Kitchens are tricky places to organize, aren’t they?
Sometimes it feels like kitchens are the hardest room in the house to get under control and organized where you can actually use them.
And yet, once your kitchen is organized in a way that makes sense and allows you to be most efficient as you are preparing food…well, there’s nothing quite like that feeling now is there?
But how do you get there? How do you get from having things all over wherever they fit to neatly organized and efficient? With a little planning, some rearranging, some strategic thinking (don’t worry, we’ll do this together!), and a good cup of coffee!
If you missed my recent post 10 Simple Tips to Organize Your Kitchen with Ease, you won’t want to skip over that one! In it, we talked about how you can organize your dishes, pots, pans, and everything non-food to make your kitchen a streamlines, efficient space.
Now today, let’s tackle the food aspect of this. Because what is a kitchen without food? Not much…
Tip #1 :: Be Choosy About Your Countertop Space
While the majority of your food items are most likely going to find their home in your pantry, there are a few things that are very beneficial to keep on the counter. Some of these things can include:
- A fruit basket
- A bread basket
- Spice rack (possibly)
Keep in mind that your countertop space is ‘prime real estate’ in your kitchen. You want to make sure that the things that stay on the counter have a reason to be there and are consistently used. And don’t forget about the appliances that might need to live there, too. I don’t know about you, but my coffeepot has earned a permanent place on my counter! (Check out the 10 Simple Tips to Organize Your Kitchen with Ease Post to figure out what appliances are right to live on your countertops.)
Tip #2 :: Put Your Spices Close to Where You Cook
This concept may seem super simple, but have you stopped and thought through where you place your spices in your kitchen? Not just the spices like salt, pepper, garlic powder, chili powder, cumin, and more but also your baking powder, baking soda and smaller baking ingredients.
Here are some questions to ask yourself to see if your spices are in the best possible spot:
- Is there a countertop or space on my countertop where I typically stand to bake?
- Is there a space of my countertop or even the stove where I typically stand to cook?
- Are my spices and small baking supplies easy to reach from this spot (or spots)? Or am I making countless trips across the kitchen to get what I need?
- Given where I typically stand to use my spices and baking supplies, is there a spot (cupboard, wall space for a spice rack, inside of a cupboard door, place on the counter) that I could create a spice/baking supplies control center?
Do you have that spot in mind? Good! Now let’s figure out what that looks like…
Tip #3 :: Utilize a Spice Rack
Let’s face it, when you enjoy cooking or baking, you end up with a lot of spices! But at the same time, these spices do not all come in the same size container! So what do you do with all of them? How do you store all of these small jars or containers so that you can see what you need without having to empty your spice cupboard every time you need something?
This one is a tough one because every kitchen is different. The space that you have for your spices is different than the space that I have for my spices which may be different yet than someone else’s! However, here are some suggestions of different ways that you can store your spices. Make sure that you are choosing the one that will work for you and fit into your kitchen space the best, not just the one that you like the most!
- Spinning Spice Rack :: These spice racks typically come with a specific type of spice jar that fits into them. Some of these racks will come with the spices included, while others will come with the empty jars so that you can put your favorite spices in them. These spice racks can work well on the countertop or in a cupboard.
- Behind the Door Spice Rack :: These are spice racks that will hang or attach onto the inside of your cupboard door, allowing you to spread out your spices for easy access, but still being able to utilize the main area of your cupboard for something else.
- Pull Out Spice Rack :: This is a good option for deep cupboards. These spice racks are deep and skinny and allow you to slide out a sort of drawer that holds all your spices. This allows you to access the spices in the very back of the cupboard with ease.
- Lazy Susan or Spinning Circle :: This is a simple, circular tray that sits inside your cupboard. The base is stationary and sits on the floor of the cupboard while the top circle spins. This is great for those corner cupboards, allowing you to access everything without moving everything.
- Stadium Seating :: There are racks you can find that look like a set of stairs. Typically, these are placed at the back of a cupboard and are used to raise up the spices in the back so that you can see and access the spice that you need.
- Pull-Out Trays :: This concept is ideal for short cupboard shelves. The concept is to get solid, plastic trays, typically with a 1 to 2 inch side standing around the edge that fit into your cupboard. You then place all your spices on the trays and when you need to reach a spice that is not in the front, simply remove the whole tray from the cupboard for easy access to all your spices.
So which one is right for you? It’s all up to you, my Friend! And this is not a comprehensive list! This is simply some of the most common ways of storing spices! Don’t be afraid to think outside the box a bit as you are finding the right solution for you. Also, make sure as you’re choosing your method that you choose one that will work well within the space that you have.
Tip #4 :: Group the Items in Your Pantry
Let’s dive into the pantry now. I know, I know, the pantry can be one of the wonderful parts of the kitchen, but it can also be a very tiny room or closet filled with horrors unknown if it gets out of hand, right? Well, let’s tackle this tricky beast together, shall we?
Now, before you pull everything out of your pantry and go to town, let’s pause and come up with a game plan. It doesn’t do much good to pull everything out if you don’t have the slightest clue where it’s going to go when you try to put it all back in, right?
So, here’s the big picture concept: Put like with like.
What does that mean? Well, what do you have in your pantry? Let the items in your pantry tell you the categories that you have to work with. Here are some common categories and a few items that might fit into each category to get you going:
- Baking Supplies :: flour, sugar, cake mixes, brown sugar
- Breakfast Things :: cereal, oatmeal, granola bars
- Snack Food :: crackers, pretzels, popcorn
- Extra “Refill” Items :: extra bottles of juice, spare jar of peanut butter
- Pasta :: Noodles, Macaroni ’n’ Cheese
- Canned Goods :: canned veggies, canned beans, canned pasta sauce
- Sweet Treats :: cookies, candy, marshmallows
- Soft and/or Crushable Things :: bread, tortillas, chips
- Paper Products :: paper plates, napkins, plastic silverware
Once you start to see a few categories emerging from the items that are already in your pantry, you’re ready for the next step.
Tip #5 :: Be Mindful of where You Place things in Your pantry
Have you ever stopped to think about why you put things in that spot in your pantry? Or did you just put them wherever they seem to fit? Is there a pattern, a method behind where things go? Or does the idea of having a plan for your pantry scare you so much that you want to stop reading and run for the hills right now?
Hang with me, my Friend! This is not as scary or intimidating as it might sound! Remember that strategic thinking part that we said before? This is where it comes into play, but don’t worry! I’m not going to leave you hanging!
Take a good, long look at your pantry. Remember, you haven’t pulled anything out yet! Now, start to think through these questions (I find it helpful to think through these questions while standing in front of my pantry and looking at it. My dog might give me a weird look, but then again, maybe he just wants some food…)
- What are the things that you tend to get most out of your pantry? Is it baking supplies? Canned goods? Pasta? Breakfast food? The things that you tend to pull out most you will want to put on a shelf between your eye level and your hips.
- Do you have children who are capable of getting their own snacks? Do you want them to be able to reach the snacks and breakfast cereal? If so, you will want to put these items on a lower shelf to make it easier for your children to reach them.
- Do you want to keep the sweet treats more restricted? If so, you will want to put those on a high shelf where your children will need to ask for help to get them down.
Is the picture in your mind starting to form? Great! Here are a couple more things to keep in mind:
- Things on the very top shelf can be hard to access. Also, if something is up high, there is a greater chance that it might fall on your head as you’re getting it down. So, put the light things up high! Things like extra napkins and paper plates.
- Things on the very bottom shelf can be difficult to get to as well. Keep the heavy things at the bottom, like the extra juice bottles and that new 5 pound bag of flour. That way, you have a spot for that extra jar of peanut butter, but it doesn’t have to be a super accessible spot. Plus, the heavier items won’t break or bow your shelves if you keep them on the floor.
Tip #6 :: Get Creative with Shelving
No where is it written that you must use your pantry shelving only as they came with the house. No where is it written that you can never adjust your pantry shelving. No where is it written that you can never add to your pantry shelving. And yet, this seems to be an unwritten rule that we believe so often, isn’t it?
Well, my Friend, let me help you: You can adjust your pantry shelving! You can get creative! You can add shelves or trays or baskets to help you organize and utilize all the space that you have available in your pantry!
Looking for some ideas? Here are a few of my favorites. Now, keep in mind that just because something is listed here, it does not mean that it will be the right fit for your pantry! You always need to find what works for you and for your pantry. I have used some of these ideas in every place that I have lived, I have used some of them in one house, but not in another. Again, you have to find what works for you and your pantry and create the space so that you can utilize it the best!
Here we go:
- Subdivide your pantry shelves :: Say what? This is just a fancy way of saying that you can buy shelves that look like miniature tables to place on your pantry shelves and double your shelf space. These work great for canned goods, pasta boxes, and cake mix boxes to name a few.
- Stadium Seating :: Just like with your spices, utilizing stadium seating can be a fantastic way to make sure that you know what canned goods you have in your pantry. This riser looks like a set of stairs that you can set your items on, raising up the items in the back so that you can see what is there.
- Catch-All Trays :: When trying to store bottles and such on wire shelving, try putting them on a tray or in a plastic basket. This keeps them upright and prevents them from falling all the time on the uneven wire surface. This trick is especially helpful for sticky items, or jars that like to leak (oil, honey, syrup). Make sure the tray or basket that you choose has a solid base and sides. This way, there is less chance of the bottle tipping over and if the bottle does leak, you have one tray to clean as opposed to the entire pantry, walls, floor, etc.
- Baskets or Bins :: Don’t forget about the power of baskets, plastic baskets, and bins to hold all of those little things like tea, granola bars, spice packets and more. The bin will keep all those items together, give you easy access to them, and keep them from falling through the wire racks.
- Hanging Baskets :: These handy baskets are typically wider than they are high. They are designed to hook onto a shelf and hang down below that shelf. They are ideal for flatter items like tortillas or paper plates. Just keep in mind that it might be a little more challenging to get to the items directly behind the basket.
- Add or Build a Shelf :: If you or someone you know is handy, you can always add more shelves to your pantry. The wire racks that are found in many pantries today can be found at your local hardware store. If you have a lot of space at the bottom of your pantry, you could build a wooden shelf to sit on the floor. This has the added benefit of being able to hold the weight of all those heavy items with ease.
Tip #7 :: Execute Your Plan
You’re almost there! You’ve taken a good, hard look at what is in your pantry, you’re created categories of food in your mind, and – hopefully – you can start to see an end result in your mind’ eye. Before you begin, here are a couple random things for you to know as you begin this reorganizing process:
Hint #1 :: In order to rearrange your pantry, you are going to need to take out what is there in order to be able to put it back in the way you want it to be. You can do this by emptying out the entire pantry all at once, or you can tackle it on a shelf by shelf basis. Keep in mind that if you empty the entire pantry, it is very easy to get overwhelmed and stop! Choose the method that will not only work best for you, but that you won’t get overwhelmed by!
Hint #2 :: As you unload a shelf in your pantry, take the opportunity to wipe down the shelf! I’m not talking anything crazy, just a dishrag with hot water on it, but you never know what has collected on your pantry shelves…
Hint #3 :: You do not always have to start at the top shelf and work your way down or with the bottom shelf and work your way up. Start with the shelf that makes the most sense to you, then move to the next one and so on.
It’s Your Turn
Alright, my Friend! Now it’s your turn. Are you ready to attack your pantry?
Before I leave you, I want you to remember two very important things:
First, you do not have to do this all in one day! You do not have to do this all in one hour! It may take time to get your pantry looking the way that you want it to. And that’s okay! On the other hand, if you want to attack it and give your pantry a makeover all in one day, that’s fantastic, too! Remember, it’s not about perfection, it’s all about the progress that is to be found in the process.
And secondly, your organizing is unique to you. Your organizational system will not look exactly like anyone else’s – and that, my Friend, is exactly the way it should be!
- 10 Simple Tips to Organize Your Kitchen with Ease
- How to Save Money on Your Grocery Bill
- Quick, Simple Tricks to Stay on Top of Cleaning
- 5 Simple Steps to Take You from Scattered to Organized
Elizabeth Tatham, founder of Inspiration in the Everyday, is a homeschooling momma of 5 who loves helping other homeschooling mommas create a unique homeschooling adventure your kids will love…without the overwhelm! Join in on the journey with 7 simple steps to make your homeschooling day go faster, easier, and with less tears here.