Organize your pantry with zones.

Janet and I help clients relocate to the NWArkansas area. We always help them unpack the kitchen because this room takes the most time. Somehow, between Janet and I, I usually end up in the pantry. I like to organize the pantry by zones. A recent article in Better Homes & Gardens (April 2008) shows you how to do that. They have divided the zones in these categories:
Impromptu Entertaining, Baking Supplies, Easy Weeknight Meals, General Food Storage, Lunch on the run, Quick Breakfasts, Tools and Appliances.

In my experience I find most of the zone needs in the pantry are: Baking Supplies, Beverage mixes (including tea), Grains, Canned goods, Breakfast, Oils and Vinegars, and Snacks.

When organizing your own pantry you need to identify food and cooking categories that suit your lifestyle. Then designate an area for each. It's a good idea to label the zones so that everyone who uses the pantry can't say they didn't put it away because they didn't know where it goes!

When organizing baking supplies in your pantry I find it best to keep all of your typical baking ingredients (flour, sugar, baking soda, etc) in a manageable sized clear tub. I have been surprised how many people keep their flour and sugars in their original containers. Grouping these messy packages in a clear tub makes it so simple to contain the mess and have everything you need on the counter in one trip. I have all of my baking supplies in individual air-tight containers which are labeled and stacked neatly in my pantry. This works for me. If your pantry happens to be filled with wire shelving, you can not go wrong using clear plastic bins.

Bags of rice and dried beans as well as bags of pasta can be a disorganized mess but would be greatly helped with the use of clear tubs or baskets. The same goes for snacks. If your family eats a lot of dried fruit, use a clear tub to contain all the fruit within the snack zone. The same goes for breakfast bars that could easily get lost in Breakfast zone.

If you can purchase stair step shelves or something similar for your pantry, this is a great way to organize your canned goods. So many pantries have very deep shelves. Sure, you can store a lot in there but it's just so easy to become a huge mess and so easy to buy duplicates because you can not easily see what you have.

If you have extra space, the pantry is also a good place to store specialty appliances.

In the magazine article I referenced they created an "Easy Weeknight Meals" zone. They suggest putting a week's worth of dinner fixings front and center in sturdy bins. If you're planning to make Spaghetti one day this week, you can fill the bin up with the ingredients and the recipe. You can then clip a note on the front of the bin with "Spaghetti" written on it. Even though the article shows how to do this for a week (making it easy to have a menu but it's flexible on which night you'll eat each meal), you could do this for one night. At the end of the day you could easily fill up what we'll call "Tomorrow night's supper" bin. You'll then be sure to have all the ingredients you need for dinner tomorrow night (don't forget to check the fridge for perishables listed in the ingredients & take out the meat from the freezer) . One of the best advantages of this idea is, if you're running late you can easily ask someone else in the family to get dinner started!

Organize your kitchen pantry today! And if you find you have unopened duplicates or just too much stuff, donate it to a local food pantry. They are really struggling to keep up with the demand right now.

Happy Organizing!

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