How to CookTips & Techniques

Pantry Organization

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Inspired by conversations on the FOOD52 Hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun. Today, we're sharing our tips for keeping an organized pantry.


Amanda's pantry didn't always look like this. After years of recipe testing, ingredients piled up. Every time we removed an item, someone had to play a real-life game of Tetris to put it back so the cabinets would close properly. Obviously, this wasn't the most efficient way to keep a test kitchen pantry. At some point Amanda asked if anyone could organize our chaos and create a system for maintaining it. I volunteered, which was surprising to no one, because I love organizing and putting things in places. After a messy day, and many heavy trash bags full of things past their prime, FOOD52 achieved pantry zen. 

Want your kitchen to resemble ours? It's easier than you think. I know we don't all have spaces like this (my own kitchen is severely lacking in cabinet and drawer space), but there are basic tips that apply to all kitchens, and that's what I'm sharing here. 

Pantry - Neat

Keep like with like.

Before the big cleanup, sugars, salts, flours and other sweeteners were all mixed up. (The horror!) I dedicated one shelf to flours, one to sugars and chocolates, and the other to salts and sweeteners. Now everyone knows exactly where to look for the chickpea flour, maple sugar or agave nectar.  

Consider  what you use, and how often you use it.

The items on the eye-level shelves are things we use most frequently. This makes gathering ingredients convenient, so think about what you use and place it accordingly. I have a space up at the top for refills (like the extra boxes of brown sugar) and things we just don't use very often (like applewood chips).  

Pantry - Grains and Beans
Pasta, grains, and legumes organized neatly.

Use food-grade airtight containers.

Airtight containers are best for storing dry ingredients. Since nothing can spill out from them, they keep your shelves free of stray grains or dustings of flour. The added bonus is that you can choose different sizes for different ingredients. And doesn't a pantry full of uniform containers look better than one with half-empy bags and boxes? 

Label (and date) things.

We can't tell the difference between AP flour and pastry flour without a label. And I certainly couldn't identify every type of rice we have. Amanda keeps a wet-erase marker on hand for easy labelmaking -- when the black barley is gone, the name on the container will just wash away. You don't have to label every single ingredient in your pantry if you don't want to. I am encouraging you to date things, though. Knowing how fresh your pantry items are is always a good thing. 

Pantry - Oils and Vinegars
Oils and vinegars stay on their sides of the shelf. 

Keep track. 

This one's easy: stay familiar with what you have on your shelves to avoid bringing home any duplicates. When you run out of an essential, add it to your weekly grocery list.

What are your pantry organization tips?

Fridge Before Fridge After
This is the only before and after shot I have -- look at how far we've come! 

Photos by James Ransom

Tags: DIY Food, How-To & Diy, Kitchen Confidence