making small adjustments to high-use, important areas such a pantries after the install. The families use the space, go shopping and make important observations post-organization. I then come back in and get feedback from the client. Changes are made to maximize their space.

In this particular pantry, my darling clients wanted an “organically tidy” look (no overt plastic, minimal clutter and no bright colors). We opted for more natural materials. One of my favorite products for a variety of spaces are these glass storage jars from World Market. They have a one gallon capacity are very affordable at $6.99 each. I love their tight-fitting lid, large size, they don not leach scents/colors like plastic and they are dishwasher safe. These jars are a great investment.

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I also adore using canning jars for organization. My favorite size for pantries is the pint and half. We put legumes, dried fruit, nuts, specialty rice and other dry goods in this type of jar. We did our shopping at a local grocery store and were able to get a dozen for less than $12.00. (The online price in the hyper-link is considerably more, so shop smart locally if you use this option.)

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The client and I scoured our local TJ Max stores, Homegoods, World Market, Ross and Marshall stores over the course of a week to gather the baskets required. Baskets are useful not only for aesthetics, but they also set limits on each category. You know instantly that if “pasta” is full, that you need to use what you have before purchasing any more. This simple idea is really helpful for pantry maintenance. The baskets don’t have to match exactly, but having similar hues/styles is helpful.

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Now, comes the labeling. We labeled the top of each glass jar’s lid, just in case the client decided to change the contents. In addition, labeling only the lid kept the integrity of the glass. The textures and colors of dried fruit, pasta, nuts and legumes is art in itself and we didn’t want a label obscuring the beauty of the food.

Organized Staples

Chalkboard tags with a sturdy grommet were added to each basket to indicate its contents. These tags can easily be changed out if the client’s needs and food categories change as well.


What a difference an organized pantry can make!

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Happy Organizing-Lorinda with Vacaville Organizer


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