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ORGANIZED: The Kitchen Pantry

High Straightenence by Tracy Benjamin

A weekly column celebrating the neat freak in all of us.

On this week’s episode of Food Hoarders, Tracy tackles her kitchen pantry. What better way to spend a Saturday night than cleaning out a kitchen pantry for 4 hours?

I shouldn’t kid, hoarding is a big problem. I’m not necessarily a hoarder; I just buy food because I think I need it. Turns out I already have those items but I can’t see them because my pantry is so disorganized. Wait? Is this a hoarding show or an organizing show? I’m confused.

The last time I cleaned out my pantry was probably 6 months ago when I had a serious moth infestation from buying bulk food items. As some semblance of a resolution for 2012, I’m trying to get my head in the zone and keep things in my kitchen organized. The first step starts with my kitchen pantry. Besides the fridge, it’s one of the main hubs in my kitchen. My kitchen pantry easily falls into a disorganized state because I’m rushing around doing things and not devoting time once a week to tidy things up a bit. After grocery shopping with a 3 year old and emptying the items that need to be refrigerated from the grocery store, I always get a bit lazy/overwhelmed with putting things away in the pantry.  In 2012, I’m hoping to be a little more thoughtful with how I organize/take care of my pantry so I can avoid things like:

  • buying items I already have
  • wasting precious space with expired items
  • multiple items opened at the same time
  • not knowing what my options are food wise because I can’t see them

 

Today I show the world (deep breath!) just how disorganized I’ve been.  Don’t worry there’s a SUCCESS story at the end and I’m pretty darn proud of it.

And so it begins…

Let’s do a little inspection…We begin with the top shelf of chaos. The baking section. I see 8 things that don’t belong.

This is the middle. This is what I see at eye level and it stresses me out. All the items in front are covering up the items in back.

You can also see how well I stack items on top of other items. Whoa.

This kind of stresses me out.

The last shelf…can you believe there are sweet potatoes somewhere in there? The cereals are blocking them.

 

And here’s the floor…if you can even see it. Also my spice rack is in a crazy state! Cinnamon spilled on the bottom rack and I need to clean it up!

First step. SORT. I worked from the top down and used my kitchen table as my sorting station.

Since I started with the top section (the BAKING section) I weeded out all of the items that didn’t belong there.

You can imagine how excited Cooper was to see a bunch of sugar, chocolate & marshmallows on our kitchen table. Keeping him from getting into my stuff was probably the most difficult challenge of this project! I took a break and continued after he went to bed.

Because all of the chocolate for baking was shaped differently, I organized them in a tupperware for safe keeping.

During this process, I had a few bags designated for recycling, one for garbage and one for composting.

I kept reminding myself that I’d eventually get through! I kept at it.

This metal bin here was something I designated a long time ago as my nut/dried fruit bin. Obviously it’s been heavily neglected.

In the process I found TWO packages of almonds & dried white peaches that were already opened. UGH.

I solved the problem by taking one of these plastic caddies I bought a few months ago at IKEA and re- purposed it for nuts & dried fruits.

Now I can pull out the caddy & carry it to my kitchen counter when I’m making something in the kitchen and I can easily see what’s in it.

When I finally finished sorting & putting everything back, I put all of the items that didn’t belong in the pantry on my kitchen table for sorting. All this stuff was wasting precious space in my pantry. No wonder I couldn’t see anything.

After 4+ hours of work, we have the AFTER!! I stood at the pantry the next morning just staring.

I’m THRILLED with the results.

Here’s the top shelf. The BAKING SHELF. There were items stored IN my kitchen mixer bowl. Shameful!

I know that Frank’s Red Hot sauce doesn’t belong, but it fit on the shelf so nicely!

And we look at the second shelf down. The MIDDLE!

You can see I found THREE bottles of apple cider vinegar in the process!

I love seeing all my soups & stocks lined up. It’s easy to grab one now.

To the left there’s more organization. Different sections for different needs.

And we work our way down to the bottom shelf. What a breath of fresh air!

You can see my nuts/dried fruits section now. Two caddies in action!

And here’s the FLOOR! You can see it! I have designated bins. I’m glad I know what I have now.

While I was at it, I organized the spice shelves.

I threw out old spices & condensed a few.

And here’s shelf dedicated to vinegars & oils.

The best part? I can see it ALL!

Now the next step? Putting a LOCK on my pantry door because someone gets into it CONSTANTLY.

Hope this helps inspire you to tackle your own kitchen pantry organizing project!

REMEMBER: How can you go grocery shopping if you can’t see what you have?!

 

 


Tracy Benjamin

Tracy Benjamin is obsessed with good food, great photography, and pretty things.


51 Comments

  • Megan January 18, 2012 at 9:31 am

    Way to be! It looks awesome. I need to tackle my pantry for realz… I buy bulk spices so I have all these sandwich bags full of spices. It looks cray-zay. Thanks for the inspiration to get things done!


  • melanie January 18, 2012 at 9:43 am

    Terrific organization! Love your wallpaper!


  • Raheel January 18, 2012 at 9:43 am

    That looks awesome! I store nuts in my freezer. It keeps them from getting rancid too quickly and saves space in my pantry! :)


  • Nathan Hazard January 18, 2012 at 10:17 am

    Ha! I just reorganized my spices last night! And.. re-stacked.. all my canned preserves (what am I going to do with all of those? I don’t even eat toast!) Still, sooo gratifying…


  • Sara January 18, 2012 at 10:23 am

    I am inspired to organize mine!!


  • Courtney January 18, 2012 at 10:32 am

    I just did the same thing over the weekend! And I set a goal of eating my way through my pantry/freezer/condiments this year. I made a list of what I found, and I’ll re-stock when I need to. It’ll be nice to know that I’m not hoarding cans of black beans (2) or pumpkin (3). For one person, that’s a lot!


  • Jessica @ The Desert Abode January 18, 2012 at 11:00 am

    Thanks for the inspiration, Tracy!

    Organizing the pantry has been on my to-do list and it’s time to make it happen! I like the plastic caddies and also your potatoes/onions/garlic storage.


  • Allie January 18, 2012 at 11:19 am

    I just organized mine last weekend! I went to Ace Hardware, bought a bunch of air-tight containers and jars, and painted the lids/containers with chalkboard paint. Now everything’s labeled, and there’s no open bags of ingredients floating around! (And I can clearly see when I need to buy more quinoa/less chocolate!)


  • heather January 18, 2012 at 11:29 am

    i’m inspired….also loved peaking at what you keep in your pantry….it looks a lot like mine


  • Jennifer January 18, 2012 at 11:31 am

    This is amazing! I definitely need to get to work on my pantry, as well. And I love the look on your son’s face in the last photo. I recognize that look, as my 2 yr old daughter has decided that the pantry is her new fave play area. Love the blog.


  • Katya January 18, 2012 at 11:54 am

    That is so impressive! Congrats on getting it organized! I love the space now!


  • kmarie January 18, 2012 at 12:15 pm

    I’m inspired!


  • Kim January 18, 2012 at 12:16 pm

    Thank you SO MUCH for this. The pantry is my own personal hell and i’ve had “Organize pantry” on my to do list for months, but haven’t known where to start. I will be implementing some of your solutions now.


  • Jen of My Tiny Oven January 18, 2012 at 12:29 pm

    WOW! Your pantry looks awesome! I have the same issue you do of buying stuff I already have because I can’t see it in the mess! I don’t have a large pantry, just cupboards but I think I can use your idea of the specific bins for certain foods to help my situation! So Thank you! You Rock!


  • lauren January 18, 2012 at 1:08 pm

    Your fantastic organizing skills aside… I love your wallpaper!! Where is it from?


  • Hilary January 18, 2012 at 1:28 pm

    Those before pics look like my pantry…I love that you are brave enough to share that! Thanks for the inspiration to make my pantry look more like your “after”.


  • katie January 18, 2012 at 1:53 pm

    Looks great! I love your idea of putting bagged items in a plastic container. This would save so much space in my pantry and would keep all the various bags from getting lost in space. Thanks!


  • Amanda Barkey January 18, 2012 at 2:12 pm

    love this!


  • Julie @BananasForBourbon January 18, 2012 at 2:31 pm

    Oh Tracy, you equal parts inspire me and stress me out. Of course, that’s only because I am totally agitated today and my pantry is a constant source of stress! I have pull-out shelves, which is both convenient (can access all parts of the shelf by pulling it out) and difficult to organize (the top shelves I can get to, but can see into). I like your use of bins, but already have a similar level of containment. I’ve resorted to spilling out into an independent wicker basket shelf from Pier 1 for some things. Help! Any ideas?


  • Brandi H January 18, 2012 at 2:52 pm

    I am inspired!! I would suggest that you keep nuts in the refrigerator or freezer, though. The oils that are naturally present in nuts tend to go rancid rather quickly.


  • Laura January 18, 2012 at 3:09 pm

    Wonderful job Tracy! I’m so proud of you, and I’m inspired to organize my own pantry! Mine is so deep into the wall that I don’t even use the full things. I’m smallish, and reaching back there is hard! I definitely need some organization.


  • Vanessa January 18, 2012 at 3:30 pm

    I love me an organized pantry. Yours looks amazing. Thanks for reminding me that I need to weed through mine. :-)


  • Alli January 18, 2012 at 6:22 pm

    Yr my dream girl! I recognize that base … totes have the same juicer :)


  • Lori January 19, 2012 at 5:03 am

    Great job Tracy! It looks beautiful!


  • Carissa January 19, 2012 at 6:56 am

    That’s amazing! I’m super nosy & love sneaking peeks into what foods other people have in their pantry. Your organization system rocks! I’m working on my freezer right now…it’s all good to eat, just a jumble & way too full to easily access anything. Once we eat more stuff I’m going to do what you did with your pantry.


  • dana828 January 19, 2012 at 8:12 am

    Go you! I did this same thing about 2 weeks ago. My pantry is a tall cupboard with DEEP shelves, and things always get shoved to the back, never to be seen again! The worst part is that to see what’s in the back on the lower 3 shelves, I have to either sit or lay on the floor (eeeww!). I’m trying to talk the husband into building me some pull-out shelves in there. But anyhoo, after throwing out a crap-ton of expired stuff, I am challenging myself to buy nothing but fresh fruit/veggies/dairy until I use up most of what’s lingering in the pantry.
    Next up: the freezer!


  • Helen January 19, 2012 at 9:17 am

    This has come just in time! I’ve just moved into a house with a TINY kitchen! now I’m trying to figure out just how I’m going to store the masses of canned & dried foods I have hoarded.
    I love the way you’ve repurposed containers too. Thank you for this inspirational post :)


  • Leah January 19, 2012 at 10:35 am

    Ohhh I wish I had a pantry!!! Great job!! You make me want to go home and CLEAN!!! :)


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  • Kate January 20, 2012 at 2:59 am

    I love the removable containers for nuts and dried fruits. Normally I’m shuffling through and when I move things about I make it even more unorganized. Any suggestions for many different types of flour? I have containers labeled and in rows, but I can’t see what is behind or 4 jars deep.


  • Jessica Ann (@peonyfish) January 20, 2012 at 4:09 am

    This is my favourite High Straightenence post yet!


  • cindy January 20, 2012 at 5:37 am

    well done! I need to do this same thing….pantries can become such a train wreck!


  • amy January 20, 2012 at 5:51 am

    i’m totally inspired now! i feel like the chocolate bars in a tupperware container kind of changed my life. (why can’t i ever think of these things?!)


  • Kara January 20, 2012 at 6:18 am

    Just over New Years (literally New Years Eve day/New Years day) I bought a ton of beautiful containers and organized all of my baking stuff. A week after that I organized all of my knives and prep bowls. The next step is the spice cabinet…. this shall be interesting! Thanks for the inspiration!


  • Claire Jain January 20, 2012 at 8:57 am

    Well done! My pantry’s a little smaller than that, alas. But I think it forces me to keep it tidy, because once things go crazy, it’s realllllly out of hand.


  • Kristen January 20, 2012 at 11:37 am

    Absolutely LOVE! I am moving back to the U.S. in the coming weeks and have big dreams for my full size American kitchen. (Anything is bigger than what I am working with in Spain.) Rock on with your ACV!


  • jen January 20, 2012 at 11:49 am

    Great job Tracy! I cleaned out my pantry a month ago and it has made cooking in my kitchen so much more steamlined and less stressful when you know (and can see) where everything is.


  • jenna January 22, 2012 at 7:10 am

    hi tracy! I love following you and all your adventures in mom-land. I just wanted to say that you’re pantry looks uber good now! great job! (i use lazy susans in my pantry. it really helps have a 360 shelf. hope is helps :) )



  • Dana February 5, 2012 at 3:40 pm

    I’m inspired. My pantry is a disaster area and I’ve been saying for months that I am going to organize it and blog about it – to keep me on task. I wish you could come help me as you seem to have amazing ideas for making the most of your space. Road trip? :)


  • Tanya February 10, 2012 at 9:29 pm

    looks great, but a suggestion… move the stand mixer to the floor – got to be easier to get out if you’re not lifting it above your head? :)


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  • Aimee February 21, 2012 at 1:07 pm

    I am absolutely swooning over the “AFTER” photos!!!!! Incredible. Bravo for tackling this. I’ve been there myself and it feels SO good when things look neat and in order, and most importantly you can see what’s there AND access it.

    Thanks for the inspiration!



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  • sweetphilosopher April 24, 2012 at 7:29 am

    I am so jealous! i want your pantry (i live in a tiny rented one bed flat with no real kitchen!) I have to say my top tip for organizing and food shopping is keeping a list of everything you have already, a list of everything you always need and then you can see what you need to get when you food shop! and i know we all love a good list! x


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  • zidan524 January 16, 2013 at 8:18 am

    This is really awesome. i need to re-organize my pantry as well. Its been just four weeks and its so messed up. This is inspiring.


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