Systems

How To Have A Beautiful Pantry From Top To Bottom

11/05/2018

Moving is no small undertaking. Quite frankly is exhausting and hard. We took on the task of moving cross country from California to North Carolina ourselves. We loved California but it was time for us to move on. The Carolinas has always been very near and dear to us because it’s where we first met. […]

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Moving is no small undertaking. Quite frankly is exhausting and hard.

We took on the task of moving cross country from California to North Carolina ourselves. We loved California but it was time for us to move on. The Carolinas has always been very near and dear to us because it’s where we first met. We had always talked about how we’d love to raise our family there. The timing of it was right and we decided to go for it.

Thankfully our house sold very quickly otherwise this would’ve been much more stressful. Once our house sold, we started the process of purging and packing.

We’ve actually moved quite a bit in our lives. Both individually and as a married couple. Most places we lived wasn’t more than a few years. Well, we had been in our house for five years. You never realize how much STUFF you really have. I thought we had done a pretty good job of keeping things to the minimum but I was embarrassed.

I ended up having THREE garage sales, yes three to try to get rid of our stuff. We are not minimalist people but after packing and purging it put things into perspective quickly that I don’t ever want to get to this point again.

We haven’t become full-blown minimalist people, we are just being more purposeful with what we buy and what we don’t use anymore.

Like I said before moving is hard. With that being said, there is an upside to all of it: Organizing new spaces.

When we got moved into our new place, one of the first things I wanted to get organized immediately was the kitchen. It’s the place that gets used the most and I wanted us to start feeling settled.

We had been eating out quite a bit and if you’ve ever done that for a while, you get this unhealthy feeling.  You do your best to pick healthy food items but it’s hard.  It can be really hard to break the cycle.  Plus getting takeout is easier, you don’t have to cook or clean up.

However, if you keep going down that path, you’ll be spending more money and soon enough gaining weight.

Everyone has some type of relationship with food.  Growing up, our household didn’t have soda and if we did, it was usually Diet Coke or Root Bear because we would have Root Beer Floats.  Going to our grandparents’ house was great because they had Sprite, they also had Coca-Cola but I never came to like it.

Our house always had wheat bread, rarely white.  We would beg our parents to get white bread and would also tell them we didn’t have any good food in the house and that our neighbors across the street always had good food.

I’m so glad our parents didn’t listen to us!  While I know I didn’t enjoy it then, having healthy food in the house really was a good thing because that’s where our healthy food habits started.  Now that we have kids of our own, we are doing the same thing.  I don’t think I’ve ever bought white bread for them, they really don’t know the difference, least for right now 😉

It’s funny how we think we won’t ever be like our parents and slowly become them.

I remember exactly where our pantry was in the house we grew up in and I remember the layout of it.  There isn’t an image of any food or brand that comes to mind when I think back on that pantry.  My mom’s an organized person too (wonder where I got it from?!) but there wasn’t the pantry organization set-up that you see nowadays.

Did your parents hide food from you?  Ours did and we always found it 🙂  Elmer Fudge Cookies and Twizzlers were the most frequently hid foods in our house.  We sometimes kept the Elmer Fudge Cookies in the freezer, they taste so much better frozen!  Try it, you’ll thank me later 🙂

You could probably tell me stories about your childhood and the role food played in it.  You may or may not have had a good experience with food.  Regardless of your situation, you can always change it.  If you have a good relationship with food, you can keep improving it by eating healthier and trying new foods.  If you don’t have a good relationship with food, you can change that right now at this moment and you can start with your pantry.

You’ve probably organized your pantry more than once.  It came to a point where you couldn’t take it anymore or you’ve come to believe that you won’t ever have an organized pantry because you’ve failed at it before.  That limiting belief ends now.

You might not even want to organize your pantry because you don’t have a desire to do it, getting motivated to do something is hard.

Some days I have zero desire to go to the gym and I’m a person that loves to work out.  Every time I’ve gone when I haven’t wanted to, I’ve felt so much better.

One of my favorite quotes comes from Zig Ziglar:

“People often say that motivation doesn’t last.  Well, neither does bathing- that’s why we recommend it daily.”

I mean, it doesn’t get any truer than that.

Keeping the end result in mind will help you get there.  Imagine opening up your pantry and being able to find what you need immediately.  Image opening up your pantry just to look at it because it’s so beautifully organized.  Imagine feeling happier and healthier.  All of these images are possible with an organized pantry.

Setting up your pantry to a system you love looking with healthy food is a win-win all the way around.  Using the system will be your guide to keeping your food organized.  It will be your job to make sure it’s healthy food.

Have a friend or family member help you if you need it.

Our new pantry was similar to our old pantry where it’s just a door with wire shelves (there’s no walk-in component).

This new pantry’s shelves were a bit narrower and not as wide. I didn’t want to go crazy buying new bins because we are renting and I know we’ll be moving in the next year so I wanted to use what we had.

Here’s how I organized our new pantry:

Step 1

First, I started with the middle shelves. These are the eye level shelves that are easy to reach and also out of the way for the kids. This is where all the snacks were going to be. I changed it up with bins that we previously used for snacks so we could see them better.  We used wicker bins previously and I changed them to the clear square bins that were in the refrigerator.

Clear bins give you the ability to see everything that’s in there.   They are also very ergonomic.  It’s been much easier to see how many of a certain snack is left vs putting your hand into a wicker bin and it’s empty.

We have four clear bins on this shelf.  They are centered on the shelf with a little bit of space between each one.

Three out of the four bins are dedicated to snacks for the kids.  The last bin is a mix of packaged rice, beans, and tuna.  The items for the fourth bin are not uniform but are here so we can see them.  In my ideal world, I’d like to put these items in a wicker bin and put something there that has multiples of something.

However, I know they will just sit in another basket and not get used.  I know this because we’ve done this before.

While organizing always starts out as a project, it ends up being a practice.  If you’ve ever practiced something, you know you are always working to improve.

We moved the snacks that have the same individually wrapped package to the clear bins (i.e. cereal bars, fruit snacks, miniature muffin packages).  This has given the pantry a more aesthetically appealing look because of the uniformity.

We didn’t label these bins because we can see everything that is in them and they frequently change.  We don’t buy the same snack every week and while we could label the bins “snacks”  I think it would make the pantry look busier.

When you are organizing your pantry, it’s important to use the same type of bin as much as possible.  With our last pantry and this pantry, we used the different bins on each shelf but the same type of bin on each row.  Not all bins will work for all food items, so you will have to mix and match.  The main thing is to keep it consistent in the same row as much as possible.

Step 2

Next was the next middle shelf. This is where our wicker, lined baskets went. The items that were going to be on this shelf were the ones that we used frequently, that were similar in category but didn’t match.

The first basket was for trail mix and nuts.  The second basket is for bread.  The bread is stored vertically because hamburger buns are stored here too.  It’s also easier to see it this way.  Wraps are stored here too.

The third basket is for peanut butter and coffee.  This basket stays pretty consistent and doesn’t change much.

The last basket is for baby food.  This is where we keep formula, cereal, jarred food, and baby crackers.

We have changed around the last two bins because our daughter started solid foods.

Each basket now has a bin clip label on them.  I absolutely love these bin clip labels.  I struggled for years to find something that would work and had many failed attempts at DIY labels.  These clips are the real deal.  They are a variety of ways you can label these clips, I chose using label tape for a few reasons.

The label can be changed.  Our baskets and bins tend to change as the seasons’ change.  Two, more words can fit on a label than my handwriting.

Step 3

The first two shelves were done, it was time to move onto the third shelf. This shelf is kid level so I knew it would have to be something that they wouldn’t always want so this is where the fruit and vegetable bins went ? We got these great stacking bins from Costco a few years ago.

We were only able to fit two of these bins on the shelf because the pantry isn’t wide enough for all of them.  We couldn’t stack them either because of the height between the shelves.

What’s really nice about these bins is they are metal which makes them extremely durable.  They are modern so they give you that modern farmhouse look.  They are ergonomic, it’s easy to add and stack out items from these bins.  You can always see what’s in these bins so you don’t have to worry about something rotting.

I left the chalk labels off these bins because they were getting in the way and kept falling off.  Plus you can easily see what is in them.

Step 4

Lastly, I moved to the very bottom and very top shelves.  These shelves were both a bit tricky because the bottom shelf is very low and the top shelf is pretty high.  They are both not easy to reach.

I didn’t want to waste space here. Plus, I didn’t want to buy new bins because we plan to buy a house next year and have no clue what that pantry will be like.  If we had bought this house, I would’ve bought new bins for both shelves.

We had to make decisions that would make this space kid-friendly. We put individual gold-fish snack bags here because it wouldn’t be too much of a mess.  Wrong, dead wrong.

We had to completely move the snacks to the top shelf.  This shelf consists of the larger snack items, chips, and pretzels from Costco.  I would prefer to keep these snack items in clear organized bins but my husband prefers leaving them in the bag.  It was a compromise I was willing to make since I’m not the only one living in the house 😉

The top shelf consists of breakfast items (oatmeal, syrup, granola) and anything that we have bought in bulk that needs to be stored somewhere (ketchup).

We used two of the metal bins that we have and they are side-by-side each other.  There is space on both sides of the bin.  We keep Costco items here and doesn’t fit in the bin (cereal).  An alternative to storing cereal to make it fit in the bin would be to take it out of the box and use a food clip to keep it sealed.  My husband prefers to keep it in the box 🙂

The bottom shelf has our two wooden bins with the chalk labels.  Since we moved the goldfish, the bin on the left now has the kids lunchboxes and the other bin has water bottles. Having their lunchboxes here has been great because they are able to get them out and put them away on their own.

We have been using this pantry system for over two months now and it’s been working out really well.  Usually, when I complete an organizing project, I tend to make some adjustments a few months later but haven’t had to do so here.

We don’t have an extra refrigerator at this house which I now realize how handy it really was having one.  We’ll definitely plan to get another one when we move.

Conclusion

Anyone can have a beautiful pantry, with a few bins you can transform your pantry from unorganized to organized.  To wrap this all up here’s what you need to do:

  • Empty out the pantry completely.
  • Group items into similar categories (like the grocery store).
  • Throw out items that are expired.
  • Measure the pantry to figure out what size and types of bins and baskets will fit in there.
  • Start at the eye level shelf and work down from there.  Do the top and bottom shelves last.
  • Take out all items that are in boxes.  The best time to do this is after the grocery store when you are unpacking groceries.
  • Use clear bins for individual items of the same package.
  • Use wicker bins for items of the same category but with different packages.
  • Label the bins that you need to.
  • Smile at your new beautiful pantry 🙂

*affiliate links used, see full disclosure here

What pantry challenges have you run into when trying to organize your pantry?

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